It's the middle of April, which means the schedule should be released sometime soon. We have long known who we are playing next season, but the mystery that remains is when during the upcoming fall will the 49ers play these teams. So here is some idea of how I can see the schedule shaping up.
First of all, it is important to note about the rules regarding the 49ers and Raiders since they share the Bay Area market. While West Coast teams hate these early kickoff, they are unavoidable because the 49ers and Raiders can't play at the same time, which I think is unnecessary since every fan has their allegiance to one team or the other. There is also the fact that the A's still play at the Coliseum, so when the A's are home, the Raiders have to be on the road. And when the A's are on the road, that probably means the Raiders are at home, while the 49ers are on the road in all likelihood. Lastly, playing home interconference games requires the Raiders to either have their bye or a prime time game that week.
Week 1: Seattle
Since the Manning Bowl is probably going to be the first SNF game of the season that it would make sense for the 49ers and Seahawks to start off the season in the Fox game of the week time slot. Since both meetings last season were in prime time that Fox wants to make sure that they are guaranteed to feature this game to a widespread audience. The Mariners are home, so the Seahawks need to open their season on the road. Given that most of the marquee games are at Candlestick Park this season that the game in Seattle will likely be on SNF sometime later in the season.
Week 2: at Tampa Bay
The A's are on the road, which means the Raiders will be at home and the 49ers are on the road this week, and in the early time slot most likely against a team that missed the playoffs last season.
Week 3: Atlanta (SNF)
Here is the first of three SNF games as it's a rematch of the NFC Championship Game. Since the 49ers went to the Super Bowl that the 49ers will likely get scheduled for three SNF games and two before the flex, so to space them out the first one is this week. The A's are home this week, so the Raiders will be on the road.
Week 4: at Arizona (TNF)
The 49ers will play a TNF game this season against either the Cardinals or Rams this season, and Arizona looks more likely given that the game in Arizona must occupy the late time slot. Since the 49ers hosted their TNF game last year and that most of the marquee games for prime time are at home that I think that this year's TNF game will be a road contest.
Week 5: Indianapolis
The 49ers are always home during week 5, and this would be when the Raiders have their bye week. Since CBS has had a doubleheader during this week that the 49ers are looking to play a home interconference game this week. With Andrew Luck hooking up with his former coach at Stanford that this looks like a game headed for CBS in the late time slot.
Week 6: Houston (SNF)
This week, the 49ers will definitely be at home as it is Fleet Week and the 49ers are on the road the next two weeks. The game against the Texans is looking like a game that is destined for SNF since it greatly alleviates the home interconference scheduling conflicts by having one of them in prime time. This is a matchup between two tough defenses, which makes it attractive for a SNF tilt.
Week 7: at Washington
With the 49ers going to London the following week, this week will be a road game on the East Coast with the 49ers heading straight to London after the game. This week, the 49ers will play either at Tampa Bay or Washington, and I am going with Washington here because it's a bit closer to London.
Week 8: at Jacksonville (London)
This game has already been announced.
Week 9: Bye
Following the game in London is the bye week to recover from the long trip.
Week 10: Carolina
This week will definitely be a home game. Since the 49ers always seem to draw the Panthers this week when they play at Candlestick Park that I am putting that game in this week.
Week 11: at Seattle (SNF)
The second meeting of the 49ers and Seahawks, and with the first meeting on Fox, this meeting at Centurylink Field is headed for SNF.
Week 12: at New Orleans
Given the rotating tendency of which network has the doubleheader that this is just the result of Fox having its turn. This figures to be another great matchup worthy of being scheduled as Fox's game of the week given the bad blood in the whole Bountygate scandal. The Saints should be a better team this season now that Sean Payton is back, although we will see about that since the Saints are completely remaking their defense.
Week 13: St. Louis
After back-to-back road games, the 49ers come home this week. With the 49ers probably closing in St. Louis at the end of the season that this would give some spacing between meetings given that the NFL has been cramming division games into the late portion of the schedule.
Week 14: at Tennessee
After two straight late games, and the Raiders needing to have a late game down the stretch, the 49ers play an early game this week. This is their last non-division opponent on the road.
Week 15: Arizona
With the way this schedule shakes out, that leaves the Cardinals for this week.
Week 16: Green Bay (MNF)
It would be really special if the final regular season game at Candlestick Park was a MNF game given how many times the stadium hosted these games. And to close it out, their longtime nemesis comes to town for one last hurrah in a rematch of the NFC divisional game that saw Kaep emerge as an elite player.
Week 17: at St. Louis
With my line of thinking of having the Candlestick finale being a prime time game, that means this week's game is on the road, that and apparently the 49ers and Raiders will take turns hosting the finale with this season being Oakland's turn. It will be against a division opponent, and since there is no prime time game scheduled this week that the 49ers have to play in the early time slot, and that is only possible with a game in St. Louis.
So those are my thoughts about what the schedule may look like for this season. To summarize, the 49ers play three SNF games (ATL, HOU, @SEA), one MNF game (GB), and one TNF game (@AZ), which is the maximum allotted by the TV contracts and since the 49ers were in the Super Bowl last season that the 49ers figure to get the maximum prime time exposure possible. I would like to get your thoughts as to how you think the schedule will shake out.