I decided now would be a good time to make predictions as to this year's schedule for the 49ers since the Rams are giving away $100,000 to guess what their slate is. Every year, I do this kind of exercise to see if I can predict what the schedule makers have in mind. This year's slate is much tougher to predict for a number of reasons. Last year, the 49ers played in London, so it was obvious when their bye was going to be, as well as the fact that they play a home game the following week. But this year, no such hints have been given off other than the fact that the 49ers are likely opening Levi's Stadium with a SNF game on Week 2.
In putting together this prediction, once again I considered the shared market TV rules that you can read on Wikipedia. The A's are home on Sunday during weeks 1 and 3, which means that the Raiders will be on the road those weeks. Also, everybody knows that the Raiders will be on the road somewhere on the East Coast during week 3, then play in London week 4 in the early time slot, and have their bye during week 5. Then there is the fact that the 49ers will not play any weeknight home games (except possibly for Thanksgiving) as the team wants to study traffic patterns before scheduling them. That said, here are my predictions for this year's schedule that is set to be released in a week or so.
Week 1: at Denver Broncos
The 49ers are opening the season on the road, and given the scheduling logistics, the 49ers are most likely playing a road game in the FOX Game of the Week time slot. First of all, the Raiders cannot host a game that week because the A's are home, nor can they play on the road in the late time slot because CBS does not have any late games due to the U.S. Open tennis tournament. So that means the Raiders are likely opening the season with an early road game making the late time slot open. Second of all, the NFL wants the 49ers to open Levi's Stadium with a SNF game, which would mean neither Bay Area team would occupy the late time slot, which would force the NFL to schedule more early games between them. As for the opponent, the Broncos would make for a great matchup considering that it almost happened in the Super Bowl. While this would make for a nice SNF game, I can't see it happening with the number of prime time-worthy games for the Broncos that includes another game between Peyton Manning and Tom Brady, a matchup against the division rival Chiefs, and a rematch of the Super Bowl.
Week 2: Kansas City Chiefs (SNF)
This week, the 49ers open up Levi's Stadium in prime time, and the opponent is likely either the Eagles or the Chiefs as the Seahawks are coming off a prime time game on NBC the previous week. Since scheduling the Chiefs in prime time would alleviate the added scheduling conflicts for home interconference games that I think that the NFL will pick them. Not to mention, the story about two quarterbacks who used to be teammates going against each other would make for a great storyline.
Week 3: Chicago Bears
The Raiders are on the road this week on the East Coast, and most likely playing an early game as they head for London the following week. As for the 49ers, they will play a late game. Since CBS is likely to have the doubleheader that one of the lesser attractive games is scheduled for this week, and that would be the Bears.
Week 4: at Seattle Seahawks
This week, the Raiders are playing an early game in London, which means the 49ers will be playing a late game this week. And Fox is going to have one of the 49ers-Seahawks games with the one later in the season going to NBC. Fox should be the doubleheader network this week, and with the Mariners on the road, the Seahawks are going to play at home this week.
Week 5: San Diego Chargers
The Raiders have a bye this week as they travel back home from London, meaning that it is the ideal time for the 49ers to host an interconference game. This week, it's pretty much guaranteed that the 49ers will host the Chiefs or the Chargers this week. With the 49ers having played the Chiefs on SNF, the other home interconference game is against the Chargers.
Week 6: at Oakland Raiders
The 49ers and Raiders are playing this season in Oakland, and with the Coliseum having taken the last three Sundays off for football, the Raiders are probably going to host this week, and given that games between the Bay Area teams have happened in October that this would be the week for the game to happen. It's Fleet Week, and the 49ers have hosted a game that day, but with the 49ers moving out of San Francisco, I'm not so sure that the 49ers will continue having that home game every year.
Week 7: at St. Louis Rams (MNF)
The 49ers play their first of two MNF games here, and at least one of them will be a road game against a division opponent with the division having gotten much stronger this offseason. This week is likely going to be a singleheader for Fox, so this would be a good week to have a MNF game.
Week 8: Bye
Unlike last season where everybody knew when the bye week was going to be because of the London game, this year not so much.
Week 9: Arizona Cardinals
To end the first half of the season, the 49ers play their first game against the Cardinals here, and seeing how the last two games are road games that the 49ers play at home this week. This matchup is likely going to be during the Fox Game of the Week time slot.
Week 10: at New Orleans Saints
The 49ers embark on a two-game road trip here, with the first one over to New Orleans, a game that is likely going to be a late game. Last year's game ended in controversy, so that's going to get lots of attention for this year's meeting.
Week 11: at New York Giants
The 49ers are probably going to request the NFL to put the Giants game as the second of back-to-back road games seeing how the Giants game is likely going to be in the early time slot, and that the 49ers would like to have a layover in Youngstown.
Week 12: Washington Redskins
With the 49ers having played back-to-back road games here, this week the 49ers are back home. With a Thursday game on the horizon in this situation, the 49ers would have a home game this week under this scenario.
Week 13: Seattle Seahawks (TNF, Thanksgiving Classic)
Although traffic problems that have yet to be sorted out will keep Levi's Stadium from hosting any Thursday or Monday games this season, there should be no problems with the stadium hosting a game on Thanksgiving as it is a holiday when businesses are closed. I think that the NFL will use this opportunity to have a matchup with the hottest division rivalry in the game today. With the Seahawks having hosted the last two regular season matchups on NBC that this season, the 49ers will probably host it. This would make for a great game to cap off the Thanksgiving games.
Week 14: at Arizona Cardinals (MNF)
With the Cardinals expected to be a playoff contender this season and the 49ers not being able to host a Monday game this season, there is a good chance that the 49ers will play at Arizona on MNF. After playing back-to-back home games, this week the 49ers are on the road.
Week 15: Philadelphia Eagles
The 49ers come back home, and this would be during a week when Fox has a doubleheader. Having two former Pac-12 coaches face off each other would make for a game with lots of interest. This could be a SNF game and possibly one that opens up Levi's Stadium. But in this case, the Chiefs game is the one that opens the season.
Week 16: at Dallas Cowboys (SNF)
No matter how bad the Cowboys are, they are always going to get more SNF games than they deserve. The 49ers need to play a SNF game on the road, and this would make for a nice ratings grabber between two big fanbases that were huge rivals in the 90's. The 49ers are great, while the Cowboys look great on paper at least.
Week 17: St. Louis Rams
The season ends with a division opponent. With the 49ers and Raiders apparently rotating who plays home the final week, this year it would be the 49ers' turn to host the finale. It will be either against the Rams or Cardinals and here, the Rams are that team. The 49ers will not play the Seahawks this week as Fox and NBC are both going to want one game, and by scheduling them here, there is the possibility that NBC could have both games.