[UPDATED] NFL schedule release date: 49ers-Seahawks has to be the Week 1 Thursday kickoff, right?

Jonathan Ferrey

The NFL will announced the 2014 regular season schedule at 5 p.m. PT on Wednesday. We take a look at what this likely means for a potential 49ers-Seahawks Week 1 matchup.

Fooch's Update #2: 49ers schedule has been released!

Fooch's Update: Or maybe not. Matt Maiocco reporting that he's hearing it's 49ers-Cowboys Week 1. All our schedule updates in HERE.

Tuesday afternoon, the NFL announced they will release the 2014 regular season schedule at 5 p.m. PT today (Wednesday). It still leaves us almost four months from any kind of real football, but it's one more bench mark to get us to the 2014 regular season.

The 49ers will likely be looking at the maximum of five prime time games this season. They face certain limitations at Levi's Stadium because of the parking issues, with a potential lack of available parking for Thursday and Monday prime time games. It sounds like parking issue is being resolved, but with some question marks still existing at this juncture, I have to think the NFL would rather not put themselves in a tough situation if there are any delays. Then, they can add back in Thursday and Monday prime time games in 2015.

If that is how the NFL views it in making up the schedule, that means the 49ers only home prime time games would be on Sunday Night Football. Right now, one of those games is likely going to be the Week 2 home opener at Levi's Stadium. There have been no specific reports that the 49ers will host SNF in their opener, but it makes a lot of sense. The NFL will want to show off the newest stadium, as well as the site of Super Bowl 50. I suspect that game ends up being against the Kansas City Chiefs, but we'll see later today.

I remain convinced as well that the league will set up 49ers vs. Seahawks up in Seattle for the Week 1 Thursday Night Football season opener. The Seahawks opener would do strong ratings no matter the opponent, but 49ers-Seahawks could potentially dominate ratings in a big way. Back in February I wrote about why this matchup would not happen Week 1, but I've realized since then that I was wrong. Part of that incorrect assessment was based on the idea that the 49ers would open Levi's Stadium Week 1. The construction plans had a built-in buffer to Week 2 since they will re-assess everything following the two preseason games.

Last season, the Broncos-Ravens season opener on NBC had 25.1 million viewers, which was good for No. 23 among last season's regular season games. The top of the rankings belonged to Raiders vs. Cowboys on Thanksgiving. The CBS game drew 31.7 million viewers.

Wikipedia has an entry for the NFL's annual kickoff game, which includes television ratings. Here is a rundown of all the Thursday kickoff openers. The 49ers and Giants played the first Thursday opener, which also happened to be the same season of their epic wild card matchup. Interesting coincidence.

Year Matchup Viewers Network
2002 49ers-Giants 10.799 million ESPN
2003 Jets-Washington 19.150 million ABC
2004 Colts-Patriots 16.879 million ABC
2005 Raiders-Patriots 18.006 million ABC
2006 Dolphins-Steelers 19.196 million NBC
2007 Saints-Colts 17.791 million NBC
2008 Washington-Giants 13.531 million NBC
2009 Titans-Steelers 20.909 million NBC
2010 Vikings-Saints 27.485 million NBC
2011 Saints-Packers 27.179 million NBC
2012 Cowboys-Giants 23.9 million NBC
2013 Ravens-Broncos 25.1 million NBC

Ratings peaked in 2010 and 2011 with over 27 million viewers. If you put the 49ers and Seahawks on television to start the season, I would bet a lot of money it would exceed any of these numbers, and very well could move past 30 million. The 49ers-Packers opener last season was the No. 2 game of the 2013 season, with 28.5 million viewers.

49ers-Seahawks is currently the hottest rivalry in the NFL from a national perspective, and I don't think it's all that close. There are other good rivalries, but those NFC East rivalries, or Ravens-Steelers, just don't have quite the same national appeal right now. That will change at some point in the future, but for now it's just not the same. 49ers-Seahawks puts butts in the seat, and would draw monster ratings to open the season.

Last season's NFC Championship Game drew 55.9 million viewers, while their weather-delayed Sunday Night Football contest in Week 2 drew 20.5 million viewers to NBC. Given how much has gone down since that Week 2 matchup, I would bet the over on a plus/minus of 30 million viewers. Of course, the NFL actually has to make that matchup first. And as a 49ers fan, I would be lying if I said I did not want to get the Seahawks and a Thursday game out of the way the first week of the season.

As we get ready for the schedule release later today, here's the full list of 49ers opponents for 2014:

HOME: Arizona CardinalsKansas City ChiefsPhiladelphia EaglesSan Diego ChargersSeattle SeahawksSt. Louis Rams, Washington, Chicago Bears

AWAY: Arizona Cardinals, Dallas CowboysDenver BroncosNew York GiantsOakland Raiders, Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams, New Orleans Saints

And here's the 49ers preseason schedule:

Preseason Week

Time (PT)

Opponent

Network

Week 1 - August 7th

TBD

at Baltimore

KPIX 5

Week 2 - August 14th-18th

TBD

vs. Denver

NBC/KPIX 5

Week 3 - August 24th

1:00 pm

vs. San Diego

FOX

Week 4 - August 28th

TBD

at Houston

KPIX 5

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