We have over four months to break down the 49ers 2014 schedule, but we'll start things off with a few quick thoughts about different aspects of the schedule. It's impossible to know how everything will break down because we know that some teams will be worse than expected, and some teams will be better than expected. Hopefully the 49ers are in the latter category!
First, here's the full schedule:
Week 1: @ Dallas Cowboys - Sunday, September 7, 1:25 p.m. FOX
Week 2: vs. Chicago Bears - Sunday, September 14, 5:30 p.m. NBC (SNF)
Week 3: @ Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, September 21, 1:05 p.m. FOX
Week 4: vs. Philadelphia Eagles - Sunday, September 28, 1:25 p.m. FOX
Week 5: vs. Kansas City Chiefs - Sunday, October 5, 1:25 p.m. CBS
Week 6: @ St. Louis Rams - Monday, October 13, 5:30 p.m. ESPN (MNF)
Week 7: @ Denver Broncos - Sunday, October 19, 5:30 p.m. NBC (SNF)
Week 8: BYE
Week 9: vs. St. Louis Rams - Sunday, November 2, 1:05 p.m. FOX
Week 10: @ New Orleans Saints - Sunday, November 9, 10 a.m. FOX
Week 11: @ New York Giants - Sunday, November 16, 10 a.m. FOX
Week 12: vs. Washington - Sunday, November 23, 1:25 p.m. CBS
Week 13: vs. Seattle Seahawks - Thursday, November 27, 5:30 p.m. NBC (Thanksgiving)
Week 14: @ Oakland Raiders - Sunday, December 7, 1:25 p.m. FOX
Week 15: @ Seattle Seahawks - Sunday, December 14, 1:25 p.m. FOX
Week 16: vs. San Diego Chargers - Saturday, December 20, 1:30 PT CBS
Week 17: vs. Arizona Cardinals - Sunday, December 28, 1:25 p.m. FOX
Beneficial open to the season?
I don't quite know what to make of the pre-bye schedule. The 49ers travel to Dallas, host Chicago, Philly and KC, travel to Denver, and have two divisional matchups with the Cardinals and Rams. The 49ers conceivably could win every one of those games, but these are not exactly cream puff teams. I tell myself the 49ers need to come through that portion of the schedule at 5-2 or 6-1. What do you make of that?
The post-bye week includes another tough run with back-to-back road games against the New Orleans Saints and New York Giants. Those also happen to be the only 10 a.m. PT starts. Last season, after facing New Orleans the team went back to Santa Clara before traveling to Washington for Monday Night Football. That extra day could have been the difference, but it's possible the location of New Orleans throws things off a bit. We'll see.
Home stretch value
The 49ers close out the final six games of the season with four home games and two road games. One road game is in Seattle, and the other is in Oakland. That's pretty beneficial for a team that has frequently been among the league leaders in travel miles. This could prove incredibly beneficial as the 49ers will hopefully be making the run to the playoffs.
The 49ers have four prime time games right now, so there is room for more with in-season flexing. The problem is that the likely weeks feature potentially compelling SNF matchups. Week 5 (vs. Chiefs) features Bengals-Patriots. Week 10 (@ Saints) features Bears-Packers. Week 11 (@ Giants) features Patriots-Colts. Week 12 (vs. Washington) features Cowboys-Giants.
A lot can change with teams between now and then, but as it currently stands, nothing jumps out at me as a likely flex.
Black and blue stretch
The 49ers host the Seattle Seahawks on Thanksgiving, then "travel" to face the Raiders, then travel to face the Seahawks. Having that rest after the Thanksgiving game could prove huge. The 49ers and Seahawks play some incredibly physical games, so we'll see how the two teams handle that quick turnaround between their matchups.
Linebacker corps return
We don't know exactly how much time NaVorro Bowman will miss in the regular season, and we don't quite know what kind of suspension Aldon Smith might face. But given the layout of the schedule, we can have some reasonable hope that both will be available for the 49ers two matchups with the Seahawks. Ideally, both teams are in tip-top shape so there are no excuses for anybody.
I'm surprised the schedule is not more back-loaded with divisional games. They have no back-to-back divisional games, instead mixing in a week or two of games between each one. The NFL had previously talked about getting more divisional matchups late, but this seems to go in a different direction.
I just whipped through the schedule and came out with 12-4, although I might have talked myself out of 13-3. I'm a big fat homer, but I'm just not sure what to make of some of these stretches. At 12-4, I had the 49ers losing on the road to the Broncos, Saints, Giants and Seahawks. I think all four of those games are winnable, and of course, some of those wins are losable.