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2012 San Francisco 49ers Schedule: A Checklist For Players

The 49ers 2012 schedule was released last Tuesday and we have taken a variety of angles in our discussion. Over at National Football Post, former player Matt Bowen put together an interesting column earlier this week discussing the schedule. He broke down a checklist he used to assess the schedule and how it would impact him. His checklist included:

1. Opening Day opponent
2. The "first quarter"
3. Monday night games
4. Warm and cold conditions
5. Travel
6. Bye week

I thought I'd take a look at the 49ers schedule through the lens of these six factors.

1. Opening Day opponent

Coach Harbaugh specifically mentioned the importance of this as well. The 49ers will have to get ready for 13 different opponents, but they will spend as much time as any getting ready for week one against the Green Bay Packers. While every opponent requires maximum preparation, there is something to be said for preparing for the Packers at Lambeau.

While the 49ers will not have to deal with the frozen tundra in mid-September, they will have to deal with the always potent Packers passing attack. The 49ers stout defense will hopefully be up to the task, but having some extra time to prepare for Aaron Rodgers & Co. can only be beneficial.

2. The "first quarter"

As Bowen pointed out, there's not much sense in looking too deeply at the later games on the schedule when you've got the first four staring right at you. There are pertinent issues with later games, but the primary focus is on that first game, followed by the first quarter of games.

This is particularly pertinent to the 49ers because they will be playing three road games in those first four weeks. They open the season traveling to the Green Bay Packers, facing the Detroit Lions at home, and then traveling to face the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets.

For the 49ers, the big question is if they will spend a few days in Youngstown, Ohio following the Vikings game, before heading to the Meadowlands. Beyond that, they will want to avoid a letdown the second half of that first quarter. Road games are always tough, but for the 49ers, they open with two potentially emotionally-charged games against the Packers and Lions. Road games are not easily overlooked, but it will be interesting how the 49ers are looking heading into those two games against the Vikings and Jets.

3. Monday/Thursday night games

Bowen only spoke about Monday Night Football, but with the addition of Thursday Night Football, the short week comes in two forms. The 49ers had to deal with a brutally tough short week last year at Thanksgiving, when they had to travel three time zones east to face the Baltimore Ravens. The NFL is attempting to end such trips, which benefits the 49ers this season.

The 49ers non-Sunday prime time games include a week seven Thursday matchup at home against the Seattle Seahawks and Monday Night Football the following week against the Arizona Cardinals and a week 11 home matchup with the Chicago Bears.

The Thursday night game comes at the end of a three-game homestand. The 49ers will face the New York Giants the Sunday before, which could be a fairly draining contest, both physically and mentally. The 49ers can beat the Seahawks at home, but they will be facing a tough challenge having this game after their rematch with the Giants.

The 49ers first MNF game is at the Arizona Cardinals, but they follow that game with their bye week. Coming off the Thursday night game the week before, the 49ers are in optimal position for this game. The 49ers are a better team than the Arizona Cardinals, but as we saw last year, road division games are never a gimme.

The 49ers second MNF game is at home against the Chicago Bears. They follow that up with a trip to the New Orleans Saints in a rematch of the NFC divisional playoffs. The 49ers get the Bears at home, so they do not have to worry about the extra travel time they might otherwise lose following Monday Night Football. All in all, the 49ers primetime schedule works out fairly well for them.

4. Warm and cold conditions

The 49ers only have one tough weather matchup this season as they have to travel to Foxboro to face the New England Patriots on December 16. It is safe to say that it will be just a little bit chilly for that game. It's been a while since the 49ers played in snowy conditions, and this might be one such game.

5. Travel

This is one thing we've discussed plenty to date. The 49ers play three road games in four weeks to open the season and then four road games in five weeks near the end of the season. The big road trip late in the season is significant in the sense that the previous seven weeks feature five home games and a bye. The 49ers could make or break their playoff chances with their performance during that extended home stretch more than the four road games in five weeks. They need plenty of wins either way, but they have to take advantage of the home stretch.

6. Bye Week

The 49ers bye week comes right at the midpoint of the season. They have a road game at the Arizona Cardinals on Monday Night Football the week before their bye, so this is a well situated week off. Add in a pair of home games right after the bye and the 49ers could be in very solid position. There is only so much to be made out of the bye week, but I generally like the positioning of the 49ers bye week this season.