The 2014 NFL schedule is expected to be released later this month, and with it, we'll find out how many times the 49ers will end up in prime time. The prime time games are great since it means national coverage, but they can be a pain when it comes to playing Thursday Night Football. The short week leading up to TNF leads to sloppier football. The NFL seemingly refuses to acknowledge the sloppy football, but it seems pretty clear that TNF has resulted in some ugly football at times.
The 2013 TNF schedule was not particularly attractive, with only a handful of good matchups. Obviously the NFL can't predict when a team like the Falcons is going to completely fall apart, but with the policy of getting every team on prime time, you're going to get some stinkers.
2014 Thursday Night Football will be split up between CBS and NFL Network, with CBS getting the first eight games. With the greater coverage it will provide, it sounds like the NFL is looking to improve the quality of matchups. I'm sure we'll still get some stinkers, but ideally we'll get a chance for more good games. The playing quality will still suffer because of the short week, but this is at least a step in the right direction.
The 49ers could find themselves in position for a couple Thursday football games. The season opening Thursday game is not generally part of this slate, but is still a prime time game. The Seattle Seahawks will host the game, and there is a lot of chatter that our San Francisco 49ers will end up in this game. The NFL loves touting their big television ratings, and it's safe to say this game would provide monster ratings. A rematch of what most now view as the "real" Super Bowl, featuring the best current rivalry in football? Yes, please.
The upside to that matchup is not having to deal with a short week. The NFL preseason wraps up a full week before because of the need to finalize roster cuts heading into that weekend. And getting the Seahawks on the road to open the season could provide a chance to catch them snoozing early. The 49ers and Seahawks will likely duke it out for the NFC West again this year, but early in the season maybe the Seahawks aren't quite ready.
The other possible Thursday game is Thanksgiving. Matt Maiocco speculated on that last month. The 49ers last played on Thanksgiving against the Baltimore Ravens in 2011, but had to travel east for the game. Levi's Stadium is currently unable to host 2014 week day prime time games during the week (Monday, Thursday) because of parking issues that are being resolved.
There were previous issues related to local businesses providing parking. The issue is being resolved, but it's not an overnight process. However, even if it's not 100 percent resolved for the coming season, Thanksgiving is a holiday and those businesses will generally be closed (one is a local community college). That opens the door for a home TNF game. Detroit and Dallas generally get Thanksgiving games during the day, leaving a prime time game for a potentially marquee matchup. Maybe that matchup includes the 49ers!