The San Francisco 49ers have two weeks left in the season, and we have spent much of the time focusing on how the schedule impacts the 2016 NFL Draft order. However, the schedule will also impact the 49ers' list of opponents for 2016.
The NFL has a formula for the schedule which allows us to figure out the coming year's opponents over the course of the season. The 49ers 2016 schedule will include their two games each against their three divisional opponents, and one game each against all four AFC East teams, all four NFC South teams, and the team in each of the NFC East and NFC North that finishes in the same position in the standings.
The 49ers have locked up fourth place in the NFC West. They can still finish with the same record as the St. Louis Rams, but due to what would be a split in their head-to-head series, the next tiebreaker would be divisional record. The Rams are currently 3-1 against the NFC West, while the 49ers are 0-5.
The NFC East standings currently have the 4-10 Dallas Cowboys in last place, two games back of the New York Giants and Philadelphia Eagles. I suspect Dallas will not win both of their remaining games, and so look for the Cowboys to end up being the 49ers opponent.
The NFC North standings currently have the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears tied for last place, with a 5-9 record. In Week 16, the Lions host the 49ers and the Bears travel to face the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In Week 17, the Bears and Lions face off. The Lions won the first game between them. The Lions are currently 2-3 in the division, while the Bears are 1-4. The order of tiebreakers for divisional standing is head-to-head, divisional record, record against common opponents, conference record and then a few more. If the Lions beat the 49ers on Sunday and the Bears lose to the Bucs, I believe Detroit clinches third place, and the Bears thus would be in fourth place. If the Lions lose on Sunday or the Bears win on Sunday, it will come down to Week 17's matchup.
Here is how the team's home and away schedule looks. The full schedule of dates will be unveiled in April.
Home opponents: Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis, New Orleans, Tampa Bay, New England, NY Jets, Dallas (or NY Giants or Philadelphia)
Away opponents: Arizona, Seattle, St. Louis, Atlanta, Carolina, Buffalo, Miami, Chicago (or Detroit)