The San Francisco 49ers 2017 regular season schedule was released on Thursday, and there are two particularly intriguing stretches of five games each on the schedule. The 49ers are not expected to compete for a playoff spot, but if we did want to think optimistically, these two stretches of games would likely make or break the season.
The 49ers don’t have an easy opening to the schedule, but it’s manageable to some extent. They face host the Carolina Panthers, travel to face the Seattle Seahawks, and then host the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday Night Football. That takes us into the first rough patch. They get the rare three-game road trip, traveling to Arizona, then Indianapolis, then Washington.
There’s a good chance the 49ers will stay in Youngstown between the Indy and Washington games. There is no timeline on confirming whether or not that will happen, but it seems to make some sense for that kind of stretch.
After the three-game stretch, they are home against Dallas, and then get a road game against the Philadelphia Eagles. That’s four road games in five weeks, none of which will be even close to gimmes. At this point, I’d be ecstatic if they went 2-3 during that stretch, but it’s also way too early to know who will look like what during that period.
The second stretch of games could be one to build on. The 49ers close out the season back-to-back road games against the Chicago Bears and Houston Texans, back-to-back home games against the Tennessee Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars, and then a road game at the Los Angeles Rams.
Whether or not the 49ers are competing for a playoff berth at this point, that is an important stretch. If the team is somehow in contention, they’ll need to roll off a strong finish, something along the lines of 4-1. If they’re out of contention, this stretch could be big for building momentum for 2018. Even then 3-2 could be a possibility. And if the team is really struggling, facing that group of teams could mean significant draft possibilities are in play.