The San Francisco 49ers are likely to enter the 2018 regular season as a sleeper playoff pick. I don’t know if they can be considered a sleeper given all the hype, but I feel like we’ll hear plenty about how they are “darkhorses” in the NFC West behind the Los Angeles Rams.
Whether the 49ers live up to expectations or not, the entire NFL world will get plenty of opportunities to observe them in action. After three straight years of limited nationally televised games, the 49ers will be playing in prime time the maximum allowable five games. They could get flexed in to another game, or have the Seahawks game flexed out, but for now, they are one of ten teams with the maximum of five games.
I am not surprised the 49ers ended up with a full slate of primetime games. I figured they were all but guaranteed at least three, but five is not altogether shocking. What I did find surprising is the layout of some of the games. They face the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday Night Football in Week 13, but for the five games from Week 6 to 10, they play four times on national television.
The 49ers travel to face the Green Bay Packers for Week Week 6 Monday Night Football, and then host the Los Angeles Rams for Week 7 Sunday Night Football. After a road game against the Arizona Cardinals in Week 8, the 49ers host the Oakland Raiders for Week 9 Thursday Night Football, and then host the New York Giants for Week 10 Monday Night Football.
The Kansas City Chiefs had a similar stretch of four nationally televised games in five weeks, so this is not a first. But it’s still quite the turnaround for a 49ers team that has struggled to do much of anything the past few years. It’s not surprising in light of Jimmy Garoppolo’s emergence, but it’s still impressive.
The whole world will find out what to make of this 49ers team. They’ve got improving Super Bowl odds, and expectations generally are quite high for them. The NFL is betting big on them, and the 49ers will get an opportunity to show the world what they can do. We’ll find out if they’re up to the task.