The new NFL league year is three weeks away, which will mark the start of free agency. The 2021 NFL Draft begins on April 29, and the league usually releases its schedule for the following season a week or two before.
The San Francisco 49ers went 6-10 and finished in the NFC West’s basement, meaning they will play a last-place schedule in 2021.
Here are the Niners’ opponents for next season:
Home: Arizona Cardinals, Los Angeles Rams, Seattle Seahawks, Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Atlanta Falcons.
Away: Cardinals, Rams, Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Jacksonville Jaguars, Tennessee Titans, Philadelphia Eagles.
The 49ers are tied for the 13th hardest schedule based on last season’s standings. Their opponents combined to go 128-127-1 in 2020, good for a .502 winning percentage. If the NFL adds another week to the season, the Niners will reportedly play the extra game against the Cincinnati Bengals, per SI’s Albert Breer. The 49ers’ strength of schedule would get easier since the Bengals went 4-11-1.
San Francisco suffered brutal injury luck last season. The team led the league in man-games lost to injury by a wide margin in 2020 but should be in contention again with a healthy roster next season.
The NFC West will be a dog-fight. The Rams acquired Matthew Stafford from the Detroit Lions and already have one of the league’s best defenses. Seattle has been a regular playoff team under Pete Carroll, and with Russell Wilson running the offense, the Seahawks can never be underestimated. Arizona took a step last season and should continue to improve with quarterback Kyler Murray going into his third season.
The rest of the 49ers’ schedule doesn’t look too daunting. The Packers should be one of the NFC’s best teams again next season, but the remaining home games offer a mixed bag. The Colts and Vikings are playoff-contenders, while the Texans and Falcons look like they’ll be towards the bottom of the league standings given the current state of their rosters.
San Francisco’s road schedule is the 11th-easiest of all NFL teams. Nothing is guaranteed in the NFL, but the 49ers have some tasty matchups against three rebuilding squads in the Jaguars, Lions and Eagles.
The Niners played four primetime games last season. They were supposed to appear on national TV five times, but the Week 15 matchup against the Dallas Cowboys was flexed out.
It wouldn’t be surprising to see San Francisco scheduled to play at least four-night games in 2021. The NFL’s schedule makers could choose any of the NFC West matchups for primetime, while the Green Bay, Indianapolis and Chicago games also merit some consideration.
Which games do you think will be scheduled for primetime? What do you think of the 49ers’ 2021 schedule compared to last season?