It's that time of year again when I do my usual schedule predictions. I waited until the first batch of games were announced as they usually come a week in advanced, but from what I heard the schedule wasn't finalized until yesterday and they didn't announce any games until now. So with that, it automatically invalidates the preliminary schedule I made as I had the 49ers hosting the Ravens Week 6, which is when they are playing in London, and hosting the Bengals on New Year's Eve, and instead the Bengals are headed to Kansas City that week.
Before I get to predictions, there are a few things to keep in mind. The 49ers play the Seahawks, Cowboys, Eagles, Ravens, Bengals, and Steelers, and these six teams play right next to MLB ballparks, meaning that the 49ers almost certainly will not be playing road games against these teams the same week their MLB counterpart is in town, and likewise probably won't play any home games against the above teams the same week their MLB counterpart is on the road in order to reduce the likelihood of teams being scheduled teams to play three straight at home or on the road, which the NFL is trying to avoid. Second of all, there is the Ed Sheeran concert happening Week 2 at Levi's Stadium, so the 49ers are guaranteed to be on the road that week, while the 49ers won't be traveling to LA Week 3 for the same reason. Lastly, with Brock Purdy likely going on PUP to start the season that I have to think that a number of marquee games get pushed to later in the season. That said, there are my predictions for the upcoming season schedule to be released on Thursday at 5pm Pacific.
Week 1: Dallas Cowboys (SNF)
Can't play this week: BAL, SEA, @PHI
The 49ers and Cowboys have had a bitter rivalry revitalized, and with these teams having two of the most prolific fanbases in the league, there's no question that this game will be prominently featured, whether in primetime or on America's Game of the Week. Despite the rivalry, these two teams haven't had a primetime game since 1990, which is before the Cowboys dynasty and before the rivalry really took off, and that's largely because since the turn of the century, both teams haven't been good at the same time.
Week 2: at Cleveland Browns
Can't play this week: All home games, @PIT, @SEA
One thing is for sure here, and that is the 49ers being on the road this week since Levi's Stadium is booked for the Ed Sheeran concert. So after a marquee game to open the season, the 49ers travel to Cleveland where they probably will be on the road next week as well since the team wants to play as few early season home games as possible.
Week 3: at Pittsburgh Steelers
Can't play this week: BAL, SEA, @LAR
This will serve as an opportunity for the 49ers to once again stay at the Greenbrier between Eastern time zone road games since they will be traveling cross-country quite a lot this season. As the team views this as an extension to training camp, they want this to happen early in the season. It just so happens that both Cleveland and Pittsburgh are not too far away from the West Virginia resort.
Week 4: Arizona Cardinals
Can't play this week: @SEA
After back-to-back games with a layover in West Virginia, the 49ers return home and seeing how they haven't had much success in the game following these layover trips, the 49ers could use a breather opponent here. And not to mention, this will also space out the primetime games seeing that the 49ers generally have their primetime home games early in the season due the early-fall heat that California is known for and the fact that Levi's Stadium didn't take that into account. Anyway, with Kyler Murray expected to miss the start of the season, having one of their games against the Cardinals early makes this a breather matchup. Not to mention with what's coming the following week.
Week 5: at Minnesota Vikings (TNF)
Can't play this week: BAL (in London next week and won't want to have a West Coast road game before or after)
With Amazon serious about its demands for better matchups seeing that the previous TNF model had games airing on NFL Network and Fox, the former being owned by the league and the latter having plenty of marquee games throughout the season that it could afford to take on these crappy games, that the 49ers are probably going to play either the Seahawks or their road game against the Vikings on TNF as the only other options for TNF are divisional games against the Rams and Cardinals and their home game against the Cowboys, unless it comes as the second game of a back-to-back road trip. The Rams and Cardinals are expected to be in the running for Caleb Williams in next year's draft, while the Cowboys are hosting their Thursday game on Thanksgiving, and with the 49ers having played the Seahawks on TNF last year that it's logical to think that the Vikings will be the 49ers TNF game of the season.
Week 6: Cincinnati Bengals (SNF)
Can't play this week: BAL (in London)
The last time these two teams met two years ago, the game was a classic. Seeing that both teams are a scrappy bunch that they figure to be one of the SNF games this season, and even more likely now that the Bengals game against the Chiefs will be a showcase game on CBS, which I thought was going to be a surefire bet to be on SNF.
Week 7: at Washington Commanders
Can't play this week: BAL (week after London game)
Another cross-country trip, and this one against a team that will be a team to not look past, but given how tough the NFC East is this one will likely be a game with an early kickoff.
Week 8: Seattle Seahawks (MNF)
One of the 49ers games against the Seahawks is guaranteed to be on primetime this season as this division is going to be a two-team race. Seeing that the 49ers and Seahawks met on TNF last season that this year's primetime meeting will more likely be on SNF or MNF. And the 49ers will always have a home game on MNF every season (with 2014 being an exception since the 49ers wanted no weeknight games to study the stadium traffic patterns in their first year at Levi's Stadium) as home MNF games are imbedded into this team's culture.
Week 9: Bye
This would be a great time for a bye week that comes at the halfway point of the season, and even more so with it happening after a MNF game. It's far enough away from their TNF game that schedule makers will tend to try and distance their bye and mini-bye weeks.
Week 10: New York Giants
While this would make for a good primetime game, this one is more likely to be America's Game of the Week. The rivalry is there, and the Football Giants are finally good again that would make for a great matchup, but they just have so many marquee games this season as they have intense rivalries with all their division rivals, and not to mention they are playing the AFC East teams this season. And the last time the two times the New York Football Giants played in the Bay Area, the games happened in Week 10, and not to mention the 49ers like to host a game during Veteran's Day weekend.
Week 11: at Los Angeles Rams
With the way the schedule shapes up with what I have right now, that puts the 49ers trip to LA this week. It might be a TNF game, but given the expectations for the Rams this season and with the league caving in to Amazon's demands for better games, I'm not feeling it.
Week 12: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Can't play this week: DAL
Here is what should be a breather game before the daunting schedule ahead seeing that next week's game will be one where the networks hope Brock Purdy will play in, and having a breather opponent is a good way to reduce the risk he gets injured. The Bucs won the division, but that's only because everybody else sucked in the NFC South and with Tom Brady retiring for good this time, the Bucs figure to be among the worst teams this season. Usually, CBS has America's Game of the Week on Thanksgiving since the Lions and Cowboys are both playing on Thanksgiving, and being both NFC teams. But of course, that's not always going to be the case. Anyway, that this would be the right spot to give the 49ers a low-profile game against what should be a rebuilding team.
Week 13: at Philadelphia Eagles (SNF)
The 49ers have their revenge game here that hopefully will be the game that everybody was robbed of when Brock Purdy went down with an injury and the 49ers ran out of quarterbacks. In order to maximize the chances Purdy starts, the game is looking like a late-season matchup, and not to mention the 49ers usually get one of the toughest games of their season in Week 13, all while when they are good, the Eagles typically play a marquee game on the first week of December. Seeing that the 49ers don't have as many marquee road games this season as home games, this one is in prime position for a SNF game.
Week 14: at Jacksonville Jaguars
The 49ers should be asking the NFL to schedule the Jaguars game late in the season following another East Coast road game so that they can spend the week at IMG Academy in Florida and take a short trip to Jacksonville afterwards. That's what I have here with the 49ers going to Philadelphia first, and then flying south from there to spend the week in great weather in Florida like they did in 2019, and then making the short bus ride to Duval County.
Week 15: Baltimore Ravens
After another layover on the East Coast, the 49ers are back home to play the Ravens in what should be on America's Game of the Week seeing that a quarterback like Lamar Jackson has given problems for the 49ers defense.
Week 16: at Arizona Cardinals
Can't play this week: NYG, @PHI
This game is on Christmas Eve, and while isn't always the case, it's preferable to have games nearby during this time of year. With the previous three games being tough ones that the 49ers could stand to take it easy leading up to what could be a division-deciding game. Not to mention, the NFL usually likes to backload the division games.
Week 17: Los Angeles Rams
Can't play this week: CIN
With the Bengals and Chiefs play in America's Game of the Week on CBS that this week figures to be one of the lesser matchups on the 49ers schedule as this would be likely be a game on Fox. Either that, or a primetime game, so I'm predicting the former here.
Week 18: at Seattle Seahawks
Possible Games: AZ, @AZ, LAR, @LAR, SEA, @SEA
As usual, the regular season finale is going to be against a division opponent. Having a game that could potentially decide the NFC West would make a lot of sense to end the season.
So to summarize, here is the schedule as it is presented in these predictions:
Sept. 10 Dallas Cowboys 5:20pm NBC
Sept. 17 at Cleveland Browns 10am FOX
Sept. 24 at Pittsburgh Steelers 10am FOX
Oct. 1 Arizona Cardinals 1:05pm FOX
Oct. 5 at Minnesota Vikings 5:15pm AMAZON
Oct. 15 Cincinnati Bengals 5:20pm NBC
Oct. 22 at Washington Commanders 10am FOX
Oct. 30 Seattle Seahawks 5:15pm ESPN
Nov. 5 Bye
Nov. 12 New York Giants 1:25pm FOX
Nov. 19 at Los Angeles Rams 1:05pm CBS
Nov. 26 Tampa Bay Buccaneers 1:05pm FOX
Dec. 3 at Philadelphia Eagles 5:20pm NBC
Dec. 10 at Jacksonville Jaguars 1:25pm FOX
Dec. 17 Baltimore Ravens 1:25pm CBS
Dec. 24 at Arizona Cardinals 1:05pm CBS
Dec. 31 Los Angeles Rams 1:05pm FOX
Jan. 7 at Seattle Seahawks 1:25pm FOX