For the first time ever, the San Francisco 49ers will play a 17-game regular season. The NFL released the official schedule for the historic campaign on Wednesday, May 12.
The headlines from the schedule include the 49ers playing nine games on the road — including Weeks 1 and 2 — as opposed to eight at home, a dangerously early bye week in the newly extended regular season, and four primetime matchups on Sunday and Monday nights, several of which are subject to change. They will also play one Thursday night primetime game.
According to the cumulative 2020 record of their upcoming opponents (132-138-2), the 49ers sit in a tie for the league’s 19th hardest schedule.
Lock in the dates 📱 pic.twitter.com/QnltMMsGqp
— San Francisco 49ers (@49ers) May 13, 2021
Success Away From Home Will be Paramount to 49ers Postseason Chances
The new 17-game regular season will disadvantage half the league’s teams each year on a revolving basis. The 49ers drew the short straw in year one, saddled with nine road contests against only eight home games.
San Francisco opens its 2021 season on the road against the Detroit Lions followed by a game against the Eagles in Philadelphia. The 49ers have owned the Lions, winning 10 of the last 11 matchups between the teams, which bodes well for a Week 1 victory away from home against one of the league’s worst teams in 2020.
The 49ers have been less dominant against the Eagles, though they still own the series by a tally of 19-14-1. Ten of those victories have come on the road, though San Francisco has not won in Philadelphia since October of 2011.
Though the 49ers open with back-to-back road contests and play nine of 17 games away from home, at no other point in the season will San Francisco be subject to consecutive matchups outside the Bay Area. The team will play back-to-back home games on two occasions — in Weeks 3 and 4 against the Green Bay Packers and the Seattle Seahawks, and in Weeks 9 and 10 against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams.
49ers Slotted For Five Primetime Matchups Following 6-10 Season
Despite a difficult and injury-riddled run through 2020, the NFL and its broadcast partners clearly believe the 49ers will remain a ratings draw, and a competitive one at that, initially setting the team up for four primetime matchups on either Sunday or Monday Night Football, plus a Thursday Night game.
The first such contest will come in Week 3 and is not subject to change based on its position early in the schedule. It will be the 49ers first home game and it will be against the vaunted Green Bay Packers.
The Sunday night matchup is of significant interest, as the 49ers reached out to Green Bay prior to the 2021 NFL Draft in an attempt to trade for Aaron Rodgers, the Packers’ MVP quarterback. Rodgers, too, expressed interest in relocating to the Bay Area, from where he hails originally. The deal never happened and the resulting showdown will pit the two storied franchises against one another in a rematch of the 2019 NFC Championship Game, which the 49ers won.
San Francisco is also scheduled to face the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football in Week 7. Indianapolis finished 11-5 in the AFC last season on its way to a playoff berth and is expected to be tough again in 2021.
The 49ers are slated to make their first appearance on Monday Night Football three weeks later on Nov. 15 against the division rival Rams. The fourth primetime game of the year is set for Week 13 (Dec. 5) against the Seahawks. San Francisco will also play a Thursday Night Football game against the Tennessee Titans in Week 16, two days before Christmas.
Early Bye Week Could Hurt 49ers Down the Stretch in 2021
San Francisco was ravaged by injuries in 2020. Injuries are more likely for every team this season with an extra game on the schedule. As such, bye week positioning is key, and the 49ers got a rough draw in that regard.
The team will get Week 6 off before having played even a third of their regular season games. A war of attrition, breaks from play in the middle or near the end of the year tend to play more favorably for teams, though that does not always prove the case.
San Francisco will have to do an expert job managing injuries throughout the year if they hope to return to the playoffs somewhat healthy and ready to contend for a Super Bowl title.
The entire 2021 schedule is as follows:
Sept. 12 at Detroit Lions, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sept. 19 at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Sept. 26 vs. Green Bay Packers, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)
Oct. 3 vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 p.m. (FOX)
Oct. 10 at Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Oct. 24 vs. Indianapolis Colts, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)*
Oct. 31 at Chicago Bears, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Nov. 7 vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Nov. 15 vs. Los Angeles Rams, 8:15 p.m. (ESPN)
Nov. 21 at Jacksonville Jaguars, 1 p.m. (FOX)
Nov. 28 vs. Minnesota Vikings, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
Dec. 5 at Seattle Seahawks, 8:20 p.m. (NBC)*
Dec. 12 at Cincinnati Bengals, 1 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 19 vs. Atlanta Falcons, 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Dec. 23 at Tennessee Titans, 8:20 p.m. (NFL Network)
Jan. 2 vs. Houston Texans, 4:05 p.m. (CBS)
Jan. 9 at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m. (FOX)
*Sunday night games in Weeks 5-17 subject to change; Week 18 game TBD
**NFL Network and Amazon simulcast subject to change