While the opponents have been set since January, the NFL announced the 18-week schedule for 2021 on Wednesday.
For the 49ers, the schedule offers a number of intriguing matchups and a few games that may be tougher than they appear due to the travel involved.
San Francisco will face three early East Coast start times following primetime games, along with a trip to Tennessee on a short week for a Thursday Night Football tilt.
After a year with no preseason games due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the NFL has brought back a slate of three preseason games. One change this year from previous years will be a week off between the final preseason game and the start of the regular season. The 49ers preseason schedule starts with a matchup against Kansas City at Levi’s Stadium, followed by a road game against the Los Angeles Chargers, and finally home against the Las Vegas Raiders. Dates and times for the preseason games will be announced at a later date.
Here’s a look at the 49ers 2021 schedule, along with all-too-early game predictions:
Week 1: at Detroit, 9/12, 10am
The 49ers are the better team on paper, but crazy things happen during the first couple weeks of the season. After suffering a number of injuries early in 2020, the hope here is that the 49ers can leave Detroit with all of their kneecaps.
Week 2: at Philadelphia, 9/19, 10am
A new coaching staff and Jalen Hurts under center for the Eagles gives the 49ers the advantage in the City of Brotherly Love.
Week 3: Green Bay, 9/26, 5:20pm, Sunday Night Football
This will be the fourth matchup between these two teams in Santa Clara the past three seasons. Aaron Rodgers will be the toughest quarterback the defense has faced to this point, if he returns to Green Bay. Despite that, the 49ers have played the Packers tough and their running game could provide the difference.
Week 4: Seattle, 10/3, 1:05pm
A matchup between what will likely be the two best teams in the NFC West. The 49ers generally match up better at home against the Seahawks than they do in Seattle.
Week 5: at Arizona, 10/10, 1:25pm
The 49ers have won three of their past four matchups with the Cardinals, but the matchups in the desert have usually been tight affairs. Add in the mobility of Kyler Murray and this could be a long day for San Francisco.
Week 6: Bye
Having the bye this early means the 49ers will need to find a way to stay healthy for a 12-week stretch without any breaks.
Week 7: Indianapolis, 10/24, 5:20pm, Sunday Night Football
Indianapolis will provide the 49ers with their most physical opponent of the season to this point in the schedule. This game will also mark the return to Levi’s Stadium for DeForest Buckner. Depending on how the season has gone, this could also mark the first start of the season for Trey Lance if the rookie does not win the starting job in training camp.
Week 8: at Chicago, 10/31, 10am
The first quick turnaround of the season for the 49ers. Chicago was a playoff team in 2020, and has a defense that can really get after the quarterback. This game could very well come down to how Mike McGlinchey fares against Khalil Mack.
Week 9: Arizona, 11/7, 1:25 pm
After losing the first matchup between the division rivals, the 49ers will look to split the season series.
Week 10: Los Angeles Rams, 11/15, 5:15pm, Monday Night Football
The 49ers have swept the season series with the Rams the past two seasons, but this time it won’t be Jared Goff at quarterback. Matt Stafford looks to be an upgrade for Los Angeles which could spell trouble for the 49ers defense.
Week 11: at Jacksonville, 11/21, 10am
Traveling to the East Coast on a short week due to playing on Monday night is about as close to a scheduled loss as a team can have. Fortunately for the 49ers, the Jaguars are rebuilding and they’re the Jaguars.
Week 12: Minnesota, 11/28, 1:25pm
This is a rematch of the NFC Divisional round game from January, 2020. The 49ers defense will likely face Kirk Cousins, a quarterback they should be able to take advantage of.
Week 13: at Seattle, 12/5, 5:20pm, Sunday Night Football
While the Seahawks struggle when they travel to Levi’s Stadium, the 49ers have an even tougher time when playing in Seattle. Throw in that this game is in primetime, and the Seattle 12s could play a part in making this a long night for San Francisco.
Week 14: at Cincinnati, 12/12, 10am
Much like with Jacksonville earlier, this is another early start on the road following a late primetime game on the road. Throw in the travel from Seattle to Santa Clara and then out to Ohio and this could be an upset in the making if the 49ers aren’t careful.
Week 15: Atlanta, 12/19, 1:05pm
The last time Atlanta visited Levi’s Stadium in Week 15, they left with a last-second-upset victory. The 49ers won’t let that happen again.
Week 16: at Tennessee, 12/23, 5:20pm Thursday Night Football
Traveling all the way to Tennessee on a short week is about as close to a scheduled loss as you can get. Look for this game to be close early, but the short turn around shows up in the second half.
Week 17: Houston, 1/2, 1:05pm
Do the Texans even have a quarterback? Sure, they have Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills on the roster, but again, do the Texans have a quarterback?
Week 18: @ Los Angeles Rams, 1/9, 1:25pm
The 49ers travel to Los Angeles with both the NFC West and the top seed in the NFC on the line. For San Francisco to have a shot at reaching the Super Bowl this is a must win.