Image. Credit: Andrew Giesemann
On Thursday, the NFL released thirty-one schedules and one revenge tour itinerary. Here are some early observations:
How the West Will Be Won:
The 49ers open the 2020 season at home against the Arizona Cardinals. Arizona played the Niners tough last year, with both games being decided by a total of thirteen points. With the additions like DeAndre Hopkins at wide receiver and first-round draft pick Isaiah Simmons to bolster the defense, and quarterback Kyler Murray with a year’s worth of experience under his belt, the Cardinals are poised to make a leap within the division. When the two teams meet again, Week 16 in Arizona, a playoff spot and the division could be on the line.
November opens with the Niners traveling to the Emerald City for the first of their two matchups with the Seahawks. Seattle is due to take a step back this season, but as long as Russell Wilson is under center, Seattle remains the stiffest competition for the division title and just like last year it could come down to a Week 17 rematch. Unlike last season, the 49ers will host the regular season finale at Levi’s Stadium.
Ready for Prime Time:
The schedule makers awarded the 49ers with five prime time games (the maximum that the NFL allows), Sunday night, a Monday night game and the obligatory Thursday night game. Kyle Shanahan and company will be regulars on Sunday Night Football this season with three scheduled appearances. The first one brings the Eagles and former 49er Marquise Goodwin to Santa Clara in Week 4. Two weeks after hosting the Eagles, the Niners play host to the Rams on Sunday night in Week 6, and in Week 15 the Niners head to Dallas to take on the Cowboys.
No franchise in the NFL has (49) than San Francisco and they will get a chance to add to that total by hosting the Buffalo Bills in Week 13.
New York State of Mind:
In Week 2, the 49ers head to the Empire State to take on the Jets and former 49er Frank Gore. Following the game, the players can leave all their stuff in the visitor’s locker room at MetLife Stadium because they will be right back there the following week to play the Giants.
Welcome Back, Matt:
Frank Gore is not the only former Niners running back who will face his old team in 2020. Matt Breida returns to Levi’s stadium with the Dolphins and rookie quarterback Tua Tagovailoa.
The Gauntlet II:
Last season’s schedule featured a three-game stretch that was dubbed “the gauntlet.” In Weeks 12 through 14, the Niners faced an 8-2 Green Bay Packers squad, then traveled to Baltimore (9-2) and New Orleans (10-2); the combined winning percentage of those three opponents was the highest faced by any team that late in a season in NFL history.
The 2020 schedule brings another potential gauntlet. In Weeks 7 through 10, the 49ers face four playoff teams from 2019 in consecutive weeks with three out of four coming on the road: at New England, Week 7; at Seattle, Week 8; vs. Green Bay, Week 9 (Thursday Night Football); and at New Orleans for Week 10.
Following this year’s gauntlet, the team earns a much-needed bye week. The bye comes in Week 11 this year, which is a welcome change from last season’s Week 4 bye. The late bye could be just the recharge the team needs to make a final playoff push.
After the bye, the 49ers head to Los Angeles to face the Rams for a second time in Week 12 before returning home for a two-game homestand.
After hosting Buffalo on Monday Night Football, the 49ers welcome Washington. New left tackle Trent Williams will get a chance to face his former club and introduce a few of them to the Levi’s Stadium turf.
By the Numbers:
7: The number of games against playoff teams from the 2019 season on the 49ers schedule, including 4 consecutive games in Weeks 7 through 10.
2,9557.8: The number of miles that the 49ers are scheduled to travel this season. With back-to-back games in New York in Weeks 2 and 3, the 49ers are likely to stay out east rather than make cross country flights in consecutive weeks, something they did twice last year. Between Weeks 1 and 2, the Niners stayed in Youngstown, Ohio, and between Weeks 13 and 14 they stayed in Bradenton, Florida. Youngstown is just 392 miles from MetLife stadium, but the artificial surface the team practiced on caused Dee Ford’s knee tendonitis to flare up; despite being a longer trip, Bradenton might be where the 49ers choose to stay.
3: The number of times the 49ers play back-to-back road games in 2020.
.527: The opponents combined 2019 winning percentage, the fourth toughest strength of schedule in the NFL.
51: The average high temperature in Seattle in November. Despite playing both the AFC and NFC east divisions this season, the 51 degrees in Seattle is the “coldest” average high temperature the 49ers will face on the road this season.
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