The 49ers’ season will begin in Chicago, and their goal is it end it five months later in Arizona, site of Super Bowl LVII.
At least the regular-season finale is assured of an Arizona flair: the Cardinals will close at Levi’s Stadium.
In between those Weeks 1 and 18 affairs is a schedule that is not daunting, at least from a logistics standpoint, rather than the fact 10 of their games are against the NFC West and AFC West, the NFL’s most challenging divisions.
Some initial impressions before a quick word about each game:
— The first half looks the most weighted. It offers both home and away games against the reigning Super Bowl champion Los Angeles Rams. It also includes a back-to-back road swing through Atlanta and Carolina, with a likely layover on the East Coast, perhaps at The Greenbrier in West Virginia for a third straight year.
— San Mateo kid Tom Brady will be 45 when he and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers voyage into Levi’s Stadium.
— The 49ers will usher in 2023 with their first visit to the Las Vegas Raiders, a Jan. 1 reunion at Allegiance Stadium.
— Five prime-time kickoffs are on the schedule. The 2019 49ers went 6-0 in prime time, but coach Kyle Shanahan’s other teams combined for a 2-10 prime-time mark over his four other seasons.
— There are not three consecutive road games, but there is a three-game homestand following the 49ers’ Nov. 21 game in Mexico City against the host Arizona Cardinals.
Here is the slate ahead of them, upon Thursday’s schedule release (all times PT):
WEEK 1: At Chicago Bears
Sunday, Sept. 11 (10 a.m; FOX)
While the San Francisco Giants are facing the Cubs at Wrigley Field that weekend, the 49ers will open 20 minutes down the Red Line at Soldier Field. The 49ers have won their past three visits, including Jimmy Garoppolo’s starting debut with them in 2017 as well as last October’s season-reviving victory. (Reminder: Trey Lance already made his 49ers’ starting debut last Halloween at Arizona.) The Bears are angling to move to suburban Arlington Heights, Garoppolo’s hometown; Chicago might host the 49ers again next year if they finish in the same spots in their divisions.
WEEK 2: Vs. Seattle Seahawks
Sunday, Sept. 18 (1:05 p.m., FOX)
The 49ers haven’t returned a punt for a touchdown since their 2011 opener against the Seahawks. Maybe this breaks the curse. Since Levi’s Stadium opened in 2014, the Seahawks have won in every visit except a 2018 overtime affair. Last year, Jimmy Garoppolo sustained a calf injury in the Week 4 defeat; Trey Lance was 9-of-18 for 157 yards and two touchdowns in second-half relief, plus 41 rushing yards.Related Articles
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WEEK 3: At Denver Broncos
Sunday, Sept. 25 (5:20 p.m., NBC)
New Broncos QB Russell Wilson went 17-4 for Seattle against the 49ers – but, according to the anti-Garoppolo crowd, a quarterback’s win-loss record means nothing, right? Denver’s new coach is Nathaniel Hackett, a UC Davis product whose father, Paul, was a 49ers’ assistant from 1983-85 during a lengthy career.
WEEK 4: vs. Los Angeles Rams
Monday, Oct. 3 (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
The 49ers averaged 30 points in winning each of their past three games at Levi’s Stadium against the Rams. Deebo Samuel has accounted for seven touchdowns (three receiving, three rushing, one passing) in seven career games against the Rams.
WEEK 5: At Carolina Panthers
Sunday, Oct. 9 (1:05 p.m., CBS)
Since the Panthers left the NFC West in 2002, they’ve lost only once at home in four meetings against the 49ers, that outlier being the 2013 season’s divisional playoffs. Carolina has won just five games in each of coach Matt Rhule’s two seasons.
WEEK 6: At Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, Oct. 16 (10 a.m., Fox)
This is the 49ers’ first game at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium, which opened in 2017 next door to the since-demolished Georgia Dome. Quarterback Matt Ryan, now on the Colts, went 4-4 against the 49ers, including the 2012 season’s NFC Championship Game defeat. Marcus Mariota is 0-1 against the 49ers.
WEEK 7: vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Sunday, Oct. 23 (1:25 p.m., Fox)
Get ready for Super Bowl LIV flashbacks. This is their first meeting since Patrick Mahomes engineered a fourth-quarter comeback in the 2019 grand finale. Alex Smith passed for 158 yards – for the Chiefs – in their only previous stop at Levi’s Stadium, a 2014 win.
WEEK 8: At Los Angeles Rams
Sunday, Oct. 30 (1:25 p.m., Fox)
SoFi Stadium was the 49ers’ ultimate, Southern California vacation home with red-clad fans and a win streak – until last season’s NFC Championship Game, when the 49ers blew a 10-point, fourth-quarter lead and fell 20-17. Thus, the Rams are the reigning NFL champs for the first time since 2000.
WEEK 9: BYE
WEEK 10: vs. Los Angeles Chargers
Sunday, Nov. 13 (5:20 p.m., NBC)
Training camp sparring partners last summer in Orange County, the 49ers and the Chargers are led defensively by brothers Nick Bosa and Joey Bosa, respectively.
WEEK 11: vs. Arizona Cardinals
Monday, Nov. 21 (5:15 p.m., ESPN)
Mexico City welcomes back a matchup that, in 2005, triggered the 49ers’ promotion of then-rookie Alex Smith over Tim Rattay. The Cardinals are the home team, and their State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Ariz. is the 49ers’ ultimate destination – for this season’s Super Bowl.
WEEK 12: vs. New Orleans Saints
Sunday, Nov. 27 (1:25 p.m., Fox)
The Saints lost in overtime in 2014 in their only other trip to Levi’s Stadium. Their previous trip to face the 49ers was an epic one – the 2011 season’s divisional playoff game that the 49ers won 36-32 at Candlestick.
WEEK 13: vs. Miami Dolphins
Sunday, Dec. 4 (1:05 p.m., Fox)
Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel will be on the Levi’s Stadium sideline for the first time, having previously operated upstairs in the coaches’ booth as Kyle Shanahan’s eye in the sky. He’ll be dialing up plays for 49ers’ Super Bowl villain Tyreek Hill, and former 49ers running back Raheem Mostert. Miami won its only previous visit to Levi’s Stadium, 43-17 in 2020 behind Ryan Fitzpatrick’s 350 yards and three touchdowns.
WEEK 14: vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sunday, Dec. 11 (1:25 p.m., Fox)
The Bucs are 1-0 at Levi’s Stadium (2016) and Tom Brady is 1-0 when visiting the 49ers (2016 Patriots). Brady, a San Mateo native, passed for 280 yards and four touchdowns in that 30-17 win over Chip Kelly’s 49ers, when Garoppolo was Brady’s third-year backup.
WEEK 15: At Seattle Seahawks
Thursday, Dec. 15 (5:15 p.m., Prime Video)
For the first time since 2011, Russell Wilson isn’t in Seattle to greet/torment the 49ers, and that’s no guarantee of success in a stadium where they’re just 5-16 all-time. Will they face Drew Lock, Geno Smith or a quarterback to be announced later?
WEEK 16: vs. Washington Commanders
Sunday, Dec. 24 (1:05 p.m. CBS)
The 49ers’ last shutout? It was against this franchise – then called the Redskins – in a 9-0 mud bowl in 2019. The Commanders traded this offseason not for Jimmy Garoppolo but Carson Wentz, who is looking to beat the 49ers for the third time in as many years for as many franchises (2020 Eagles, 2021 Colts).
WEEK 17: At Las Vegas Raiders
Sunday, Jan. 1 (1:05 p.m., Fox)
New Year’s Day in Vegas, baby. Yes, a third Raiders’ city left for the 49ers to conquer. The 49ers were 2-2 in Oakland, 1-1 in Los Angeles. The Raiders brought in Davante Adams to improve their Vegas décor with Fresno State pal Derek Carr, and although Adams averaged 130 yards per game against the 49ers, he lost to them in his Packers’ farewell in the playoffs.
WEEK 18: Vs. Arizona Cardinals
Saturday or Sunday, Jan. 7 or 8 (TBD)
Last season’s rock bottom was a 31-17 home loss to the Cardinals and backup quarterback Colt McCoy on Nov. 7. Then the 49ers won three straight and 7-of-9 to make the playoffs. Could this season really come down to a Week 18 elimination game like last year’s at Los Angeles? It’ll be the 49ers’ first regular-season at Levi’s Stadium since 2016; their 2020 finale was moved to Arizona for COVID precautions.
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