The 49ers have set their rosters and will begin installing the game plan for the first game of 2021 Wednesday, making this the perfect time to predict how the season will play out.
San Francisco has a number of intriguing matchups on their schedule and a few games that will likely be more challenging than they appear due to the travel involved. For instance, they will face three early East Coast start times following prime-time games, along with a trip to Tennessee on a short week for a Thursday Night Football tilt.
Week 1: at Detroit, 9/12, 10 a.m.
The 49ers are the better team on paper, but crazy things happen during the first couple weeks of the season. Jimmy Garoppolo hasn’t been very good on the opening week of the season during his career and Jared Goff has been even worse against the 49ers the last two seasons. 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, 10 a.m.
San Francisco will be staying one the East Coast to limit travel, a practice that has worked out well for the organization in the past. A new coaching staff, a mediocre roster and Jalen Hurts under center for the Eagles gives the 49ers the advantage in a game that shouldn’t be close.
Week 3: Green Bay, 9/26, 5:20 p.m., Sunday Night Football
This will be the fifth matchup between these two teams in the last four seasons. Aaron Rodgers will be the toughest quarterback the defense has faced to this point. The teams have split the previous four contests and the 49ers have played the Packers tough even when they weren’t as talented. The 49ers running game and pass rush will provide the difference.
Week 4: Seattle, 10/3, 1:05 p.m.
A matchup between what will likely be the two best teams in the NFC West. The 49ers seem to always keep the at home against the Seahawks tighter than when they play in Seattle.
Week 5: at Arizona, 10/10, 1:25 p.m.
The 49ers have won three of their last four matchups with the Cardinals, but the matchups in the desert have usually been hard fought. Add in the mobility of Kyler Murray that has given the 49ers defense trouble, 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 over a 12-week stretch without any breaks.
Week 7: Indianapolis, 10/24, 5:20 p.m., Sunday Night Football
This game will also mark the return to Levi’s Stadium for DeForest Buckner. Indianapolis will provide the 49ers with their most physical opponent of the season to this point in the schedule. Might this be the first start for Trey Lance?
Week 8: at Chicago, 10/31, 10 a.m.
The first quick turnaround of the season for the 49ers. Chicago was a playoff team in 2020 primarily due to a defense that can really get after the quarterback. The matchup between Mike McGlinchey and Khalil Mack could determine the outcome.
Week 9: Arizona, 11/7, 1:25 p.m.
The 49ers will be looking to rebound against a division opponent which defeated them earlier in the year.
Week 10: Los Angeles Rams, 11/15, 5:15 p.m., Monday Night Football
The 49ers have swept the season series with the Rams the last two years, 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, 10 a.m.
Traveling to the East Coast on a short week is usually a scheduled loss. Fortunately for the 49ers, the Jaguars are rebuilding. Even though it may be closer than anticipated, San Francisco will make enough plays to pull out a victory.
Week 12: Minnesota, 11/28, 1:25 p.m.
A rematch of the NFC Divisional round game from January 2020. Minnesota will be coming off an emotional game against a division rival and the 49ers defense will likely be facing Kirk Cousins, a matchup that they should be able to take advantage of.
Week 13: at Seattle, 12/5, 5:20 p.m., Sunday Night Football
The Seahawks have dominated the 49ers at home. Throw in that this game is in prime time, and the Seattle 12’s could play a part in making this a long night for San Francisco.
Week 14: at Cincinnati, 12/12, 10 a.m.
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, 1:05 p.m.
The last time Atlanta visited Levi’s Stadium in week 15 they left with a last second upset victory. The 49ers will need to be ready to not let that happen again.
Week 16: at Tennessee, 12/23, 5:20 p.m. Thursday Night Football
Traveling all the way to Tennessee on a short week makes this a scheduled loss for San Francisco. Look for this game to be close early, but the short turn around will begin to show up in the second half against the Titans explosive offense.
Week 17: Houston, 1/2, 1:05 p.m.
The Texans have one of the least talented rosters in the NFL.
Week 18: @ Los Angeles Rams, 1/9, 1:25 p.m.
With the NFC West and the top seed in the NFC on the line, the 49ers travel to Los Angeles to face their longtime division rival. This is a must win to have any realistic chance of returning to SoFi Stadium for the Super Bowl.
Regular season record: 13-4
The NFC Championship game will be a homecoming of sorts as the 49ers host Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The San Francisco pass rush against the best quarterback of this millennium is the matchup that every football fan should hope to see.