The NFL released the schedule on Thursday, and with it, the season finally takes shape. The San Francisco 49ers pick second in next week’s draft, so it’s no surprise that they are setup to be one of the worst teams in the league. The vast majority of the schedule will end in losses, but that doesn’t mean the season is a lost cause. Schedule construction and narratives will give the fans some trends and hope to follow, but the 49ers will end up back in the top ten of the draft.
Week 1: Sunday, September 10
Home vs. Carolina Panthers, 4:25 PM ET
There might not be an NFC team outside the Atlanta Falcons who have more to prove this season than the Panthers. The 49ers have no chance in this one against the stellar Panthers D, so expect the 49ers Faithful will head to the exits early in the first game of the season. One facet to remember, though: the 49ers have loaded up on D-lineman, and the Panthers’ offensive line is a mess. Arik Armstead, DeForest Buckner (and maybe Soloman Thomas) will make Cam Newton’s day rough, but won’t lead the Niners to victory.
Week 2: Sunday, September 17
Road at Seattle Seahawks, 4:25 PM ET
The last time the 49ers won in Seattle, Alex Smith was the quarterback and they were just starting to figure out their sophomore linebacker NaVorro Bowman. The annual trudge up to Seattle for a bludgeoning has become a part of the season’s fabric. This will be no different.
Week 3: Thursday, September 21
Home vs. Los Angeles Rams, 8:25 PM ET
The NFL mercifully gets the San Francisco 49ers’ only primetime game out of the way early, and they shove them into Thursday Night Football. As for the game, the 49ers have beaten just one team in their last twenty games: The Rams (three times). Things might be different, but don’t count on it. There are so many questions in both Los Angeles and San Francisco, but amid the turmoil of both franchises over the last couple of seasons, the 49ers beating the Rams.
Week 4: Sunday, October 1
Road vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 PM ET
The rubber meets the road for the 49ers here, as the end of the light travel portion of their schedule meets its end. This is the first time they leave the west coast, and they take a short 1 hour flight down to Phoenix. There’s a universe where this is a 49ers’ win. The Cardinals are on the downswing, and Brian Hoyer and Kyle Shanahan could shock some people. It should be competitive, at least.
Week 5: Sunday, October 8
Road at Indianapolis Colts, 1 PM ET
Pierre Garcon comes home to where he and Peyton Manning made hay for years. Now it’s Andrew Luck under center and the Colts will throw all over the 49ers, especially now that their best cornerback is no longer on the roster.
Week 6: Sunday, October 15
Road at Washington, 1 PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers head to the nation’s capital for the Storyline Bowl. Kyle Shanahan coached there, Pierre Garcon just left there. The 49ers likely will snag their quarterback. Expect tons of conversations about everything except the game.
Week 7: Sunday, October 22
Home vs. Dallas Cowboys, 4:05 ET
The San Francisco 49er s and Dallas Cowboys used to be rivals. The fans like to act like they still are, but they haven’t been good at the same time for a long time. Dallas fans took over Levi’s Stadium last year, and that trend continues in 2017. It’ll be a shellacking, too.
Week 8: Sunday, October 29
Road at Philadelphia Eagles, 1 PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers and Eagles last played in 2014, and it feels like both franchises have completely upended their organizations since then. Both have fired Chip Kelly, and both have completely switched directions. This whole game hinges on Carson Wentz’s development, so this is one of the games that the Niners should lose (but may not). The Niners might be too exhausted, though, since it’ll be their second cross-country road trip in three weeks. Former 49er Torrey Smith lines up opposite the broken down 49ers defense, so expect him to have a big game no matter the outcome.
Week 9: Sunday, November 5
Home vs. Arizona Cardinals, 4:05 PM ET
If the 49ers don’t snag the road game against Arizona, they may just get this one. Don’t count on it.
Week 10: Sunday, November 12
Home vs. New York Giants, 4:25 PM ET
This game will be one of those boring dominations that the final score won’t indicate just how badly the Giants rock the San Francisco 49ers. There will be a couple Eli Manning dumb plays that will keep it close, but the 49ers don’t stand much of a chance here. It’s hard to believe that these two franchises squared off for the Super Bowl just six seasons ago.
Week 11: Sweet, merciful Bye. Can’t lose the Bye!
Week 12: Sunday, November 26
Home vs. Seattle Seahawks, 4:05 PM ET
The 49ers fans will leave this one early. It’s going to be ugly as sin.
Week 13: Sunday, December 3
Road at Chicago Bears, 1 PM ET
There are only two franchises as messed up as the 49ers: the Browns and the Bears. The 49ers took two of the three Bears QBs from 2016 (Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley). The Bears let Jay Cutler leave, too. They blew it all up, and the 49ers should get revenge for last year’s snow bowl game. Weird enough, this is the third time in three seasons the 49ers will travel to Chicago.
Week 14: Sunday, December 10
Road at Houston Texans, 1 PM ET
Who will be Houston’s QB? Tom Savage? Who knows. At least the 49ers have a quarterback, which is more than the Texans can say right now. This game might be the first time the 49ers win two in a row since Jim Harbaugh coached them. If the Texans figure out their QB situation, then the 49ers won’t be able to overcome their stifling defense.
Week 15: Sunday, December 17
Home vs. Tennessee Titans, 4:25 PM ET
The San Francisco 49ers faithful get an up-close-and-personal look at one of the NFL’s hot up-and-coming teams as Tennessee goes cross country to Santa Clara. By week 15, the Titans will be rolling, and Marcus Mariota & Co. will steamroll the hapless 49ers, then half the banged up guys on the Niners’ roster will hit the IR after this one as they start to figure out 2018’s roster.
Week 16: Sunday, December 24
Home vs. Jacksonville Jaguars, 4:05 PM ET
If the Texans game is unpredictable, this one is Schrödinger’s Football Game. The Jags could finally click, putting offense and defense together for the first time in the Blake Bortles Era… but I wouldn’t bet on it. They could dominate the league in 2017 or they could continue to scuffle and fall apart. The Niners have a good shot at this one, even with street free agents and backups. The Jags are on the verge of blowing it up, and mere competence could take them out if they have decided to do so.
Week 17: Sunday, December 31
Road at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 PM ET
I’m giving this one to the San Francisco Niners as both teams have nothing to play for, and the narrative that the 49ers beat the Rams five-straight times while beating almost nobody else is just too funny to resist.