The NFL has released its 2018 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the San Francisco 49ers.
Breakdown: Apparently, all that hype the Niners generated with their 5-0 finishing flourish last season found its way into the schedule-makers' headquarters. Despite a 6-10 record last season, the 49ers were given a whopping five prime-time games in 2018. Beyond that, the Niners' schedule actually resembles last year's wherein they will be tested early and often (three of four on the road, including the opener at Minnesota) before getting a chance to make up for it with a home-heavy back end (three of four at home to close the season and all four in California). In fact, aside from a long trip to Tampa, Florida, after Thanksgiving, the 49ers have an especially team-friendly final two months of the season with five of their final eight at home and seven of those games on the West Coast.
Back in prime time in a big way: The Niners played a combined six prime-time games over the past three seasons, with most of those coming on Thursday nights or in the late Week 1 Monday night time slot. But this year's schedule looks more like what San Francisco faced in its three-year run of NFC Championship Game appearances from 2012 to 2014. This year, the 49ers get their usual Thursday night appearance (against Bay Area rival Oakland) along with two Monday night games (at Green Bay and at home against the New York Giants) and two premier games on Sunday night (against two NFC West rivals, home to the Rams and at the Seahawks). The 49ers have plenty of proving to do in terms of reclaiming contender status but the league clearly has enough belief in them to put them under the lights for nearly a third of their 2018 slate.
Sherman's Seattle return: While quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo will steal plenty of headlines with matchups against quarterbacks such as Kirk Cousins, Aaron Rodgers and more, the last of the Niners' prime-time contests will undoubtedly provide one of the season's most anticipated reunions. San Francisco is scheduled to visit the Seahawks on Dec. 2 for Sunday Night Football. That will mark the return of cornerback Richard Sherman to the only NFL home he'd ever known before his release in March. Seattle drafted Sherman in 2011, and his 32 interceptions in the time since were the most by a player since he entered the league. Sherman hasn't hesitated to make his excitement about returning to Seattle known as he looks to draw a measure of revenge for his release. Add to that the fact the Niners will be looking for their first win against Seattle in 10 tries and that the Seahawks are in no hurry to give up their spot near the top of the NFC West, and you have the recipe for a good, old-fashioned NFC West slugfest.
Strength of schedule: T-15th, .500
49ers' Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)
Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 9, at Minnesota, 1 p.m.
Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 16, Detroit, 4:05 p.m.
Week 3: Sunday, Sept. 23, at Kansas City, 1 p.m.
Week 4: Sunday, Sept. 30, at Los Angeles Chargers, 4:25 p.m.
Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 7, Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 6: Monday, Oct. 15, at Green Bay, 8:15 p.m.
Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 21, Los Angeles Rams, 8:20 p.m.
Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 28, at Arizona, 4:25 p.m.
Week 9: Thursday, Nov. 1, Oakland, 8:20 p.m.
Week 10: Monday, Nov. 12, NY Giants, 8:15 p.m.
Week 11: BYE
Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 25, at Tampa Bay, 1 p.m.
Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 2, at Seattle, 8:20 p.m.
Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 9, Denver, 4:05 p.m.
Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 16, Seattle, 4:05 p.m.
Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 23, Chicago, 4:05 p.m.
Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 30, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.