The 2014 regular season schedule release is almost here.
According to ProFootballTalk.com, the schedule could be revealed this week, as early as Wednesday or Thursday.
We here at 49ers.com can’t wait to find out the travel plans and intriguing matchups for the 49ers. We know who we play and where, we just don’t know when.
Despite not knowing the exact 16-game slate, we know which matchups are the most intriguing to us as of April 21. Perhaps a primetime contest could change this list, but for now, we rank the five most anticipated regular season games.
5. Bay Bridge Battle
The Oakland Raiders will host the 49ers in 2014. It will be a reunion of sorts. Former starting cornerbacks Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers signed one-year contracts with the cross-town football team.
We, too, look forward to a road game in Oakland. For one, it’s a short trip for a 49ers team that traveled more miles than any team in the NFL last season. Remember London? There will be no flight for the 49ers and no need to adjust body clocks. It will also be interesting to see how the team performs on a grass-and-dirt baseball field at O.co Coliseum. Plus, the 49ers will face this year’s No. 5 overall draft pick. Could it be "Johnny Football" or another notable prospect? It depends on which mock draft you're reading.
4. NFC East Four-way Tie
San Francisco will play all four teams in the NFC East and we couldn’t decide which matchup is the juiciest.
At home, the 49ers will face Chip Kelly’s fast-paced Philadelphia Eagles as well as the new-look Washington Redskins with head coach Jay Gruden at the helm. On the road, San Francisco renews classic rivalries with the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants.
How can you pick just one of those games? There’s so many interesting aspects to the 49ers potential matchups with the NFL’s notorious "Black and Blue Division."
Consider these questions:
-How will the Eagles look with Nick Foles as the unquestioned starting quarterback?
-Will Robert Griffin III look rejuvenated with a QB-friendly coach, a rested knee and a No. 1 wideout in DeSean Jackson?
-How many of New York’s free-agent signings will be in the starting lineup when they face San Francisco?
3. Manning Test
The 49ers will face many of the NFL’s top passers in 2014, chief among them Peyton Manning. The Denver Broncos will host the 49ers in a game that will feature two teams that had their '13 season ended by the Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks. Besides having that in common, both clubs have well-rounded rosters with a number of offensive and defensive standouts.
Manning’s offensive weaponry will look different this coming season. Free agent wide receiver addition Emmanuel Sanders will take the place of outgoing wideout Eric Decker. The Broncos also expect second-year running back Montee Ball to step into the starting lineup for Knowshon Moreno, who signed a one-year contract with the Miami Dolphins. Denver still has the Thomas duo (tight end Julius Thomas and wide receiver Damaryius Thomas) and it very much remains a threat for defenses around the league.
2. Alex Smith, Good to See You
We don’t know which game will be the first ever played at Levi’s® Stadium, but one suggestion would be opening the team’s new home with a matchup against the team’s former starting quarterback. Alex Smith and the Kansas City Chiefs will be one of five non-conference opponents to visit the billion-dollar South Bay home of the 49ers.
Smith led the Chiefs to the postseason in his first year. For an encore, Kansas City’s veteran signal-caller will face a challenging schedule against six playoff teams from last season.
The 49ers-Chiefs game doesn’t have to open the building to be a must-see game. NFL fans will be glued to the television whenever it takes place.
1. Another Battle in Seattle
San Francisco’s season ended in Seattle, and a road rematch against the division, conference and Super Bowl champs will be the game of the year. Sure, each week is important in the NFL, but let’s be 100 percent honest about this here.
The 49ers-Seahawks rivalry is arguably the best in the NFL these days. Both teams have pushed each other in recent years to play their best football. Every game they play, whether it’s in Seattle or San Francisco, is one of the most talked about games of the year.
Perhaps, the NFC West battle could even be the very first game of the 2014 season. The Seahawks will kick-off the regular season at home on a Thursday night in September. The 49ers, St. Louis Rams, Arizona Cardinals, Green Bay Packers, Cowboys, Giants, Broncos or Raiders could be the opponent that night.
Then again, the NFL could save the 49ers-Seahawks in Seattle for later in the season when potential playoff implications are on the line.
-Traveling to New Orleans for a third consecutive season to face the Saints. Note: Be careful when sacking Drew Brees.
-Division battles with the Cardinals. The 10-win Cards didn't make the playoffs, but they've added to their roster. NFC West play is no joke.
AGREE or DISAGREE with the picks? Leave your thoughts in the comments section of this post.