The San Francisco 49ers have announced the dates and times for their highly-anticipated 2021 regular season slate of games as well as their preseason opponents.
This season debuts the league's expansion of regular season contests. NFL owners approved the vote to officially expand regular season games from 16 to 17 beginning this season as part of the new collective bargaining agreement between the NFL and the NFL Players Association. With the addition of the 17th game, the 49ers will now add a road game against the Cincinnati Bengals onto their slate of regular season matchups in 2021.
Additionally, this season the 49ers will also face the NFC North and AFC South. The 49ers will also see the Atlanta Falcons and Philadelphia Eagles, as both teams also finished last in their respective divisions. Here are nine observations from the 49ers full 2021 NFL schedule.
1. Shortened Preseason
With the addition of the 17th game, the league has reduced its preseason matchups from four to three. Given the 49ers will play their added 17th regular season game on the road, San Francisco will play two of their three exhibition contests at home. This method will rotate between the AFC and NFC each season.
The 49ers are set to host the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 1 of the preseason. Next up, the team will travel to the new SoFi Stadium to face the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2. This marks the 35th-consecutive season the 49ers and Chargers have been scheduled to meet in the preseason. San Francisco will round out their exhibition slate by hosting the Las Vegas Raiders in the preseason finale. The 49ers and Raiders last met in the preseason back in 2011, prior to the cancellation of the 2020 preseason matchup, and their last regular season matchup, the "Battle of the Bay," was in 2018.
Dates and times for preseason games will be released in the coming weeks.
2. Primetime Games
San Francisco was awarded the max-allotted five primetime contests (three at home) for the second-straight season. The 49ers will host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers in the home opener on Sunday Night Football in Week 3, the fourth-consecutive year the 49ers and Packers have met in the regular season.
Four weeks later, the 49ers are set to host the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday Night Football. This marks the first regular season meeting between the two clubs since the 2017 season and the Colts first-ever trip to Levi's® Stadium.
In Week 10, the 49ers will host the Los Angeles Rams on Monday Night Football, their first of two matchups. The 49ers have defeated the Rams in each of their past two meetings on Monday Night Football, including a 28-0 victory in their last MNF matchup on September 12, 2016.
San Francisco's 49 wins on Monday Night Football are tied with the Pittsburgh Steelers for the most wins on MNF in NFL history.
In Week 13, San Francisco will travel to Seattle to face the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football for the second time in three seasons, having defeated the Seahawks, 26-21, on December 29, 2019 on Sunday Night Football.
Finally, the 49ers will close out their primetime matchups heading to Tennessee to face the Titans in Week 16 on Thursday Night Football.
*Per the NFL, Sunday night games in Weeks 5-17 are subject to change. Week 18 is TBD.
3. Road Warriors
The 49ers will open up the 2021 season with back-to-back road games for the first time since 2019 (at Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Cincinnati Bengals). For the last three seasons, San Francisco has opted to stay on the east coast in between road games to avoid the negative effects of lengthy back-and-forth travel.
It's likely the 49ers take the same approach between their first two matchups of the season against the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles.
Additionally, the 49ers open and close the regular season on the road (Week 1 at Detroit and Week 18 at Los Angeles Rams) for the third time in four seasons.
4. Early Risers
Additionally, the 49ers have five games scheduled for 10 a.m. PT starts [Detroit Lions (Week 1), Philadelphia Eagles (Week 2), Chicago Bears (Week 8), Jacksonville Jaguars (Week 11), Cincinnati Bengals (Week 14)].
Since 2000, West Coast teams have a combined 72-86 (.456) record when playing 10 a.m. PT starts. The 49ers are 16-31 (.340) when playing in the early matchups. They are 138-150-1 (.479) in all other contests.
5. Strength of Schedule
Last season, the 49ers played the fourth-toughest schedule with their 2020 opponents owning a collective 134-120-2 record the year prior. This year, San Francisco is tied for the 19th-toughest schedule in the league (.489), with their upcoming opponents owning a 132-183-2 record in 2020. Just five of their 14 opponents possessed a record greater than .500 last season.
Furthermore, the 49ers will face six teams who made playoff appearances in 2020. That list includes the Bears, Packers, Colts, Rams, Seahawks and Titans.
6. New Faces
The 2021 season features seven new head coaches across the league and the 49ers are set to face off against five of them: Arthur Smith (Atlanta Falcons), Dan Campbell (Detroit Lions), David Culley (Houston Texans), Urban Meyer (Jacksonville Jaguars) and Nick Sirianni (Philadelphia Eagles).
7. Enduring the Elements
San Francisco lucked up last season, with the majority of their cooler-weather cities front loaded on the schedule in 2020. That's not the case in 2021. Beginning in Week 8, the 49ers are set to travel to Soldier Field to face the Chicago Bears. They'll also make east coast trips in Week 14 against the Bengals and a late-December trip to Nashville in Week 16 (all outdoor stadiums).
8. Bye, Bye, Bye
San Francisco's Bye is scheduled for the first half of their 17-game slate, contrary to their Week 11 Bye in 2020. The 49ers received a Week 6 Bye, in between their matchups against the Cardinals and Colts, respectively. This marks the first time since 2009 that the 49ers have had their Bye in Week 6.
It's also worth noting, the 49ers have won each of their contests following their Bye, dating back to 2019.
9. Frequent Flyers
The 49ers will travel over 28,000 miles round trip between cities in 2021.
Fans interested in purchasing single game tickets to a 49ers home game should visit 49ers.com/tickets/single-game to purchase. Ticket prices and availability are subject to demand.