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49ers Have NFL's Third-hardest Schedule in 2015

Even though the San Francisco 49ers finished third in the NFC West last season with an 8-8 record, that doesn't mean the team's 2015 schedule, released on Tuesday, will be any easier.

Quite the opposite, actually.

Based on last year's records, the 49ers will face the third-toughest slate of games next fall.

San Francisco's 13 different opponents had a .561 winning percentage in 2014, finishing with a combined record of 143-112-1.

The only two teams with a tougher schedule on paper in 2015 are the Pittsburgh Steelers (.579) and Cincinnati Bengals (.563).

If the 49ers are to return to the playoffs after falling short last year for the first time since 2010, they will certainly have to earn it.

In San Francisco's first seven games, the team will face three division-winners (Pittsburgh, Green Bay and Seattle) and two Wild Card teams (Arizona and Baltimore). Navigating through such a grueling early portion of the schedule will be key for first-year coach Jim Tomsula.

So how did the 49ers end up drawing the proverbial short straw?

Well, based on the NFL's rotating schedule, the NFC West was due to play against the NFC North and AFC North.

Of the eight teams in those divisions, five of them made the playoffs in 2014 (Green Bay, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati and Baltimore).

Combine those tough games with the home-and-away divisional contests with the Arizona Cardinals and Seattle Seahawks and the 49ers will play nine games versus playoff teams from a year ago.

Consider that in 2014, of the 12 teams that made the postseason, only four of them owned a strength of schedule higher than .500.

The good news is that the 49ers divisional rivals will face stiff competition as well.

Below is the full strength of schedule list:

  1. Pittsburgh Steelers: 147-107-2, .579
  1. Cincinnati Bengals: 144-112, .563
  1. San Francisco 49ers: 143-112-1, .561
  1. Seattle Seahawks: 142-112-2, .559
  1. Arizona Cardinals: 142-113-1, .557
  1. St. Louis Rams: 141-114-1, .553

T-7. Oakland Raiders: 139-116-1, .545

T-7. Kansas City Chiefs: 139-116-1, .545

  1. Cleveland Browns: 138-116-2, .543
  1. Denver Broncos: 138-117-1, .541
  1. Baltimore Ravens: 137-117-2, .539
  1. Minnesota Vikings: 138-118, .539
  1. Chicago Bears: 136-120, .531
  1. Green Bay Packers: 135-120-1, .529
  1. Detroit Lions: 135-121, .527
  1. San Diego Chargers: 132-123-1, .518
  1. Miami Dolphins: 126-130, .492
  1. New York Jets: 125-131, .488
  1. Buffalo Bills: 124-131-1, .486

T-20. Washington Redskins: 122-133-1, .478

T-20. New York Giants: 122-133-1, .478

  1. New England Patriots: 122-134, .477
  1. Philadelphia Eagles: 121-134-1, .475
  1. Dallas Cowboys: 119-136-1, .467
  1. Jacksonville Jaguars: 118-137-1, .463
  1. Tennessee Titans: 111-144-1, .435
  1. Carolina Panthers: 111-145, .434
  1. New Orleans Saints: 109-145-2, .429
  1. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 108-146-2, .425
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