8 Key Notes on 49ers 2015 Regular Season Schedule

The San Francisco 49ers regular season schedule for 2015 is finally here.

Make your upcoming travel arrangements accordingly.

Now that we know exactly when athe 49ers will be playing in Jim Tomsula's first season as head coach, it's only right that we break down the key findings from the schedule, a 16-game slate that happens to be the third-toughest in the entire league based on 2014 results.

1. NATIONAL RESPECT

The 49ers will compete in four primetime games, a clear sign of respect from the league's schedule-making wizards.

The spotlight games begin early for San Francisco.

The season opens with the first-ever "Monday Night Football" game at Levi's® Stadium against the Minnesota Vikings. The matchup is the sixth time the franchise has begun a season on a Monday.

Primetime games continue in Week 4, when the 49ers go on the road to face the New York Giants on "Sunday Night Football." The remaining night games will be a Week 7 home tilt against the Seattle Seahawks on "Thursday Night Football" and a Week 15 home game against the Cincinnati Bengals on a Sunday night.

Three of the four primetime games will be held on the 49ers home turf.

2. NO BELL IN PITTSBURGH

Eric Mangini's defense will have its hands full with Minnesota's determined running back Adrian Peterson in Week 1. The following week, however, the defensive coordinator's unit catches a break in a Week 2 road contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Le'Venon Bell, a third-year running back, faces a three-game suspension for violating the league's substance-abuse policy. Last year, Bell totaled a career-high 1,361 rushing yards (second-most in the NFL) and eight touchdowns on his way to earning his first Pro Bowl selection. The shifty running back became a major cog in Pittsburgh's running attack last season. Without his services, the 49ers figure to face a heavy dose of passes from Ben Roethlisberger to star receiver Antonio Brown.

The Week 2 road contest in the "Steel City", which is one of three away games in the first five weeks of the season, will also be a homecoming for Tomsula, who was born in Homestead, Pa.

 3. EARLY STARTS

Bay Area fans will have to set their alarm clocks early on five occasions next season. The 49ers will compete in five 10 a.m. kickoffs.

Following the Week 2 road game against Pittsburgh, San Francisco will play in early games against the St. Louis Rams in Week 8, Chicago Bears in Week 13, Cleveland Browns in Week 14 and Detroit Lions in Week 16.

The 49ers went 2-0 in 10 a.m. PT starts last season, beating the New Orleans Saints and Giants in back-to-back weeks.

4. YOUNGSTOWN, MAYBE

Speaking of back-to-back East Coast games, we've learned to never rule out a possible Midwestern stay in between long travel for the 49ers. The team has connections in Youngstown, Ohio, and utilized those relationships to stay in the Midwest in between road games in 2011 and 2012.

If San Francisco elected to utilize its connections at Youngstown State University, the only time that would be needed in 2015 would be in between Week 13 and 14, when the franchise faces Chicago and Cleveland in consecutive weeks.

Again, this is purely speculation, but 49ers fans have become conditioned to making that association on schedule-release day.

5. KAP VS. THE PACK

Colin Kaepernick's success against the Green Bay Packers has been well-documented. He's 1-0 against the defending NFC North champs in the regular season and 2-0 against his beloved childhood team in the postseason.

The Packers defense, led by do-it-all linebacker Clay Matthews, certainly hasn't forgotten previous matchups against the 49ers dynamic signal-caller.

That is why the Week 4 home matchup at Levi's® Stadium, Green Bay's first-ever visit to the billion-dollar home of the 49ers, should be one of the most anticipated games of the regular season. Kaepernick famously produced a postseason record for quarterbacks with 181 rushing yards in a 45-31 win over the Packers in the 2012 NFC Playoffs. The following season, Kaepernick posted a career-high 412 passing yards in a Week 1 home win over Green Bay and later engineered a game-winning drive to beat the Packers, 23-20, in the 2013 Wild Card round of the postseason.

All of the highlights will surely be replayed before this Green Bay-San Francisco tilt. How will the Packers, and Kaepernick, respond in the fourth meeting?

6. REMATCH THEME CONTINUES

In addition to the Packers storylines, the 49ers will have feuds to settle with several other teams on the schedule. Most notably, Week 6 will feature a Super Bowl XLVII rematch against the Baltimore Ravens.

That game will see former Ravens Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin team up to face their former defense in a regular season game. With news of the Ravens signing star cornerback Jimmy Smith to a mega contract extension, the matchups of the 49ers top wideouts against their former Super Bowl-winning teammates will be fascinating to watch.

Elsewhere on the schedule, San Francisco will face the Giants and Bears in consecutive years. The 49ers pulled out a road victory in New York last season, but dropped the first-ever home game at Levi's® Stadium to Chicago. 

The 49ers will also rekindle division rivalries against Arizona (away in Week 3, home in Week 12), Seattle (home in Week 7, away in Week 11) and St. Louis (away in Week 8, home in Week 17). In between Week 7-12, the 49ers will have four NFC West games and a bye week in a six-week span.

7. BYE THE WAY

When should die-hard fans plan a potential getaway vacation in the thick of football season?

If you're into that sort of thing, the answer is Week 10. A late-season bye is an advantage in the sense that it allows players to rest up for a pivotal seven-game stretch to close out the regular season. This will be the first time the 49ers have had a bye in Week 10 since 2003.

In those final seven games, the 49ers will play three times at home and will have three games on the East Coast.

8. WINTER IS COMING

Cold-weather games are always a focus when a West Coast team heads East. This is the case when the 49ers face the Bears and Browns in early December (Weeks 12 and 13).

The historical weather average for Chicago and Cleveland on Dec. 6 and 13, respectively is 38 and 40 degrees.

Get your winter coats ready.

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