Each weekday, 49ers.com reviews the most newsworthy and engaging content from around the web involving the 49ers and the NFL. We seek it out, so you don't have to.
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** 1. The 2014 Schedule Is Set
It's here, in full focus: the 2014 schedule. But in all the craziness and excitement, did you ever stop to wonder how the NFL determines the season slate each year out of half a million possibilities? The challenge presents a Rubik's Cube of potential outcomes, with obstructions that must to be taken into account. Common roadblocks are concerts slated for NFL stadiums, baseball postseason broadcast times and more. Each year offers its own unique challenges as well. This year, the Vikings are crashing on their neighbors' couch, sharing a stadium with Minnesota University while their new stadium is being built. This places a new set of restrictions on when they can play their home games. This, among other threatening conflicts, causes a seemingly endless dilemma: solving one problem creates another. Fix the Seattle Seahawks travel issues and hand the Kansas City Chiefs one that is far worse.
A team of four league officials mull over this painstaking process for months in a musky, sealed conference room that even office janitors can't access.
"That's what happens when four men and 40 computers work for 70 days to invent what they hope will be a 256-game masterpiece," writes Peter King of *MMQB. *King offers a detailed behind the scenes look at how the 2014 schedule was made.
>> Watch what Joe Staley had to say about the San Francisco 49ers schedule.
>> The eight NFC plus AFC West teams have the eight hardest schedules in the NFL. Clearly, the west is the best.
2. Crabtree's Contract Year
Where will LeBron James and Carmelo Anthony land in 2014? That is the question many NBA fans will be wondering come July. But for 49ers fans, it's 2015 that looms large. Wide receiver Michael Crabtree is entering the final year of his rookie contract, and the season ahead will play a large role in determining his value. The former high school quarterback and top 50 basketball recruit is unquestionably the 49ers No. 1 receiver, but can his pure athleticism, veteran leadership and health solidify his elite status before he becomes a free agent?
>> Scott Kegley of 49ers.com sat down with another San Francisco wideout, Brandon Lloyd, for an exclusive one-on-one interview.
3. Around the League
Adding a little comic relief to your day, comedian Frank Caliendo interviewed ESPN's Jon Gruden… as Jon Gruden.
>> The Seattle Seahawks are leaning against picking up offensive lineman James Carpenter's 2015 contract option.
>> Arizona Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu, who is coming off ACL and LCL surgery, might have to be placed on the PUP list.
>> The Dallas Cowboys have signed free-agent quarterback Caleb Hanie to a one-year deal.