If you look at the San Francisco 49ers 2020 schedule, it's by no means a "cakewalk." San Francisco owns the fourth-toughest strength of schedule that includes NFC East and AFC East opponents, and the 2019 division-leading Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints, all while continuing their bi-yearly battles against NFC West rivals.
Of the 13 teams San Francisco will face off against in 2020, six made the playoffs last season. In addition to their host of tough matchups, their upcoming opponents posted a collective 134-120-2 record in 2019.
As the schedule was released on Thursday, San Francisco's slate of four-straight games against 2019 playoff contenders highlighted the 49ers daunting stretch of consecutive matchups. San Francisco is set to face the New England Patriots (12-4 2019 record), Seattle Seahawks (11-5), Packers (13-3) and Saints (13-3) between Weeks 7-10. Those four clubs accrued 49 regular season wins in 2019 to a mere 15 losses.
Kyle Shanahan appeared on NFL Network's Schedule Release '20 to give his initial reaction to San Francisco's slate of games. As daunting as the span may appear, the head coach won't get too caught up in the latter half of the year with the vast amount of unknowns that come with a typical NFL season.
"That's the obvious, that stretch right there," Shanahan said. "I used to do that a lot when I first got into the NFL. I would (look at the schedule like) 'All right, this team's real good. 'This team's not as good,' and you go through all that. And then you get into the season and you learn that half the stuff year-to-year flips.
"So if it's after Week 4, who knows what team you're going to have compared to Week 1 when injuries happen. I rarely, through experience, look at how many tough games you have in a row because it changes year-to-year."
Check out the San Francisco 49ers 2020 schedule in black and white.
The 49ers had a similar rough stretch of games in 2019 with a lineup that included the Seahawks (Week 10) and Packers (Week 12) at home, followed by the Baltimore Ravens (Week 13) and Saints (Week 14) on the road. At that point in the season, each team boasted above .500 records and sat near the top of their respective divisions.
Unlike 2019, the 49ers are fortunate to enter their Bye right out of the potentially difficult stretch. The timing of the Week 11 Bye could prove beneficial should the 49ers be in contention for a playoff spot, or in dire need of player recovery.
Last season, San Francisco came out of its gauntlet of consecutive matchups with multiple injuries to several key starters, including Jaquiski Tartt, Dee Ford and Weston Richburg. A late-season week of rest and recovery could be beneficial should the 49ers hope to make any final pushes to secure a second-straight playoff appearance.
"My biggest thing is: I want to know when the Thursday game is, who you have, whether it's home or away; how many Monday night games; how many Sunday night games; how many trips you've got to travel through two time zones," Shanahan continued. "That's a really big deal for us being on the West Coast; how many days you have to recover on some of those tough times; when's your Bye week; and when's your Thursday game so you can plan on the recovery throughout the whole year. That's the stuff to me that's the biggest thing with your schedule."
The 49ers do have back-to-back east coast games slated for 2020 against the New York Jets and New York Giants, respectively. Assuming Shanahan's emphasis on player recovery, it's more likely than not that San Francisco will opt to remain in the Eastern time zone to avoid the negative effects of lengthy back-and-forth travel yet again.