The 2014 NFL schedule has been released, and the San Francisco 49ers have will have one of the toughest roads to the playoffs of any team. The Niners have to work their way through the fourth-hardest schedule in the league if they want to get their elusive sixth championship. Here is a look at five matchups to keep an eye on throughout the season.
Week 2 vs. Chicago Bears
While the 49ers’ untested cornerbacks will have their hands full with Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, the importance of this game doesn’t have as much to do with the actual matchup. Week 2 will mark the opening of Levi’s stadium, which is the new home of the San Francisco 49ers. The game will be a nationally televised, Sunday night affair and the Niners will be pumped up as they unveil their new, high-tech domain.
Week 5 vs. Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith will compete against the team he has had so many ups and downs with, as the Chiefs travel to San Francisco in Week 5. The return of Smith will invoke mixed feelings for many 49ers fans as Smith had some rocky moments from 2005-2010. In the end, Smith should receive a warm welcome when he takes the field, as his last year and a half with the team was nothing but successful.
Week 7 @ Denver Broncos
Ah, what could have been? In some minds, the 49ers should have been the team to face off with the Broncos in last year’s Super Bowl, but they fell just short for various reasons. San Francisco will get their shot at the AFC Champions when they travel to Denver in Week 7 on a Sunday night. The 49ers’ defense, which will be sans NaVorro Bowman and possibly Aldon Smith, will face a major test against Peyton Manning and company.
Weeks 3 & 17 @/vs. Arizona Cardinals
Don’t think the games against the Cardinals hold that much weight? In 2013, if Larry Fitzgerald doesn’t fumble in their first matchup and Quinton Patton doesn’t make a circus catch in their second, it could have been the 49ers who were 10-6 and out of the playoffs. The team’s played very evenly last year and who comes out on top in 2014 will go a long way in deciding what franchise is back in the tournament come January.
Weeks 13 & 15 vs./@Seattle Seahawks
The best current rivalry in the NFL will be renewed on Thanksgiving night as the 49ers will host the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks. Not only will San Francisco want revenge for last year’s NFC Championship game loss, but with their first meeting so late in the season, the 49ers will also no doubt need a win to keep pace in the division race.
While the following meeting will also be important in the standings, it’s also a big mental step for San Francisco. The team is 0-3 at Seattle with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback, and they must prove that they can win up north at some point.
Photo: Brian Bahr/Getty Images
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