The NFL regular season schedule is finally here. To celebrate the 16-game slate, we have previewed each of the San Francisco 49ers eight games at new Levi’s® Stadium, including five non-divisional matchups.
One note to start: San Francisco’s 2014 road opponents compiled a 45-19 record last season.
Week 1 at Dallas Cowboys
Cowboys 2013 Record at AT&T Stadium: 5-3
All-time Series: SF leads DAL, 14-11-1, in the regular season
Matchup: The rivalry that started in the 1970s and heated up in the ‘80s and early ‘90s has cooled lately. The teams have faced off four times – or every three seasons –since 2002. Both have changed since Dallas bested San Francisco, 27-24, in Sept. 2011, although Tony Romo remains the Cowboys quarterback. This will be the 49ers first regular-season appearance in owner Jerry Jones’ gigantic new stadium. Jones’ team has finished 8-8 each of the last three seasons under coach Jason Garrett. The team also lost two key members of its 2013 defense in outside linebacker DeMarcus Ware and defensive tackle Jason Hatcher.
Week 3 at Arizona Cardinals
Cardinals ’13 Record at University of Phoenix Stadium: 6-2
All-time Series: SF leads AZ, 28-17
Matchup: Despite finishing the 2013 season, their first under Bruce Arians, at 10-6, the Cardinals missed out on the playoffs. Two losses to the 49ers, including a Week 17 defeat by three points, didn’t help their case. Still, the Cardinals are raring to go in ’14, particularly after finally finding a left tackle in ex-Raider Jared Veldheer to protect quarterback Carson Palmer’s blindside. Palmer, bothered by the pass-rush, threw three interceptions to an experienced San Francisco secondary last season. The 49ers younger group going forward will have to be on its toes to enjoy similar success, especially in Glendale.
Week 6 at St. Louis Rams
Rams ’13 Record at Edward Jones Dome: 5-3
All-time Series: SF leads STL, 63-62-3
Matchup: The 49ers only loss in their last six games versus the Rams occurred at the Dome in Dec. 2012. But Harbaugh and Co. returned there last September and dealt Jeff Fisher’s squad a 35-11 blow. St. Louis was relatively quiet in free agency, retaining tackle Roger Saffold after a failed physical terminated his contract with the Raiders, but they hold the No. 2 and 13 overall picks in the May 8-10 NFL Draft; that’s enough ammunition to get better in a hurry.
Week 7 at Denver Broncos
Broncos ’13 Record at Sports Authority Field at Mile High Stadium: 7-1
All-time Series: SF and DEN are tied, 6-6
Matchup: When you include Super Bowl XXIV, the 49ers have beaten the Broncos a seventh time. Remember their 55-10 victory, buttressed by Joe Montana’s five-touchdown and Jerry Rice’s three-touchdown performances, at the Louisiana Superdome in 1990? Back to reality: Denver is coming off of a Super Bowl loss but has a new defense to back up quarterback Peyton Manning’s next run to the NFL’s premier event. Team president John Elway, who threw two interceptions in that ’90 title game, signed Ware after he was cut from Dallas and cornerback Aquib Talib away from the New England Patriots. Of the 49ers most challenging opponents, the Broncos are right near the top.
Week 10 at New Orleans Saints
Saints ’13 Record at Mercedes-Benz Superdome: 8-0
All-time Series: SF leads NO, 46-25-2
Matchup: The Saints are probably tired of seeing the 49ers by now. Including “The Vernon Post (LINK),” which gave San Francisco a win over New Orleans at The ‘Stick in the 2012 NFC playoffs, the two teams have faced off three times in the last two seasons. The 49ers are used to making the road trip, too, having traveled South two Novembers in a row. What will be on the many of many during this upcoming reunion should be obvious: Will the pass-rush again get (AHMAD BROOKS LINK) to quarterback Drew Brees, and will San Francisco secure a different result?
Week 11 at New York Giants
Giants ’13 Record at MetLife Stadium: 4-4
All-time Series: NY leads SF, 15-14
Matchup: Most of us remember the 49ers-Giants back-and-forth in two single games: the Jan. 5, 2003 NFC Wild Wildcard (LINK), when San Francisco pulled off a late upset, and the Jan. 22, 2012 NFC Championship game, when New York got its revenge. The teams also met on Oct. 14, 2012 at Candlestick Park, when an Alex Smith-led 49ers offense committed three turnovers. Eli Manning is still the Giants quarterback and New York added cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and Walter Thurmond to its defensive backfield, but something tells us
Week 14 at Oakland Raiders
Raiders ’13 Record at o.Co Coliseum: 3-5
All-time Series: SF and OAK are tied, 6-6
Matchup: The cross-Bay Area rivals haven’t met in the regular season since Jim Harbaugh took the helm in San Francisco. Harbaugh, you’ll recall, was Oakland’s quarterback for two seasons starting in 2002. The 49ers bested the Raiders in November of that year, 23-20. Now Harbaugh, who frequently quotes late Oakland owner Al Davis’ “Just win baby!” mantra, is on the other sideline. Opposite him will be a silver-and-black defense featuring a host of new veterans including ex-49ers Tarell Brown and Carlos Rogers as well as former Pittsburgh Steeler LaMarr Woodley and Houston Texan Antonio Smith.
Week 15 at Seattle Seahawks
Seahawks ’13 Record at CenturyLink Field: 7-1
All-time Series: SF and SEA are tied, 15-15
Matchup: The 49ers play their NFC West rivals twice annually, so they’re very familiar with the Seahawks and the two teams below. Enough happened in their three battles last year to get supporters from both sides amped for this roadie. Crowd noise, while still an important factor in any game played in Seattle, should be less of a focus going forward. San Francisco showed it could weather the rough environs of CenturyLink in their ultimately unsuccessful trip for the Jan. 19 conference championship game. What will weigh more on this rematch up North: Can the Seahawks defense survive its losses in free agency? After all, Thurmond and defensive linemen Chris Clemons, Clinton McDonald and Red Bryant have all moved on.