Everything the 49ers do from this day forward is with opening day -- Sept. 8 – in mind.
The draft, the offseason program, training camp and a four-game exhibition schedule are all geared toward getting the 49ers prepared for Week 1 at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the meantime, the 49ers will have the ability to add a starter, or two or three, in next week’s NFL draft.
One of their NFC West opponents undoubtedly will be shaped by their decision next week. Will the 49ers again face quarterback Josh Rosen, who twice beat them last season, or will the Cardinals tab Kyler Murray to inject some excitement and intrigue into their organization? The 49ers play Arizona in Weeks 9 and 11.
Here are some of the other takeaways from the 49ers’ 2019 schedule, which the NFL released Wednesday.
Biggest must-watch game
Every eight years when the Browns visited the 49ers, it was seen as a good opportunity to spend the day doing something together outside as a family. The mere throught of a 49ers-Browns game could induce sleep.
Few organizations over the past couple of decades have been less compelling than the Cleveland football franchise.
But not this year.
Even though Cleveland has a no-name as a head coach, the Browns could be one of the compelling teams to watch in the NFL this season because of QB Baker Mayfield and a much-improved supporting cast, including star receiver Odell Beckham. The 49ers wanted Beckham, but the Browns landed him in a trade with the New York Giants.
The Browns will visit Levi’s Stadium for the first time this season, and -- believe it or not -- it could be a hot ticket. The NFL placed the 49ers-Browns game in prime time with an Oct. 7 matchup on Monday Night Football.
Where the schedule makers hosed them
The 49ers open the season with back-to-back road games for the first time since 1997. It might be an opportunity for the 49ers to remain on the road – say, Youngstown, Ohio – between games at Tampa Bay and Cincinnati.
This will likely be a decision for Ben Peterson, the 49ers’ newly created head of player health and performance. If he determines it is better for the players’ bodies to avoid the back-and-forth trips, the 49ers will practice during the week in Ohio.
The game against Tampa Bay is also a 4:25 p.m. start in the Eastern time zone, giving them three hours less of recovery time.
The 49ers have four road games scheduled for 10 a.m. (PT) kickoffs – at Cincinnati (Week 2), Washington (Week 7), Baltimore (Week 13) and New Orleans (Week 14). The back-to-back road games in December against the Ravens and Saints also makes for a tough stretch at that point in the season.
Additionally, the 49ers face the Green Bay Packers at Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 24. New coach Matt LaFleur will have extra time to prepare for the 49ers, as the Packers’ bye week is in Week 11.
Where the schedule makers helped them
The 49ers have a five-game stretch from Week 8 through Week 12 when the only time they will be on a plane will be for the two-hour trip to Arizona and back.
San Francisco hosts the Carolina Panthers on Oct. 27, followed by a quick-turnaround for a Thursday night game at Arizona on Halloween. Then, it’s a longer week and more preparation time to face the Seattle Seahawks on Nov. 11 for Monday Night Football.
The 49ers face Arizona again in Week 11 on Nov. 17, and remain home for the Week 12 game against the Packers.
What the primetime schedule tells us
Every team in the league is guaranteed one primetime slot with a Thursday night game. The 49ers’ Thursday game is Week 9 at Arizona. They have two other games under the lights, facing the Browns and Seahawks in Monday night home games.
The 49ers have another possible primetime game, as the day for their Week 16 game against the Los Angeles Rams will be determined at a later date. The game is slated for either on a Saturday or Sunday.
That shows the 49ers have not fallen completely off the NFL landscape, but the NFL is being more cautious than a year ago.
After riding the momentum of Jimmy Garoppolo and a five-game win streak into last year’s offseason, the 49ers were tabbed for five games in prime time. By the mid-point of the season, the NFL was sent scrambling.
The 49ers were bounced out of their two scheduled Sunday night games – Week 7 against the L.A. Rams and Week 13 at the Seattle Seahawks.
Bye week significance
The bye week comes early for the 49ers, long before most teams generally would want a break in their season.
After opening on the road for the first two games and the home opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Week 3, the 49ers will get the week off in Week 4.
Then, the 49ers have a long week when they return from the bye week to face the Browns on Monday Night Football. The 49ers finish the regular season with games in 13 consecutive weeks.
After the incident at the team hotel in Tampa, the 49ers did not need to know all the details about what occurred. All they had to know was linebacker Reuben Foster put himself in a precarious situation with his decision to meet a visitor, and he ended up in jail for the night.
Foster was quickly claimed by Washington. He spent the final five games of last season on the commissioner’s exempt list. But, now, he’s been cleared to play football, minus two game checks. The 49ers ultimately would like to see Foster succeed, but not in Week 7 on Oct. 20, when the club travels to Washington.
Foster certainly will be motivated to make the kind of impact against the 49ers that the club had envisioned him doing for them.
Also, newly signed 49ers linebacker Kwon Alexander faces his former team, Tampa Bay, in Week 1. He is coming back from a torn ACL and hopes to be available to play. Former 49ers punter Bradley Pinion also is now with the Bucs.
New 49ers running back Tevin Coleman faces his old club, Atlanta, in Week 15 at Levi’s Stadium.