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Breaking down 49ers' 2021 opponents on eve of schedule release

NBC Sports
George Kittle

The 49ers’ list of 17 opponents for the 2021 regular season have been known for a while.

On Wednesday, the NFL will announce the dates and times of the league’s entire schedule of games.

The 49ers finished in last place in the NFC West with a 6-10 record last season. Three of their opponents this year were determined by their place in the standings -- games against last-place teams in the Atlanta Falcons, Philadelphia Eagles and Cincinnati Bengals.

Their other non-division games are against teams from the NFC North and AFC South.

Home games

The 49ers went 6-2 at Levi’s Stadium during the regular season in 2019, then posted a pair of 17-point playoff victories over the Minnesota Vikings and Green Bay Packers to cruise to the Super Bowl. But the 49ers enjoyed none of the advantages of playing at “home” in 2020.

Fans were not allowed inside Levi’s Stadium for their first five games. Then, the 49ers were forced to finish out the season in Arizona due to tightened restrictions in Santa Clara County during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ eight scheduled home games for the 2021 season:

Green Bay Packers

Perhaps another phone call is in order in the week leading up to this game: “Hey, Matt. Kyle here. Just checking in again to see if you’ve changed your mind about trading Aaron Rodgers.”

Minnesota Vikings

Kyle Shanahan’s hand-picked quarterback of the future is not a Kirk Cousins clone, after all. But if Bill Belichick had not offered up Jimmy Garoppolo to the 49ers in 2017, there’s a good chance Cousins would be playing his home games here at Levi’s Stadium instead of just popping in as a visitor.


Atlanta Falcons

And Kyle Shanahan’s hand-picked quarterback of the future is not a Matt Ryan clone, either. Ryan has put together a good career. But he has never had a season close to what he did with Shanahan in 2016, when he threw 38 touchdowns, seven interceptions, posted a passer rating of 117.1 and won the NFL MVP. 

Indianapolis Colts

From the moment DeForest Buckner arrived in 2016, it was expected he would be with the 49ers for a long, long time. How the organization was not able to retain Buckner beyond his first contract still is a head-scratcher. One thing is for certain: The whole offensive plan for the 49ers in this game will be focused on not allowing Buckner to ruin the day.

Houston Texans

When the offseason began, it would have been a legitimate question to ask for which team Deshaun Watson would be playing in this game. Now, we know he certainly will not be with the 49ers. And it sure looks doubtful he will be playing for the Texans, either. Their only other options at this point are Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Finley and rookie Davis Mills, a third-round draft pick from Stanford.

Arizona Cardinals

A home game against the Cardinals is not likely to be the season opener again this season. But this is where things started to go wrong in 2020 -- right from the beginning. George Kittle sustained a knee injury. Jimmy Garoppolo missed some throws. Other times, he was a tick slow with his reads. And the 49ers started 0-1 in the regular season.

L.A. Rams

Fun fact: The 49ers won only one game at Levi’s Stadium during the 2020 season. That came in Week 6 -- obviously, before the team was banished to Arizona to finish out the season. The 49ers won Leg 1 of their eventual sweep of the playoff-bound Rams with a 24-16 win in Garoppolo’s best game of the season. He threw for 268 yards and three touchdowns. 

Seattle Seahawks

A lot has been made about the 49ers’ lack of success against the Seahawks on the road. But Pete Carroll and Co. also have been dominant in the Bay Area, too. Seattle has won six of the past seven games on the 49ers’ home field. The one victory for the 49ers came in December of 2018, when Robbie Gould kicked a 36-yard field goal in overtime for the win.

Road games

In the two years after the 49ers’ 0-8 road season of 2018, they have actually played better football away from Levi’s Stadium.

Even a year ago, the 49ers had a winning record on the road with five of their six victories coming as the visitors. Each team in the NFC will play one additional road game this year as part of the NFL’s new 17-game regular season.

Here’s are the 49ers’ nine scheduled road opponents:

Chicago Bears

Depending on when this matchup falls in the season, it could be a game of great intrigue. Think about it: The starting quarterbacks could be Trey Lance and Justin Fields. Both players were in consideration for the No. 3 overall pick, though the 49ers seemed to decisively place Lance over Fields from an early stage. Of course, depending on how the rookies adapt, this could end up being Garoppolo vs. Andy Dalton, too.


Detroit Lions

If you remember new Lions head coach Dan Campbell’s introductory press conference, it might be a wise thing for the 49ers’ equipment staff to provide the players with extra protection ... especially in the area of both kneecaps.

Philadelphia Eagles

This could be a rough season for the Eagles with Jalen Hurts at quarterback, Joe Flacco as the back-up plan, and first-year coach Nick Sirianni, who seems just a bit overmatched at this point. Although it’s a road game, there probably should not be an easier win on the 49ers’ schedule.

Jacksonville Jaguars

Trent Baalke, the 49ers’ former general manager, is now teaming up with coach Urban Meyer with the Jaguars. They will go with rookie quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, whether he is ready or not. And we shall see if tight end Tim Tebow makes the team after last playing an NFL game in 2012, when he was a much-talked-about quarterback who threw the ball like a tight end.

Tennessee Titans

After four consecutive 9-7 seasons, the Titans finally broke through last season with an 11-5 record. They have a contender, though they are still a notch below the Kansas City Chiefs in the AFC. Ryan Tannehill might be the most under-appreciated good quarterback in the NFL, but is he capable of taking the Titans to the next level?

Cincinnati Bengals

The advantage for the 49ers in finishing last in the division is this: A road game against the Bengals. The NFL added a 17th game to the regular-season schedule, and the 49ers draw Cincinnati while the other teams in the division face stiffer challenges from their NFC North opponents: Arizona (Cleveland), Los Angeles (Baltimore) and Seattle (Pittsburgh).

RELATED: Schrock: Mapping out ideal 49ers schedule for Super Bowl return



The Cardinals organization opened their home to the 49ers when Santa Clara County booted the team out of Levi’s Stadium during the COVID-19 pandemic. The 49ers made themselves at home, and even knocked the Cardinals out of the playoffs with a victory in their head-to-head meeting in Glendale. The 49ers really hope this is the one and only time they play here this season.


Every team in the NFC West has a legitimate goal of winning the division, advancing all the way through the NFC side of the bracket and going to the Super Bowl. And, you ask, where is the Super Bowl? That would be right where this game will be played -- SoFi Stadium in Inglewood. The Rams are intent on playing a home game on Feb. 13. They swapped out Jared Goff for Matthew Stafford for that very purpose.


The 49ers have won just one of their past 10 games in Seattle. But that one provided them with the NFC West title and was the springboard for their Super Bowl appearance. How many more times will they travel to the Pacific Northwest to face Russell Wilson? This could be it. And 49ers fans would shed no tears.


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