The 2021 NFL schedule has been released, and not a moment too soon.
Well, at least for the people reading this four months before the start of the regular season.
For the first time, the 49ers and their counterparts will play a 17-game schedule, thanks to the owners' ratification of an option included in the collective bargaining agreement the league struck with the players last year.
Every team has known its opponents for some time, but the schedule release really allows each fan base to start projecting wins and losses.
After an injury crisis in 2020 ensured the 49ers limped to the finish line, the NFL schedule-makers did the Niners no favors in 2021. The 49ers' bye week is in Week 6, meaning San Francisco closes the regular season with 12 consecutive games.
It's not exactly an unfamiliar position, considering the 49ers concluded the 2019 regular season with 13 straight. But the season's now 17 games, and the 49ers' bye this season is two weeks after their 2019 bye.
The 49ers also have two short weeks after their bye, going on a Monday-to-Sunday turnaround in Week 11 and a Sunday-to-Thursday turnaround in Week 16.
It would be very difficult for the 49ers to have the same injury luck as they did last season, but their schedule won't exactly allow for a lot of rest and recuperation.
Winner: Superstitious 49ers fans
The 49ers open on the road with a pair of 10 a.m. PT starts, just like they did in 2019.
Ipso facto, the 49ers are headed to the Super Bowl. You heard it here first.
Well, unless one of your Faithful friends has already started drawing (mostly meaningless) parallels.
Loser: Boston sports radio listeners
"Touchdown" Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers will play against the New England Patriots in Week 4 on "Sunday Night Football." Brady's Bucs won the Super Bowl, after Patriots coach Bill Belichick, in a personnel move most evocative of professional idol Emperor Palpatine, opted not to re-sign Brady.
After last month's draft, Belichick has a new apprentice, one far younger
and more powerful. The Patriots selected former Alabama QB Mac Jones with the No. 15 overall pick, much to the delight of New England fans who compared his unathletic pre-draft pictures to Brady's.
Whether Jones or Cam Newton starts in Brady's homecoming, Boston sports radio is going to be a miserable place for two weeks, before and -- especially -- after. Murph in Mattapan and Sully in Southie are going to have takes that could generate enough heat to keep Massachusetts warm for the winter.
Oh, and if the Patriots beat Brady and the defending Super Bowl champs? Bostonians gleefully chanting "No Days Off" -- during a day the vast majority took off from work and school -- with Belichick at a Super Bowl parade is going to seem tame by comparison.
Winner: Your families on Thanksgiving
If you were banking on an exciting NFL slate in order to spend less time with your family, you're going to need to come up with a better excuse. The Bears and Detroit Lions could be fun, particularly if Justin Fields is Chicago's signal-caller by then.
But the Raiders and Dallas Cowboys? Meh. The Buffalo Bills against the Taysom Hill- or Jameis Winston-led New Orleans Saints? I'll pass.
Considering the NFL's commitment to parity above all else, these games could end up being marquee matchups. That's just not the case in May.
Loser: Families of neutral NFL fans in London
Anyone dragged to a game at the House That Harry Kane Built -- otherwise known as Tottenham Hotspur Stadium -- by their son, daughter, partner, cousin or anyone else in their life is owed an apology in advance. The NFL isn't exactly sending its best and brightest across the pond for the first overseas games since 2019.
The Atlanta Falcons and New York Jets will play in Week 5, while the Jacksonville Jaguars and Miami Dolphins square off a week later. Only one of those teams had a winning record in 2020, and none of them made the playoffs.
I know, I know, worst-to-first turnarounds happen all the time in the NFL, but that kind of parity without stakes isn't exactly something Londoners are going for nowadays. Did you see the protests outside various English grounds -- including Tottenham Hotspur Stadium -- amid the European Super League debacle?
At least the stadium is a fitting venue for Falcons-Jets, aka the "Which American Football Team Is Most Like Tottenham" Bowl. Is it the franchise with a history of heartbreak, despite a lot of teams that were pretty on the eye? Or is it the bastion of incompetence playing in its country's largest media market?
Winner: Draft drama
The Bears and 49ers will play in Week 8, while the Jets and Jaguars will square off in Week 16. Zach Wilson and Trevor Lawrence are, barring injury, guaranteed to square off in the latter matchup, while it's a possibility Fields and Trey Lance play each other in the former. Lance and Lawrence could even play each other in Week 11 when the 49ers visit Jacksonville.
You know what that means, don't you? That's right, premature evaluations about young quarterbacks' place in the NFL based on a small sample size!
Did you find the Tua Tagavailoa discourse exhausting in 2020? Just you wait until this season when the four QBs selected in last month's draft are compared to one another after every snap! You know that the loser of Lawrence v. Wilson: Dawn of Quarterbacks will be indicted as an inferior player, while a big game from Fields in Week 8 -- especially if Garoppolo's still San Francisco's starter -- will mean the 49ers made the wrong call.
Nothing inspires knee-jerk reactions like the NFL, and nothing inspires more knee-jerk reactions in the NFL than quarterback play. Get ready to mute your Twitter timelines those weeks.