The 49ers’ entire 2020 season schedule will be revealed Thursday afternoon, but we reportedly already have a pretty good idea of what it might look like.
There is plenty of lingering uncertainty due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic as to when NFL games will be able to be played, and ESPN’s John Clayton explained Wednesday how the league plans to account for that.
“Here’s what I gather, and this makes the most sense,” Clayton told 93.7 The Fan. “We’ll see if it follows the pattern. The season will start off … with the interconference games first, because if they have to shorten the season to 12 games, you wipe those out.”
Assuming this is true, we already know San Francisco’s first four opponents: the Miami Dolphins (home), Buffalo Bills (home), New England Patriots (away) and New York Jets (away). All that’s left to determine is the order.
“Then after that, you go into your non-common games,” Clayton continued. “That’ll be like Weeks 5 and 6. Remember, these are all home and away, so just kind of circling around like that.”
In this scenario, the 49ers would host the Green Bay Packers in Week 5 before traveling to New Orleans to face the Saints in Week 6. Or, vice versa.
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Next up: “Then you’ll get the division games for about three weeks,” Clayton said, “home and away.”
That would mean San Francisco would face other NFC West teams in Weeks 7 through 9. While it’s certainly possible the 49ers could face any one divisional opponent twice in that three-week span, it seems more likely the league would have them face the Seattle Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Rams once each.
“And then they’ll go into the next phase,” Clayton added, “which will be the division games.”
By that, Clayton meant intra-division games. The NFC West is scheduled to face the NFC East and AFC East in 2020, but with the AFC opponents already accounted for, this would mean San Francisco would play the Dallas Cowboys (road), New York Giants (road), Philadelphia Eagles (home) and Washington (home) — in some order — in Weeks 10 through 13.
Then, finally, the regular season would conclude with all that remains: “And then they close it out,” Clayton said, “the final three games will be against the division teams.”
Assuming the 49ers played the Seahawks, Cardinals and Rams once each in Weeks 7 through 9, they would do so again in Weeks 14 through 16, only at the opposite location from the earlier matchup.
So, to summarize, the 49ers’ 2020 schedule would look as such (opponents/games listed in no particular order):
Weeks 1-4: Dolphins, Bills, at Patriots, at Jets
Weeks 5-6: Packers, at Saints
Weeks 7-9: NFC West opponents
Weeks 10-13: Eagles, Washington, at Cowboys, at Giants
Weeks 14-16: NFC West opponents
But wait a second? Aren’t we forgetting something? You know — a bye?
Assuming a full 17-week season takes place, then yes, every team would get a bye, which would shift everything after it back an additional week. Given the reasoning applied to the games at the beginning of the season, it wouldn’t be surprising if the NFL stacked more bye weeks towards the front of the schedule than usual. However, as Clayton explained, there’s also the possibility that there are no byes to speak of whatsoever.
“So, that I think is going to be the premise of how they’re going to do it,” he said. “They’ll probably set it up in two ways. One that they’ll start the season in September and have the Super Bowl on Feb. 8, and then the next one in mid-October with the Super Bowl on Feb. 28, but no bye weeks.”
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The puzzle that is the 49ers’ 2020 season schedule will be put together Thursday afternoon, but it already is coming into a much clearer view.
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