Coming off their first playoff run in nine seasons, the 49ers are ready for prime-time television, at least according to Tuesday's release of the NFL regular-season schedule.
The 49ers drew a maximum five prime-time games, their most since 1999 when they also drew five such assignments.
"Everybody likes to play prime-time games and have that exposure and pressure that comes with those games," left tackle Joe Staley told 95.7 The Game. "After last year, I think we'll have an opportunity to showcase our team to a national audience this year."
The 49ers' season opener should offer a national allure, too: a Sept. 9 matinee at the Green Bay Packers' fabled Lambeau Field. Only once in the 49ers' 62-year history have they opened a season there, winning 26-14 in 1976.
Rematches with last season's two playoff foes are on the 49ers' docket, and neither game is in prime time.
Looking to avenge their NFC Championship game defeat, the 49ers will host the New York Giants on Oct. 14 at 1:15 p.m. The 49ers will visit the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 25 at 1:15 p.m. The Saints will be without coach Sean Payton, who's suspended because of a bounty scandal that included orders to injure 49ers in a divisional-playoff game ultimately won by the 49ers 36-32.
Of the 49ers' five prime-time games, the first comes in their home opener against the Detroit Lions on Sunday, Sept. 16 at 5:20 p.m. The draw: Last season's heated matchup that resulted in a 25-19 comeback win by the 49ers and a postgame confrontation between 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz.
The 49ers' other slated Sunday night game (pending any flex-schedule switch) features a Dec. 16 visit to the New England Patriots, who lost to the Giants in Super Bowl XLVI.
Of the three other prime-time games, two are at home against the Seattle Seahawks (Thursday, Oct. 18, NFL Network) and Chicago Bears (Monday, Nov. 19, ESPN) while the other is a visit to the Arizona Cardinals (Monday, Oct. 29, ESPN).
Last season's 13-3 breakthrough under Harbaugh included only two prime-time affairs: a Thanksgiving night loss at Baltimore, and a "Monday Night Football" win over the Pittsburgh Steelers marred by two blackouts at Candlestick Park on Dec. 19.
The 49ers averaged 2.1 prime-time games per season in the previous decade. Their landmark 1981 team had no-prime-time kickoffs en route to the franchise's first Super Bowl title. What followed, however, were at least three prime-time games each season from 1982-99.
Three times this coming season, the 49ers will play back-to-back road games, including visits in Weeks 3 and 4 to the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets. That could set the stage for another Youngstown, Ohio layover like last season, when the 49ers spent five days there between games in Weeks 3 and 4 at Cincinnati and Philadelphia.
Here is the 49ers' regular-season schedule
Date Opponent Day/Time TV
Sept. 9 at Green Bay Sunday, 1:15 p.m. Fox
Sept. 16 vs. Detroit Lions Sunday, 5:20 p.m. NBC
Sept. 23 at Minnesota Vikings Sunday, 10 a.m. Fox
Sept. 30 at New York Jets Sunday, 10 a.m. Fox
Oct. 7 vs. Buffalo Bills Sunday, 1:15 p.m. CBS
Oct. 14 vs. New York Giants Sunday, 1:15 p.m. Fox
Oct. 18 vs. Seattle Seahawks Thursday, 5:20 p.m. NFLN
Oct. 29 at Arizona Cardinals Monday, 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 4 Bye
Nov. 11 vs. St. Louis Rams Sunday, 1:15 p.m. Fox
Nov. 19 vs. Chicago Bears Monday, 5:30 p.m. ESPN
Nov. 25 at New Orleans Saints Sunday, 1:15 p.m. Fox
Dec. 2 at St. Louis Rams Sunday, 10 a.m. Fox
Dec. 9 vs. Miami Dolphins Sunday, 1:05 p.m. CBS
Dec. 16 at New England Patriots Sunday, 5:20 p.m. NBC
Dec. 23 at Seattle Seahawks Sunday, 1:15 p.m. Fox
Dec. 30 vs. Arizona Cardinals Sunday, 1:15 p.m. Fox
Here is the 49ers' exhibition schedule:
Aug. 10 vs. Minnesota Vikings Friday, 6 p.m. (CBS-5)
Aug. 18 at Houston Texans Saturday, 5 p.m. (CBS-5)
Aug. 26 at Denver Broncos Sunday, 1 p.m. (Fox)
Sept. 1 vs. San Diego Chargers Thurs., 7:05 p.m. (CBS-5)