SANTA CLARA -- Another opener against the Green Bay Packers. Early shots at revenge in Seattle and St. Louis. Andrew Luck vs. his former Stanford coach, Jim Harbaugh.
Dramatic storylines, indeed, and they account for merely the opening four weeks of the 49ers' schedule.
It's the finish, of course, that matters most as the 49ers try returning to the Super Bowl, which will be held Feb. 2 in New Jersey.
Speaking of closing acts, the 49ers plan to move out of ol' Candlestick Park after this season for a $1.2 billion home in Santa Clara, and Candlestick's regular-season finale pits the 49ers against the Atlanta Falcons in a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game. That Dec. 23 dual marks the 36th "Monday Night Football" game at Candlestick, which has hosted more than any other stadium.
The 49ers are 11-2 in regular-season openers at Candlestick, and they'll get a final chance to improve that by hosting the Packers on Sept. 8. It's a matchup the 49ers conquered twice last season, first to start the season (30-22 in Lambeau Field) and again in a divisional-round playoff game (45-31 at Candlestick).
The Packers, who've never opened a season in San Francisco, got dispatched there last season after yielding 579 yards, a total that's serving as an offseason rallying cry. They've vowed to study up on the read-option offense after Colin Kaepernick ran for 181 yards, an NFL record for a quarterback. That game was only Kaepernick's eighth career start, as opposed to Aaron Rodgers' eighth playoff start for the Packers.
Of the 49ers' other 2013 opponents, many feature neophyte quarterbacks: Luck (Colts), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Cam Newton (Panthers), Robert Griffin III (Redskins), Jake Locker (Titans) and Blaine Gabbert (Jaguars), all of whom are entering either the second or third seasons.
In their most anticipated divisional matchup, the 49ers will visit the Seattle Seahawks in a Sept. 15 Sunday night game on NBC, followed by a Dec. 8 reunion at Candlestick Park. The all-time series is tied at 14.
The 49ers, who went 5-1 in prime-time games last season, are scheduled for five prime-time games this season. That first one comes at Seattle, then Sept. 26 at St. Louis on "Thursday Night Football," followed by Oct. 6 against the Houston Texans ("Sunday Night Football"), Nov. 25 at the Washington Redskins ("Monday Night Football") and the Dec. 23 visit by the Falcons.
The 49ers' NFC-title defense will go overseas in midseason, when they play Oct. 27 in London's Wembley Stadium against the host Jacksonville Jaguars. The 49ers launch that extended road trip with an Oct. 20 game at the Tennessee Titans. The bye weekend will follow the London game.
This will be the first time in 49ers history they open a season as the Super Bowl runner-up, having lost 34-31 to the Baltimore Ravens in Super Bowl XLVII. In Harbaugh's second regular season as coach, the 49ers went 11-4-1, including road losses to the Seahawks and Rams, the later of whom they also tied.
Here is the 49ers' regular-season schedule
*Thursday night game
#Monday night game