The 49ers open the 2011 schedule* with two home games, but they finish it with three out of four games on the road. The lone home game in that span also is their only Monday night game - against the defending AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers. But that's not their most compelling prime-time game. The 49ers will make their third Thanksgiving Day appearance in Baltimore in what is being dubbed "The Harbaugh Bowl."
Of course, the season schedule was released under a cloud of uncertainty Tuesday as the players and owners are no closer to settling their labor differences.
Sept. 11 vs. Seattle. A year ago, Carroll made his Seattle debut at the expense of the hapless 49ers. This year, Jim Harbaugh gets a chance to return the favor against a former rival. If you don't know the "What's your deal?" story, you will by Sept. 11.
Sept. 18 vs. Dallas. This is the first time the 49ers have opened a season with consecutive home games since 2001.
Sept. 25 @ Cincinnati: The last time the 49ers visited Cincinnati, Kevan Barlow removed himself from the game because he was too cold. Temperature at kickoff: 29 degrees. Final score: Bengals 41, 49ers 38.
Oct. 2 @ Philadelphia: The 49ers haven't beaten the Eagles since 2003. They've played five times since. The combined score: Philadelphia 174, San Francisco 90.
Oct. 9 vs. Tampa Bay: Last year, former 49er (if only for a couple of minutes) LeGarrette Blount ran roughshod over the 49ers for 82 yards and a touchdown, begging the question: why couldn't San Francisco used a late-round draft pick on the guy?
Oct. 16 @ Detroit: Given Matthew Stafford's injury history, you have to wonder whether the 49ers will be facing Shaun Hill in this game. You also have to wonder whether Hill will be squaring off against best pal, Alex Smith. Wouldn't that make for an interesting story line?
Oct. 23 BYE
Oct. 30 vs. Cleveland. Colt McCoy - inspired third-round pick or Kelly Holcomb-like flash in the pan? By now, we'll have an inkling.
Nov. 6 @ Washington. The last NFC East team the 49ers defeated - the Redskins on the final day of the 2008 season. Minutes after that game, Mike Singletary was named the 49ers' head coach for the 2009 season, which turned out to be his only full season in that position.
Nov. 13 @ New York Giants. The 49ers have won four of the past five games against the Giants at Candlestick Park, including the Trey Junkin Bowl in January 2003.
Nov. 20 vs. Arizona: There's a good chance that quarterback Blaine Gabbert will be on the sideline and perhaps under center during this game. The question is, what uniform will he be wearing?
Nov. 24 @ Baltimore: **Thanksgiving, 5:20 p.m., NFL Network**. Don't know if you've heard - but Jim Harbaugh has a brother, John, who also is an NFL head coach. Prepare to be bombarded by brother-vs.-brother stories this week. Who will their parents root for on Thanksgiving? Were they competitive as kids? Who won when they split the wishbone? (I'm bored already).
Dec. 4 vs. St. Louis. The 49ers will have an extra few days to prepare for what could be a critical division game.
Dec. 11 @ Arizona. This has traditionally been one of the 49ers' Monday-night matchups, an indication that Cards-49ers ain't what it used to be.
Dec. 19 vs. Pittsburgh. **Monday night, 5:30 p.m. ESPN *** The Steelers haven't visited Candlestick Park since 2003, another Monday night game. How long ago was that? Tommy Maddox started the game for Pittsburgh and Barlow was the game's leading rusher.
Dec. 24 @ Seattle. The schedule makers didn't do the 49ers any favors with this one. They have five days to prepare. But at least they're not playing on Christmas.
Jan. 1 @ St. Louis: The 49ers return to the scene of the crime, the city in which they came up flat in the last year's penultimate game. The Rams game was arguably San Francisco's most important since 2002, yet Mike Singletary tapped Troy Smith to start at quarterback, and the 49ers barely had a pulse on offense. A few hours after the loss, Singletary was fired.
-- Matt Barrows