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April 23, 2014
Thanksgiving gravy: Thoughts on the 49ers' schedule

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* The 49ers schedule is out, and the highlight? It has to be the Thanksgiving nightcap against the Seahawks. A Seahawks-49ers game is big enough. The first one ever in Levi's Stadium makes it huge. But a nationally televised game on the most American of holidays? This is going to be Turkeygeddon.

The game is part of a triple header of division rivalries. The Lions will host the Bears and the Cowboys will host the Eagles before the west coast finale, which will serve as the apple and almond pie of the day. What's more, the 49ers will travel to Seattle two weeks later for a game that could be even bigger. Sandwiched between those games is a bus trip to play the Raiders. The Sunday prior to their Thanksgiving game, the 49ers play at home vs. Washington while the Seahawks host the Cardinals.

* One item of note when it comes to the arch-rival Seahawks: If, as expected, star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman returns from his ACL injury at midseason, it means he would be on hand for both showdowns with the defending NFC West and Super Bowl champs. The same would go for Aldon Smith if, say, he is given an eight-game suspension. That, of course, is pure speculation, but he is expected to sit out at least some games in 2014.

* Many suspected that the first-ever regular season game at Levi's Stadium would feature a marquee opponent like the Seahawks or the Alex Smith-led Chiefs. Others guessed that the home opener would be an event in and of itself and that the opponent would not matter. The second camp wins. The 49ers will christen their new stadium in Week 2 vs. the Bears, who are certainly an interesting opponent but not an arch rival. The Chiefs arrive in Week 5, which is scheduled as a regular 1:25 p.m. start on CBS. This year, however, games can be flexed to Sunday night beginning Week 5. So there's a still a prime-time possibility for this matchup.

* Overall, my sense is that it's a good schedule for the 49ers. Their bye comes in Week 8, which isn't exactly ideal - if you were picking, you'd go with Week 9 or Week 10 - but is nothing to complain about. They only have four prime-time games, which are an onus on players and coaches. That's not a lot for a team as high-profile as San Francisco. (Denver, for example, has the maximum five games). They do have three instances in which they play two straight road games. But one of them is before the bye and another features the Raiders, which won't require them to get on a plane.

* Two items that I'm sure Jim Harbaugh is not happy about? The 49ers have a short week to play Peyton Manning and the Broncos on the road. That game is preceded by a Monday Night Football game against St. Louis, which also is on the road. As if facing Manning isn't difficult enough ...

The other sequence that seems rough includes back-to-back road trips to New Orleans and New York in November. Those are the two longest trips of the season for San Francisco. If the 49ers were going to spend a week in Youngstown, Ohio - something they've done in two of three seasons under Harbaugh - this would be the time to do it

* As suspected, there are no weeknight games on the schedule aside from the Thanksgiving evening affair vs. Seattle. This was known in advance. Because so many of the parking spaces will be supplied by area businesses, the City of Santa Clara asked that no non-holiday weeknight games be played in Year 1 of the stadium. The team feels like weeknight games can be accommodated, and they expect to have more of them in Year 2.

* The bottom line is that any schedule would have been better than last year's, which saw the 49ers travel a league-high 33,000 miles in the regular season alone. This year, the number is just under 20,000, which should be a significant advantage when it comes to wear and tear.

49ers 2014 schedule:
Sept. 7 at Dallas
Sept.14 vs. Chicago
Sept. 21 at Arizona
Sept. 28 vs. Philadelphia
Oct. 5 vs. Kansas City
Oct. 13 (Monday) at St. Louis
Oct. 19 at Broncos
Oct. 26 BYE
Nov. 2 vs. St. Louis
Nov. 9 at New Orleans
Nov. 16 at New York Giants
Nov. 23 vs. Washington
Nov. 27 (Thanksgiving) vs. Seattle
Dec. 7 at Oakland
Dec. 14 at Seattle
Dec. 20 (Saturday) vs. San Diego
Dec. 28 vs. Arizona

-- Matt Barrows



MATTHEW BARROWS

Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.

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