Scrutinising the 49ers' 2014 Schedule
I'm back. I apologise for neglecting this blog for nearly two months, but I'm here ready to cover all things 49ers with the NFL Draft just days away.
Before the draft I will give my views on the off-the-field controversy that has enveloped the Niners during the off-season and preview the draft prior to the start of proceedings.
But to get things going again here is quick breakdown of the 49ers' 2014 schedule, which was released last month.
San Francisco's schedule for the 2014 season is as follows (all kick-off times in BST):
1: @ Baltimore Ravens - August 8, 12:30am
2: vs Denver Broncos - August 17, 9:00pm
3: vs San Diego Chargers - August 24, 9:00pm
4: @ Houston Texans - August 29, 1:00am
1: @ Dallas Cowboys - September 7, 9:25pm
2: vs Chicago Bears (Sunday Night Football) - September 15, 1:30am
3: @ Arizona Cardinals - September 21, 9:05pm
4: vs Philadelphia Eagles - September 28, 9:25pm
5: vs Kansas City Chiefs - October 5, 9:25pm
6: @ St Louis Rams (Monday Night Football) - October 14, 1:30am
7: @ Denver Broncos (Sunday Night Football) - October 20, 1:30am
8: Bye Week
9: vs St Louis Rams - November 2, 9:05pm
10: @ New Orleans Saints - November 9, 6:00pm
11: @New York Giants - November 16, 6:00pm
12: vs Washington Redskins - November 23, 9:25pm
13: vs Seattle Seahawks (Thanksgiving, Thursday Night Football) - November 28, 1:30am
14: @ Oakland Raiders - December 7, 9:25pm
15: @ Seattle Seahawks - December 14, 9:25pm
16: vs San Diego Chargers - December 20, 9:30pm
17: vs Arizona Cardinals - December 28, 9:25pm
The key dates are easy to notice, a season-opening clash with historical rivals the Dallas Cowboys is a mouthwatering one, as is the Thanksgiving game with the Seattle Seahawks.
The opening regular season game at Levi's Stadium comes against the Chicago Bears, while Alex Smith will return to the Bay with the Kansas City Chiefs in week 5.
A week 7 trip to face the reigning AFC Champion Denver Broncos should set the pulses racing, along with the week 14 Battle of the Bay with the Oakland Raiders.
San Francisco's schedule is statistically the fourth toughest in the NFL but, although it is very early to make predictions, I think this can still be viewed as a favourable set of fixtures for the 49ers.
The key, as usual, will come in the division games against the Seahawks, Arizona Cardinals and St Louis Rams.
Super Bowl champions Seattle should prove to be a force to be reckoned with once again, and both the Cardinals and Rams will be eyeing further progress after varying degrees of success in 2013.
The 49ers are poised to face a number of high-calibre opponents in 2014, however, Jim Harbaugh's men have largely excelled in tough games during his tenure, and if they can do the same in the coming season then San Francisco should be well set for another run at the play-offs.