2021 San Francisco 49ers Schedule: Full Listing of Dates, Times and TV InfoMay 12, 2021
All eyes will be on Jimmy Garoppolo and Trey Lance when the San Francisco 49ers begin the 2021 NFL season against the Detroit Lions.
After injuries decimated the 49ers last season, general manager John Lynch made the biggest trade leading up to the draft in an attempt to solidify the quarterback position.
Garoppolo has shown flashes of promise during his three seasons with the team, including helping them reach Super Bowl LIV in 2019, but injuries have caused him to miss 23 games since the start of 2018.
The 49ers acquired the No. 3 pick in the 2021 NFL draft from the Miami Dolphins to select Lance. Their roster is built to win right now, but the North Dakota State alum's unique skill set and ability to develop in head coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme could determine the team's ceiling this season depending on how long it takes before he gets into games.
It doesn't help San Francisco's cause that it plays in the deepest division in the NFL. The Seattle Seahawks and Los Angeles Rams both made the playoffs last season, while the Arizona Cardinals finished 8-8 and were in the playoff race before losing their final two games in 2020.
With the full NFL schedule unveiled on Wednesday, here's the schedule that the Niners will be facing as they look to return to the playoffs.
49ers 2021 Schedule
Most of the attention will understandably be given to Lance and how he adapts to Shanahan's complex system this season.
But it also can't be overstated how much better the 49ers could be in 2021 if they can just stay healthy.
After Week 2 last year, they had already lost Nick Bosa and Dee Ford for the entire season. Garoppolo, Richard Sherman, George Kittle, Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk and Raheem Mostert were all out of the lineup for multiple games because of injuries at that point.
The 49ers had more players miss games with injuries than any other team in the NFL last year, by a significant margin:
San Francisco clearly believes the nucleus it had in place in 2020 is good enough to win. Outside of the trade up in the draft, Lynch spent most of his offseason re-signing the team's key free agents instead of looking for help outside of the organization.
Trent Williams, Jason Verrett, Jaquiski Tartt, Emmanuel Mosley, K'Waun Williams, Kyle Juszczyk and D.J. Jones were among the 49ers who could have signed elsewhere this offseason but opted to stay.
Outside of quarterback, the biggest change for San Francisco is at defensive coordinator. DeMeco Ryans is taking over after Robert Saleh was hired as head coach of the New York Jets.
The 49ers defense ranked in the top six in Football Outsiders DVOA the previous two years under Saleh. Ryans has worked on Shanahan's staff for the previous four years, including the past three as inside linebackers coach.
Playing in a division where the opposing quarterbacks are Russell Wilson, Matthew Stafford and Kyler Murray is going to require a strong defense to be successful.
By virtue of finishing last in the NFC West last season, there are some games that appear to be winnable for the 49ers. The Detroit Lions are still rebuilding. The Chicago Bears made the playoffs last season but look to be in a state of flux with Andy Dalton or rookie Justin Fields as their quarterback.
The Jacksonville Jaguars and Philadelphia Eagles are question marks at this point, too.
As long as the 49ers can take care of business against opponents they should beat, their quest to make the playoffs after going 6-10 last season will be easier.
When the 49ers and Seahawks are at their best, there are few rivalries in the NFL that can compete with the intensity those two teams bring.
San Francisco's run to the Super Bowl two years ago unofficially began with a last-second stand at Lumen Field in Week 17 to preserve a 26-21 victory, win the NFC West with a 13-3 record and secure a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Despite some offseason turmoil between Wilson and the Seahawks, they are still the class of the division coming off a 12-4 record in 2020. San Francisco's ability to get back to the top of the NFC West will be determined by how well it plays in two games against Seattle.
Outside of the division, the measuring-stick game for the 49ers will be against the Green Bay Packers. The Packers have gone 26-6 in the regular season since the start of 2019 and made the NFC Championship Game in each of the past two years.
San Francisco dominated the Packers by a combined score of 74-28 during their two meetings in 2019, including in the NFC Championship Game.
Green Bay had no problem against the 49ers last season in a 34-17 win in Week 9.
The Seahawks and Packers are routinely at or near the top of the NFC standings. San Francisco will play them three times during the regular season. The results from those matchups will tell us a lot about how good this Niners squad can be in 2021.