San Francisco 49ers' schedule heavy on early road games and a tough December

Kelley L Cox/USA TODAY Sports

SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The NFL has released its 2019 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the San Francisco 49ers.

Game-by-game predictions:

49ers reporter Nick Wagoner is predicting an 8-8 finish.

Sept. 8: at Tampa Bay, Loss

Sept. 15: at Cincinnati, Win

Sept. 22: vs. Pittsburgh, Win

Oct. 7: vs. Cleveland, Loss

Oct. 13: at Los Angeles Rams, Loss

Oct. 20: at Washington, Loss

Oct. 27: vs. Carolina, Win

Oct. 31: at Arizona, Win

Nov. 11: vs. Seattle, Win

Nov. 17: vs. Arizona, Win

Nov. 24: vs. Green Bay, Win

Dec. 1: at Baltimore, Loss

Dec. 8: at New Orleans, Loss

Dec. 15: vs. Atlanta, Win

Dec. 21: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Loss

Dec. 29: at Seattle, Loss

Strength of schedule: 15, .510


The 49ers got no favors from the NFL in the early and latter parts of this schedule. San Francisco is slated to play five of its first eight games on the road, and though it will have an early bye in Week 4, it will be needed considering three of its first four trips east. If the Niners manage to survive the road-heavy first part of the season, they will find themselves in what looks like a much more manageable stretch in the middle with three consecutive home games against the Seahawks, Cardinals and Packers. Making up ground there will be necessary because the Niners could find themselves in contention down the stretch against a brutal December that includes road games against the Ravens, Saints and Seahawks and home contests against the Falcons and Rams. As always, what looks tough now might not be and the games that look manageable could also become more difficult as the season progresses. Regardless, there's not much rest for the road-weary Niners on this schedule.

The long road east

While the Niners already knew they were going to have to log thousands of miles in 2019, their longest trips are scattered throughout this year's slate. Two of those trips come back-to-back to open the season with a long haul to what figures to be hot and humid Tampa Bay where the Niners lost to the Bucs 27-9 last year followed by a trek to Cincinnati. Since coach Kyle Shanahan took over in 2017, the Niners are 0-4 in the Eastern time zone, losing by an average of 11.5 points per game. The Niners' woes traveling east date further than that, as they haven't won in the Eastern time zone since Week 11 of 2014 against the New York Giants. This year, they face Tampa Bay, Cincinnati, Washington and Baltimore on the road, not to mention a lengthy central time zone trip to New Orleans. Suffice to say, the 49ers will have to be much better on those long trips to have a chance at contending in 2019.

Scaled back in prime time

Last year, the 49ers were drawing as much buzz as any 6-10 team in recent memory and the initial NFL schedule reflected that as they were given the maximum allowable five prime-time games. But when quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending knee injury in Week 3, the Niners lost much of their luster. While they still played three games in the spotlight, the 49ers were flexed out of a pair of Sunday night games. This year, the NFL took a more cautious approach to putting the Niners in prime time with a trio of games. The 49ers will host the Browns and Seahawks in Monday night matchups and travel to Arizona for a Thursday night contest. Those games are locked in so San Francisco can't be flexed out but there's potential for some fun battles against NFC West foes Arizona and Seattle and this year's hype-laden team coming off a losing record, the Browns.