The defending NFC champions have been pretty busy this offseason. What five contests this season rate as the most important on the schedule?
They went from four wins the previous season to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance this past year. That nine-victory improvement from one season to the next is tied for the third-best turnaround in NFL history. Now the San Francisco 49erd look to become the first NFC team to reach back-to-back Super Bowls since the 2013 and ‘14 Seattle Seahawks.
As expected, their 2020 schedule features clashes with the other three first-place teams in the conference, as well as a four-game slate vs. the AFC East. And although the dates for this year’s schedule won’t be released until Thursday night, May 7, the question here is which five games for Kyle Shanahan’s club shape up as the most vital?
5. Away vs. Arizona Cardinals
This past season, the reigning NFC champions would snap an eight-game losing streak to their rivals from the desert courtesy of a hard-earned 28-25 Thursday night triumph at Arizona in Week 9. Then the 49ers completed their first sweep of the Cardinals since 2014 with a 36-26 victory at San Francisco two weeks later.
In both contests, Shanahan’s team had to rally for the win. In prime time, Kliff Kingsbury’s club took the opening drive 71 yards in six plays and put the Niners in an early hole. At Levi’s Stadium, Arizona opened up a 16-0 second-quarter advantage before Kyle Shanahan’s squad outscored the Cards, 36-10, the remainder of the game.
Kingsbury’s team looks like an improved squad with the addition of wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins via trade from the Houston Texans and versatile linebacker Isaiah Simmons courtesy of the NFL Draft. A second straight win in the desert would be a plus.