San Francisco 49ers' schedule tough in middle but offers chance to finish strong

Kyle Shanahan, the 49ers' fourth coach in four seasons, is the next to try his hand at rebuilding in San Francisco. AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez

The NFL has released its 2017 regular-season schedule. Here's a look at what's in store for the San Francisco 49ers.

Breakdown: The once-dominant NFC West has slipped in recent years, giving the Niners a slate of games that is far more manageable than it's been. Add to that the presence of the AFC South and last-place matchups in the rest of the NFC and the Niners should have a chance to take a step forward. The early part of the season has some tough matchups, but the really difficult test will come in the middle with three consecutive road games against Arizona, Indianapolis and Washington, followed by a home game against Dallas and a trip to Philadelphia. Rough, right? Well, things look much more manageable at the end of the year as the Niners close with Tennessee and Jacksonville at home, followed by a trip to Los Angeles to play the Rams. That's a good chance to finish with a flourish and take a step in the right direction.

Something new to start: It had become something of an annual tradition for the Niners to open at home on Monday Night Football. They'd done it the past two years with victories in both contests. But things have gone downhill from there as the 49ers lost four straight after the opening win in 2015 and 13 in a row last year. This time, the Niners will play a normal Sunday afternoon game at home against the Carolina Panthers to start things off. It means a first look at quarterback Cam Newton following his shoulder surgery and an opportunity to win a league-best seven straight season openers.

The Frank Gore reunion: You'd be hard-pressed to find a more beloved former 49er still in the league than Gore. For the first time since Gore departed to the Indianapolis Colts as a free agent in 2015, the Niners will see him in a different uniform. Granted, the game is on the road but Gore might also have the chance to make some history against his old team. He's 195 yards short of passing Eric Dickerson for seventh place on the all-time rushing list. With a Week 5 meeting against the Niners, Gore could potentially do it then if he doesn't get off to a hot start.

Strength of schedule: 20th, .475

49ers Regular-Season Schedule (All times Eastern)

  • Week 1: Sunday, Sept. 10, Carolina, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 2: Sunday, Sept. 17, at Seattle, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 3: Thursday, Sept. 21, Los Angeles Rams, 8:25 p.m.

  • Week 4: Sunday, Oct. 1, at Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 5: Sunday, Oct. 8, at Indianapolis, 1 p.m.

  • Week 6: Sunday, Oct. 15, at Washington, 1 p.m.

  • Week 7: Sunday, Oct. 22, Dallas, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 8: Sunday, Oct. 29, at Philadelphia, 1 p.m.

  • Week 9: Sunday, Nov. 5, Arizona, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 10: Sunday, Nov. 12, NY Giants, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 11: BYE

  • Week 12: Sunday, Nov. 26, Seattle, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 13: Sunday, Dec. 3, at Chicago, 1 p.m.

  • Week 14: Sunday, Dec. 10, at Houston, 1 p.m.

  • Week 15: Sunday, Dec. 17, Tennessee, 4:25 p.m.

  • Week 16: Sunday, Dec. 24, Jacksonville, 4:05 p.m.

  • Week 17: Sunday, Dec. 31, at Los Angeles Rams, 4:25 p.m.