49ers schedule: 4 best non-NFC West games in 2021
By Peter Panacy
While the NFC West is going to be a gauntlet, the 49ers will see some enticing non-divisional games on their NFL schedule in 2021.
The San Francisco 49ers‘ 2021 NFL schedule is out now, and fans can begin preparing their calendars for the upcoming fall.
Two regular-season games apiece against the Seattle Seahawks, Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals help reinforce the notion, if the Niners want to make the playoffs, they’ll have to handle their own within the NFC West first.
That said, there are more than a handful of provocative and potentially challenging non-divisional bouts on the upcoming calendar.
Unfortunately, San Francisco will have to travel more than any other team in the entire league this season, over 28,000 miles to be exact. Exactly how much that affects head coach Kyle Shanahan’s squad this season is yet to be determined.
But that shouldn’t lessen the reality some of the 49ers’ non-NFC West games could be pivotal in determining their playoff chances in 2021.
Here are four in particular to keep tabs on this season.
No. 4: Week 16 — 49ers @ Titans
Road games for Thursday Night Football are always challenging, and having this kind of contest so late in the season will easily be a challenge for a Niners team already traveling a lot this season.
A year ago, the 11-5 Tennessee Titans rode first-team All-Pro running back Derrick Henry to the tune of a league-best 2,027 rushing yards and 17 touchdowns, meaning San Francisco’s run defense will be tested to the max late in the year.
Staying healthy will be a big focus for the 49ers anyway in 2021 after all those injuries piled up last season, but the fact this contest is in Week 16 could present problems for a potentially shorthanded defense being forced to play on the road on a short week.
Fortunately, the best way the Niners can prevent Henry from being the key X-factor is to take advantage of a Titans defense that allowed the fifth-most yards last season (6,372) and to utilize San Francisco’s own rushing attack to chew up clock time on the road.
With the ground attack likely being the determining factor in this prime-time bout, look for whichever defense stands out to be the strongest coming away with the win.