The NFL recently released the full 2011 regular season schedule for the San Francisco 49ers, and on it, there are two or three primetime games, depending on where you place Saturdays. In 2010, the 49ers had one extra primetime game, but after falling flat, the NFL went with some safer bets, despite the fact that the primetime games they did have ended up being entertaining games. The general public doesn't like it unless something is up for grabs, and the NFC West is a tossup going into next season, so the best thing the NFL could have done was work on the Rams and Seahawks - the two teams who fought for the top last season.
Still, the 49ers were given a Thursday Night Football game against the Baltimore Ravens on Thanksgiving, and a Monday Night Football game in December against the Pittsburgh Steelers. Let's explore why these matchups were made.
Week 12: @ Baltimore Ravens - Thursday, November 24, 2:40 p.m., NFL Network
The 49ers new head coach, if you've been living under a rock, is Jim Harbaugh, of former Stanford fame. The head coach of the Baltimore Ravens happens to be John Harbaugh. If you possess the uncanny, almost supernatural ability to take one thing and put it together with another, you'll come to the conclusion that they are brothers. Congratulations, you guessed right!
Anyway, joking aside, it just fits too perfectly that opposing head coaches who are also brothers are facing off on Thanksgiving. The match was made for that reason and that reason only, anybody who tells you otherwise has got something crazy going on in their brain. It just so happens that the game works out into quite an exciting matchup, and a great test for the 49ers and where they stand. It will be up to Joe Flacco to lead the Ravens to a win, because they won't be able to run the ball, providing the 49ers can keep their team together.
Week 15: vs. Pittsburgh Steelers - Monday, December 19th, 2:30 p.m., ESPN
The 49ers absolutely have to be on Monday Night Football, because they almost always make for a good game. Be it against the Arizona Cardinals the past few seasons, or the New Orleans Saints in week two of last season, the 49ers deliver on Monday Night. I'm inclined to believe that the 49ers are meant to be a test for Pittsburgh here, the league intended to give the Steelers are a tough challenge near the end of the season, and the 49ers at home on Monday Night is as tough as it can get. Even if the 49ers are a cut below the Steelers all things equal, there's something about Monday Night at Candlestick that just makes them tick.