New 49ers head coach Chip Kelly describes himself as 'a football guy'
For the second straight year, the 49ers will open the season with the late game on Monday Night Football and then head to the east coast on a short week of rest.
In 2015, that resulted in an encouraging start to the Jim Tomsula era, a 20-3 win against the Vikings, and then an abysmal, 43-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, who had nine days to prepare because they opened the season on a Thursday. That game was followed by a 47-7 road loss to the Arizona Cardinals.
Tomsula's successor, Chip Kelly, gets a similarly rough arrangement this year. (Click here for the full season schedule).
The 49ers open at home against the Los Angeles Rams, Sept. 12, in the second game of a Monday Nigh Football double header. They'll then fly across country to face the defending NFC champion Carolina Panthers, who begin the season in a rematch of Super Bowl 50 against the Denver Broncos on Thursday, Sept. 8.
After Carolina, the 49ers will go on the road again to face their arch rivals, the Seattle Seahawks.
In fact, three of the team's four longest trips -- to Carolina, Atlanta and Miami -- are followed by another road game. The 49ers' only game in the eastern time zone that is followed by a game in Santa Clara is an Oct. 16 visit to Buffalo. They will host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers the next week and then have their bye.
The team hasn't had a layover in Youngstown, Ohio -- the home of the York family, which owns the 49ers -- since the 2012 season. They have an opportunity to do so between their Nov. 27 game at the Miami Dolphins and a Dec. 4 game in Chicago.
Kelly, an adherent of sports-science, said in February he would welcome a stay in Ohio if it meant reducing the 49ers' total travel. Last year, the 49ers led the league in miles traveled; Kelly’s Philadelphia Eagles team had the shortest haul of the 32 teams.
“There’s a lot of studies done on your circadian rhythms, and how to get your clock set and all those other things,” he said. “It’s easy if you’re there for an extended period of time to get acclimated to that time.”
Not only will the 49ers travel farther than most teams in 2016, they'll have the toughest strength of schedule based on last year's records. They and the Falcons tied when it came to their upcoming opponent's winning percentage last year -- .555.
The 49ers, of course, play in the ultra-competitive NFC West. Along with Cardinals and Seahawks, the Panthers, Patriots, Jets, Bills and Falcons all finished at .500 or better last year. In fact, the 49ers face only one opponent -- the Cowboys, who won four games in 2015 -- with a worse record than them last year.
After playing four games in prime time last year, the 49ers have only two in the upcoming season. Beside their home opener against the Rams, they will host the Cardinals on Oct. 6, which is a Thursday game.
They'll visit the Rams on Saturday Dec. 24, their first game in Los Angeles since Sept. 18, 1994.