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49ers set for 5 prime-time games in 2020

The 49ers will open defense of their NFC championship at home against the Arizona Cardinals on Sept. 13.

The schedule, announced Thursday, also includes a Nov. 15 return to New Orleans, the scene of the Niners’ most electrifying win during last year’s run to the Super Bowl.

The 49ers will play back-to-back games in the New York area, against the Jets in Week 2 and Giants in Week 3. That probably means another week at the team’s home-away-from-home, Youngstown, Ohio, to avoid consecutive cross-country trips.

Green Bay returns to Levi’s Stadium on Nov. 5 - a Thursday night - for a rematch of last season’s NFC championship game.

The 49ers close the season against Seattle, just like last season, but this time in Santa Clara.

Other highlights:

Three Sunday Night Football games: Week 4 against Philadelphia, Week 6 against the Los Angeles Rams and Week 15 at Dallas.

One Monday Night Football game: Week 13 against Buffalo.

Of course, all of this depends on whether the coronavirus pandemic does not affect the schedule.

On to the matchups:

Week 1: vs. Arizona, Sunday, Sept. 13, 1:25 p.m. on Fox

The Cardinals nearly walked out of Levi’s with another victory last season. But Jimmy Garoppolo saved the day, throwing a 25-yard touchdown pass to Jeff Wilson with 37 seconds left to erase a three-point deficit. The Niners added another TD 35 seconds later for a 36-26 win.

Week 2: at New York Jets, Sunday, Sept. 20, ?10 a.m. on Fox

The Niners haven’t been to the Big Apple since 2015. They’ll make two trips there this season, including this one against the Jets. The teams have not met since 2016, a 23-17 victory for the Jets at Levi’s Stadium. Four years earlier, in the Niners’ most recent visit to the Jets’ home field, San Francisco won 34-0.

Week 3: at New York Giants, Sunday, Sept. 27, ?10 a.m. on Fox

New York drafted offensive tackles with the fourth and 99th picks last month after ranking in the bottom half of the league in sacks allowed last season. But will they be ready for this early-season matchup?

Week 4: vs. Philadelphia, Sunday, Oct. 4, ?5:20 p.m. on NBC

This will be the first matchup between the teams since Carson Wentz outdueled C.J. Beathard at Lincoln Financial Field in October 2017. Wentz threw for 211 yards and two touchdowns as Philadelphia won 33-10 to drop San Francisco’s record under first-year coach Kyle Shanahan to 0-8.

Week 5: vs. Miami, Sunday, Oct. 11, 1:05 p.m. on Fox

The upcoming season will mark a new era in South Florida as former Alabama star Tua Tagovailoa takes over at quarterback. Will Tua be the second coming of Dan Marino or another in a long line of QB flops since Marino retired after the 1999 season?

Week 6: vs. Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Oct. 18, ?5:20 p.m. on NBC

Jared Goff, who starred at Cal before going No. 1 overall to the Rams in 2016, likes coming back to the Bay Area. The Rams have averaged 37 points per game in their past three visits to Levi’s, with Goff throwing seven TD passes and just one interception while averaging 272 yards through the air during that span.

Week 7: at New England, Sunday, Oct. 25, ?1:25 p.m. on CBS

In the 49ers’ last two trips to Foxborough, some guy named Tom Brady was under center for New England. The Patriots won, 21-7, in 2005. The Niners prevailed, 41-34, in 2012. This time around, it could be Jarrett Stidham throwing passes for the Pats.

Week 8: at Seattle, Sunday, Nov. 1, 1:25 p.m. on Fox

The Niners picked a good time to end their eight-game skid in the Pacific Northwest, holding on in the regular-season finale to beat the Seahawks by inches, 26-21, to clinch last year’s NFC West title and home-field advantage through the playoffs.

Week 9: vs. Green Bay, Thursday, Nov. 5, 5:20 p.m. on Fox/NFLN/Amazon

Aaron Rodgers leads the Packers into Levi’s Stadium for the third time since last November. Or will it be first-round draft choice Jordan Love behind center? No matter, the 49ers will aim to pack a similar punch after rolling in the two meetings last season, 37-8 in the regular season and 37-20 in the NFC championship game.

Week 10: at New Orleans, Sunday, Nov. 15, 1:25 p.m. on Fox

If this game is anything like the one the teams played in New Orleans last season, get the popcorn ready. The Saints are probably still trying to figure out how to legally bring George Kittle to the ground. Kittle’s 39-yard catch and rumble, which included additional yards because of a facemask penalty, set up Robbie Gould’s chip-shot field goal that gave the 49ers a 48-46 win.

Week 11: Sunday, ?Nov. 22 - BYE

Not a bad time for an idle week, just ahead of the stretch drive. Last season, the Niners’ bye was in Week 4.

Week 12: at Los Angeles Rams, Sunday, Nov. 29, ?1:05 p.m. on Fox

The Niners made a bone-rattling statement in their final visit to the Los Angeles Coliseum, holding the Rams to 10 first downs and 157 yards in a 20-7 win last October. Now San Francisco makes its maiden voyage to the Rams’ new home, the nearly $5 billion SoFi Stadium.

Week 13: vs. Buffalo, Monday, Dec. 7, 5:15 p.m. on ESPN

The Bills make their first trip to face the 49ers since 2012. In other words, two years before Levi’s Stadium opened. The teams are 6-6 against one another all-time, with Buffalo winning on the 49ers’ home field in 1980, 1992 and 2004. In the Bills’ last visit to play San Francisco, Alex Smith threw for 303 yards and three TDs in a 45-3 rout.

Week 14: vs. Washington, Sunday, Dec. 13, 1:25 p.m. on Fox

Wouldn’t it be incredible if Alex Smith’s inspirational comeback from the leg fracture that left him fighting for his life included a return to the Bay Area to play the 49ers? Smith missed all of last season, one in which the 49ers won a mud bowl at Washington, 9-0.

Week 15: at Dallas, Sunday, Dec. 20, 5:20 p.m. on NBC

Will it be Dak Prescott or recent acquisition Andy Dalton at quarterback for the Cowboys when the 49ers come to town? San Francisco has lost five of six to Dallas since 2005, the win coming in the team’s last visit to AT&T Stadium (28-17 to open the 2014 season).

Week 16: at Arizona, Saturday, Dec. 26 or ?Sunday, Dec. 27

The 49ers had lost eight in a row to the Cardinals before winning 28-25 in Glendale last Halloween night. Kyler Murray, the top pick in the 2019 draft, was sacked three times but threw for 241 yards and two TDs without an interception to keep Arizona in the game.

Week 17: vs. Seattle, Sunday, Jan. 3, 1:25 p.m. on Fox

Russell Wilson and Co. make their annual trip to Levi’s, a venue they have pretty much ruled since the facility opened in 2014. The Seahawks are 5-1 in Santa Clara, including a 27-24 triumph last season.

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