While the 49ers open the Jim Harbaugh era with back-to-back games at Candlestick Park, first-year coach Hue Jackson's Raiders (OK, they're forever Al Davis' Raiders) will play their first two games on the road.
I'm not going to overanalyze Tuesday night's schedule release. Last year, it resulted in trouble, specifically me predicting an 11-5 campaign for the 49ers (who went 6-10) and a 5-11 mark for the Raiders (who overachieved at 8-8).
But I will share with you my quick thoughts on the 49ers' and Raiders' ledgers, assuming labor peace is reached and a 256-game season ensues across the NFL.
First some thoughts on the 49ers' schedule (followed by my Raiders' analysis): To start off the season, the schedule maker went with the "What's Your Deal?" reunion between Harbaugh and Pete Carroll, in honor of their Stanford-USC rivalry. Bygones! The 49ers have to focus on the future, and getting a first crack at the reigning NFC West champion is a nice start. More Harbaugh: He'll travel to face brother John Harbaugh's Baltimore Ravens in Week 12, the first time in league history brothers face off as opposing head coaches. The 49ers' season-opening homestand features a Week 2 matchup with the Dallas Cowboys. Any chance they can bring in Terrell Owens for a ceremony on the midfield logo? Jason Garrett's Cowboys will be coming off a Week 1 opener at the New York Jets. The 49ers have the third-easiest schedule if you go by their opponents' 2010 records (119-137, .465 winning percentage). Only five games are against 2010 playoff franchises: Seahawks in Weeks 1 and 16, Eagles in Week 4, Ravens in Week 12 and Steelers in Week 15 on "Monday Night Football". The easiest stretch for the 49ers will be after the season's first quarter, when they face four teams who perennially stink but still could be on the upswing. That starts in Week 5 vs. the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, followed by a visit to the Detroit Lions, a bye week, a home game vs. the Cleveland Browns and a visit to the Washington Redskins. The NFC West will be won in the final five weeks, when the 49ers face the St. Louis Rams twice along with visits to the Arizona Cardinals and Seahawks. If the 49ers acquire a veteran quarterback, there's a good chance he'll face his former team (see: Carson Palmer vs. the Bengals in Week 3, Kevin Kolb vs. the Eagles in Week 4, Josh Johnson vs. the Bucs in Week 5 or Donovan McNabb vs. the Redskins in Week 9). The 49ers haven't started a season with two straight home games since 2001, when they went 1-1 en route to a 12-4 season and wild-card playoff berth.
On to the Raiders: My first reaction is about starting back-to-back on the road. Tough assignment. Then again, the Raiders visit two teams -- the Denver Broncos and Buffalo Bills -- that both finished with 4-12, last-place records last season. Winnable games if the Raiders want a winning season for the first time since their 2002 AFC-winning club. The last time the Raiders opened a season with two road games was in 2001, although they split those games between the 9/11 tragedy. They started 1-1 in 1999's road show, 0-2 in 1996, 0-2 in 1992, 0-2 in 1986, 2-0 in the 1982 strike-shortened season, 1-1 in 1981, 1-1 in 1980, 1-1 in 1979, 1-1 in 1978. Let's pause here to note the Raiders sure spent the 1970s on the road at the start of seasons. They started with at least two games on the road -- and as many as five in a row -- in seven seasons from 1968-79. The only times the Raiders have started 2-0 before playing at home: 1968, '75 and '82. After going 6-0 in the AFC West last season (and 2-8 in their other games for an 8-8 overall record), the Raiders will play AFC West foes in five of their final 10 games. Aside from back-to-back home games against AFC East powers New York Jets and New England, the Raiders can rebound at Houston and then at home vs. Cleveland. The Raiders are off on the Oct. 29-31 weekend. That's right, they're idle on Halloween weekend. Guess that means Raider Nation will have to wear their costumes to other games, for a change (wink, wink). The Raiders face six teams that reached last season's playoffs: The Jets (Week 3), the Patriots (Week 4), the Chiefs (Weeks 7 & 16), the Bears (Week 12) and the Packers (Week 14). Blackout watch: The Raiders, if they're not 0-2, should attract quality crowds for their first two home games against the Jets and Patriots on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2. Then come AFC West draws, the Chiefs (Oct. 23) and Broncos (Nov. 6). The Bears will bring in those fleeing from Thanksgiving weekend relatives (Nov. 27). But the Lions won't fill the Coliseum on Dec. 18 (Raiders fans still have to spend money for holiday gifts). The AFC West better still be up for grabs to bring in fans on New Year's Day for a finale against the Chargers.
So here's a modest prediction: Neither the 49ers nor Raiders will post a winning season, as has been the case since 2003. I'm not convinced the 49ers will solve their quarterback quandary, and I fear that Raiders quarterback Jason Campbell won't have the blocking to afford him time to get rid of the ball. Both teams need help in the defensive backfield.
Most important, all 32 teams need the go-ahead to end the lockout and bring in players to truly breathe life into this season.
Contact Cam Inman at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at Twitter.com/CamInman