It’s already been a wild 2022 for the NFL: Pulsating playoff games, an epic Super Bowl, a bonkers free agency period and some intriguing rookies entering the league through the NFL Draft.
The same wildness can be said for the San Francisco 49ers — from trade talks (Jimmy Garoppolo), an almost trade during the draft (Deebo Samuel), assistants moving on (Mike McDaniel), key losses (Laken Tomlinson and D.J. Jones) and key additions (Charvarius Ward and the rookie class).
And it’s all setting up a recipe for more enticement in four days: The 2022 schedule release.
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What we won’t know until Thursday, May 12 at 5 p.m. PT is who the 49ers will start the season with. However, we’ve developed some intriguing ideas…one featuring the 49ers opening the year up in prime time. Here’s three of the strongest season opening possibilities involving the 49ers:
2022 Kickoff Game at SoFi Stadium
As is the league tradition, the defending Super Bowl champion starts the season.
Which leads to the first option: The rematch of the NFC title game with the Los Angeles Rams.
This time, Trey Lance takes the quarterback reins and has new weapons in his disposal through the draft. The 49ers also tangle with a familiar adversary in Rams newcomer Bobby Wagner. We also get Ward versus Cooper Kupp — in the first game that will answer why the 49ers dropped $42 million on the Ex-Chiefs cornerback.
We’re not the only one who thinks this will be an enticing season opener at SoFi Stadium. The NFL Network’s Steve Smith Sr. wrote down on Tuesday, May 3 that he wants to see this game happen.
“Let’s take a quick second to recall the last two times the San Francisco 49ers played the Rams at SoFi. The first was Week 18, when the 49ers came out victorious to secure a playoff berth; the second was the NFC title game, when San Francisco blew a 10-point fourth-quarter lead to send the Rams to the Super Bowl. Let’s let one of today’s best rivalries duke it out to begin the season,” the former Pro Bowl NFL receiver wrote.
Sunday Night Opener With a Familiar Face for NBC
The NBC crew has often gotten used to Brady helping start the year or kick off their Sunday night lineup. The last time Brady led his team out for an SNF matchup was 2019 versus the Pittsburgh Steelers while with the New England Patriots.
With Brady back, plus the last two SNF games opening out west, why not have this potential playoff preview to start the year versus the Tampa Bay Buccaneers? Plus Brady returns to his native Bay Area for the third time in his career? But this time as a Buccaneer?
It’ll also be fun for the camera crews to capture Rob Gronkowski (if he returns) and George Kittle on the sideline, on the field or before the game. Will need some eccentricity for the viewers.
Monday Night Football Opener at Levi’s With Past 49ers, Plus a ‘Cheetah’
Joe Buck and Troy Aikman need something theatrical, appealing and need a game with storyline on top of storyline so they won’t be bored in their MNF debut.
Why not the Miami Dolphins here?
Kyle Shanahan‘s right hand man McDaniel returns to Levi’s, this time in his head coaching debut. Raheem Mostert also returns to the Bay. And we can’t forget about a certain “cheetah” in Tyreek Hill who McDaniel gets to unleash in the Miami offense, who’ll have a K.C. reunion with Ward.
Here’s what we do know for MNF: They’ll have two games for Week 2 — none involving the 49ers.
But a potential Dolphins-49ers battle sounds like a recipe for the ideal MNF kickoff.