When the NFL schedule was released in April, the San Francisco 49ers' upcoming three-game stretch seemed about as difficult as any we've seen in recent years. Nothing has changed now that those games are finally here.

This won't be easy.

The 49ers' upcoming opponents are all 8-2. That's a combined 24-6. It begins with a home game against the Green Bay Packers and is capped off with road matchups against the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints.

Ouch.

We knew since April that it was coming. But back then, you had to at least consider that maybe it wouldn't be as challenging as it appeared.

Maybe the Packers wouldn't be as good under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, the brother of San Francisco's pass-game coordinator, Mike LaFleur. Maybe Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson would stumble in his sophomore NFL season. Maybe Drew Brees would finally show his age and start to decline. Anything can and seemingly does happen in this league.

That was wishful thinking. The upcoming three-game stretch is as challenging as everyone imagined; more so, probably. In fact, it is historically difficult, it turns out.

Nick Wagoner of ESPN noted on Tuesday that, during the Super Bowl era, no team had faced three consecutive opponents this late in the season, with each opponent being .800-or-better.


Thank you, NFL schedule makers.

Of course, that little tidbit from Wagoner assumes the Ravens and Saints don't lose before hosting San Francisco. Even if they do, the thought of facing a ticked off Baltimore or New Orleans squad coming off a loss isn't much more appealing.

Oh, and that Packers game on Sunday night has the potential to shift the balance of power in the NFC drastically. A loss could potentially knock the 49ers from the No. 1 seed to a Wildcard, assuming Seattle takes care of business against Philadephia.

We're going to learn a lot more about this San Francisco team in the coming three weeks.