Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

NFL officially expands regular-season schedule to 17 games per team, creating 49ers at Bengals matchup

Mar 30, 2021 at 11:32 AM--

Big changes are in store for the upcoming season. Today, the NFL announced that the regular-season schedule for each team would include 17 games rather than the 16-game schedules that have been a staple since 1978. Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reported it first.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, the NFL preseason is being reduced to three games per team, not including the Hall of Fame Game.

The option was always likely to come into play this season as it was one of the conditions of last year's ratified collective bargaining agreement. It states that owners can expand the per-team schedule to 17 games starting with the 2021 season.

This will be the second significant change to the NFL schedule in as many years. The league expanded last year's playoffs to include two extra teams, bringing the total number of postseason participants to 14.

There will be no extra bye week, and the regular season will be played in 18 weeks. That will result in the Super Bowl being pushed back to February 13, 2022, from its scheduled date a week earlier.

NFL owners agreed on a scheduling formula for each team's extra game—an inter-conference matchup based on each team's finish from the previous season. That means each NFC West team will face the AFC North opponent that finished the 2020 season with the same spot in the division's standings.

For the last-place San Francisco 49ers, that equals a matchup against the last-place Cincinnati Bengals.

In February, NBC Sports' Peter King reported that each conference would take turns hosting all 16 of the extra matchups, with the AFC going first in 2021. That means the 49ers will travel to Paul Brown Stadium in Cincinnati.

"If that's how it goes, it's the fairest way," King wrote. "Competitive equity is the key. You don't want three NFC East teams playing eight at home and the fourth playing nine at home."

Below are the 49ers' opponents for the 2021 season, with dates and times to be released later.

Home Opponents

Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
Seattle Seahawks
Atlanta Falcons
Green Bay Packers
Houston Texans
Indianapolis Colts
Minnesota Vikings

Road Opponents

Arizona Cardinals
Los Angeles Rams
Seattle Seahawks
Chicago Bears
Cincinnati Bengals
Detroit Lions
Jacksonville Jaguars
Philadelphia Eagles
Tennessee Titans

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