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49ers’ five most difficult games in 2024

Marc Adams
May 19, 2024 at 10:57 AM

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Which 2024 game will be the most difficult for the San Francisco 49ers? There are a few to choose from. The NFL schedule-makers did the 49ers no favors. They will travel more air miles than most teams and have the worst rest disadvantage in the league at -21. That means they have multiple games in which the other team is coming off a bye or a mini-bye. Even when the 49ers seem to have an advantage because they're coming off a mini-bye, their next game is against a team returning from their bye week. The Baltimore Ravens, on the other hand, have the best rest advantage in the league (+16).

Last week I highlighted the 49ers' top five non-divisional games. Those are the most important games—the ones most critical to postseason seedings for the 49ers. This week, I am highlighting the 49ers' five most difficult games. That is, which games will be the hardest to win? Whether it's because of the team they are playing, or the location and time of the game, as well as the rest factor, the 49ers have a tough schedule. Because of this, it is possible San Francisco may be better in 2024 than they were last season, but still end up with a worse record. Here are the five most difficult games for the 49ers this season:

#1- Week 6: Kansas City Chiefs

Until someone knocks off the Kansas City Chiefs, they're still the top team in the league. And even though this game is at Levi's Stadium, the visiting team still has Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid. The 49ers will be coming off a mini-bye, but the Chiefs will be returning from a full bye. That means Reid has a full two weeks to prepare for the 49ers. I don't think we need to be reminded of what has happened the last two times he had two weeks to prepare for San Francisco.

I could be persuaded to make the number two game on this list number one, but I'm going to stick with the Chiefs since they are the defending champs, and the 49ers can't seem to beat them. How long has it been since the 49ers last beat the Chiefs? You have to go back to 2014, Jim Harbaugh's final season as head coach of the 49ers, to find the last time. Since 1994, the 49ers are 3-8 against the Chiefs, including the two Super Bowl losses. It's not just Mahomes that the 49ers can't beat. It's most Kansas City quarterbacks.

Will this be the season the 49ers get the Kansas City monkey off their back?

#2- Week 17: Detroit Lions

If there's one team that may be tougher to beat than the Chiefs, it's the Detroit Lions. It's another home game for the 49ers, but the Lions look like they are on the verge of potentially winning the Super Bowl. And the last time these two teams played, the Lions dominated the 49ers in the first half. Had they not beaten themselves in the second half, the Lions could have been the team representing the NFC in the Super Bowl.

When I look at the schedule, this is the game that makes me the most nervous. So as I mentioned, if someone said the Lions' game should be in the top spot, I wouldn't argue. Detroit has a really good defense and a dynamic offense. Their run game is dominant, at times. The 49ers will have to be at their best to beat the Lions.

The only good news is that the 49ers were far from their best in the NFC Championship Game, and they still managed to pull off a win. But if you play with fire, you're going to get burned. The 49ers can't just casually walk through this game.

#3- Week 12: Green Bay Packers

If you force me to name an NFC team that may be better than the Lions (not including the 49ers), it would be the Green Bay Packers. And since this game is in Green Bay, in late November, the 49ers may lose this one. I don't believe the Packers are as good as the Lions or the 49ers yet, but they played the 49ers very well in the playoffs back in January. And they were winning for most of that game. Granted, it was a rainy day, and 49ers QB Brock Purdy was having trouble throwing the ball. But that shouldn't take away anything from Green Bay's performance.

The Packers have improved in the offseason, and now they have a chance to avenge their recent postseason losses to the 49ers by hosting San Francisco. This will be a tough game, and could be one of the games that the 49ers lose to a team they are better than.

#4- Week 13: Buffalo Bills

The Buffalo Bills may not be as good as they've been in recent seasons, but this game is in Buffalo, in early December, a week after the 49ers travel to Green Bay, then back to Santa Clara, only to turn around and fly to Buffalo. Back-to-back trips to cold-weather locations could be a recipe for disaster for the 49ers. Not only are they at risk of losing games, but all that travel, in a short time, can't help keep players healthy.

And while the Bills have lost some players, they still have Josh Allen as their quarterback. And he is the reason Buffalo is a threat anytime you play them. In 2020, Allen's Bills went into Levi's Stadium and handed the 49ers a loss. Allen was so good in that game that some believe it's what compelled Kyle Shanahan to draft Trey Lance.

#5- Week 16: Miami Dolphins

The week 16 matchup with the Miami Dolphins isn't an early start, but it is an East Coast game. And it's a road game against a very good team. The Dolphins were the first team Purdy played against, taking over for Jimmy Garoppolo when he was injured. Miami head coach Mike McDaniel appeared to be angry that day, losing to the 49ers and his buddy, Shanahan. Could the Dolphins' coach pull out all the stops to win this game?

The amount of speed Miami has on offense is always a concern to face. And their defense may be better, as well. This one will come down, though, to the 49ers defense finding a way to slow down those weapons McDaniel has.

Those are my five toughest games for the 49ers in 2024. Which games would make your list?
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.
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