Niners look for fast start to 2008 slate

It begins at home against a division rival that provided the 49ers with two of their five victories last season, features matchups against both 2008 Super Bowl participants during a three-week span that takes the team to midseason, then finishes with a stretch of four road games in six weeks that surely will determine the hopes of ending a franchise-worst string of five consecutive losing seasons.

That, in a nutshell, is San Francisco's 2008 regular-season schedule, a 17-week sojourn that once again will take the 49ers all over the continental USA and will end where it begins - at Monster Park in San Francisco with a Dec. 28 season finale against the Washington Redskins.

Somewhere in between, the 49ers hope to find the playoff mojo that has eluded the team since San Francisco won the NFC West championship and reached the conference playoff semifinals in 2002. The 49ers haven't had a winning season since, the longest drought of losing seasons the team has experienced in the franchise's 63-year history.

It all begins like it did last year - with a home opener against the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers won that nationally-televised Monday Night game 20-17 with a late comeback culminated by Arnaz Battle's end-around run for the winning touchdown in the game's final seconds.

And so will begin a pivotal first half of the season for the 49ers, when San Francisco will play five of its first eight games at home, including both of its meetings with four-time defending NFC West champion Seattle.

"I look forward to having five home games in the first half of the season," 49ers coach Mike Nolan said. "Our fans play a big role in our success. Playing at home with the crowd behind us will help push us to a great start."

The 49ers will need a strong start because they will face a rugged stretch beginning in October when defending AFC champion New England comes to town to begin a two-game homestand that also features a game against Philadelphia the next week. The 49ers then go on the road to face the defending Super Bowl champion New York Giants, then return home on the final Sunday of the month to host Seattle.

That game leads up to San Francisco's bye week, which comes smack in the middle of the schedule as a perfect dividing point for the season. It's the latest the 49ers have had their bye week in the past five years.

The second-half slate features a road trip to Dallas to play the defending NFC East champion Cowboys, a game that begins a brutal stretch of four road games in five weeks that includes trips to Buffalo, Miami and St. Louis with a home game against the New York Jets sandwiched in between those four games.

Contrary to last season, when the 49ers were the upcoming darlings of the NFL and played in four prime-time night games, San Francisco will play just one nationally televised evening game this year. That comes after the bye week, when the Niners begin the second half of their schedule with a Monday night game against the Cardinals in Arizona on Nov. 10, the first of five road games in a seven-week span that will take San Francisco to its season finale against the Redskins.


The 49ers' 2008 regular-season schedule:
All times local
Sunday, September 7 … ARIZONA … 1:15 p.m.
Sunday, September 14 … at Seattle … 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, September 21 … DETROIT … 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, September 28 … at New Orleans… 12 p.m.
Sunday, October 5 … NEW ENGLAND … 1:15 p.m.
Sunday, October 12 … PHILADELPHIA … 1:15 p.m.
Sunday, October 19 … at New York Giants … 1 p.m.
Sunday, October 26 … SEATTLE … 1:15 p.m.
Sunday, November 2 … BYE WEEK
Monday, November 10 … at Arizona … 6:30 p.m.
Sunday, November 16 … ST. LOUIS … 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, November 23 … at Dallas … 12 p.m.
Sunday, November 30 … at Buffalo … 1 p.m.
Sunday, December 7 … NEW YORK JETS … 1:05 p.m.
Sunday, December 14 … at Miami … 1 p.m.
Sunday, December 21 … at St. Louis … 12 p.m.
Sunday, December 28 … WASHINGTON … 1:15 p.m.



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