The San Francisco 49ers were one of the more aggressive teams during the offseason. They made a big move trading up to the No. 3 spot in the 2021 NFL Draft to select North Dakota State quarterback, Trey Lance.
This put incumbent quarterback Jimmy Garappolo on notice. His job security was very much in jeopardy coming into the offseason and the 49ers essentially decided he will not be their future at the position.
It was a big move for a team that isn’t too far off from being contenders. Injuries were as big of a reason as any for the team’s inconsistency in 2020. Just getting those players back should vault them right back into the playoff picture.
If the 49ers want to make a return to the playoffs, these five games will be important ones to keep an eye on.
5. Week 8 @ Chicago Bears
This Week 8 matchup with the Chicago Bears is worth keeping an eye on for two reasons. The first reason being, it could be the first matchup between first-round quarterbacks, Justin Fields and Trey Lance. Fields will be motivated to show San Francisco they were wrong to pass on him in the draft.
The second reason is that this is a big intra-conference matchup. Chicago and San Francisco both have playoff aspirations. While the Bears’ path to a division title is a little easier to navigate than the 49ers, wild card positioning could very well be at stake in this game.
4. Week 11 @ Jacksonville Jaguars
This game comes in the middle of a very difficult stretch for the 49ers. They are at home for games against division rivals the Los Angeles Rams and Arizona Cardinals before traveling to take on the Jaguars. Following the Jaguars game, the 49ers host the Minnesota Vikings and travel to take on the Seattle Seahawks.
Winning this game will be imperative given the schedule surrounding it. Also, this could be the first matchup in the career of top three picks, Trevor Lawrence and Trey Lance. Those two, along with the other three first-round quarterbacks, will always be linked together.
3. Week 3 vs. Green Bay Packers
Week 3 is the home opener this season for the San Francisco 49ers, as they start out on the road against the Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles. Whenever you face a team that could have Aaron Rodgers as the quarterback, it is a big game.
San Francisco was one of the places rumored as a landing spot for Rodgers if he was traded. Will this be the first time he faces off against his old team? Unlikely, as the 49ers selected Trey Lance with the third overall pick in this year’s draft class.
If Rodgers is playing for the Packers still, this is a good opportunity for the 49ers to see how they stack up against the rest of the NFC elite teams.
2. Week 18 @ Los Angeles Rams
When the NFL adjusted how they made their schedules, they were hoping they would have games that mattered the final week of the season. Having division matchups was one way to make that happen, and this is a game that could very well have NFC playoff implications.
The Rams look like legitimate Super Bowl contenders coming into the season with a top-flight defense and Matthew Stafford taking over the reins as starting quarterback. Depending on how things go this season, the 49ers could be playing spoiler in this game, or looking to cement their spot in the NFC Playoff tournament.
1. Week 7 vs. Indianapolis Colts
Out-of-conference games have the least impact on tiebreakers for playoffs. However, this game is important because it could be when we see Trey Lance take over as the starting quarterback if he does not win the job from the start.
The 49ers have their bye in Week 6, so this would give Lance two weeks to prepare as the starter should a move be made. This will be something to keep an eye on throughout offseason workouts and the early part of the season as the 49ers will have to juggle being contenders this season with an eye toward the future with Lance under center.