Late-Season Matchups vs. Seahawks a Blessing for 49ers

Linebackers Bowman, Smith would likely be available for both games; an early-season pairing may have given edge to Seattle

In the 49ers’ 2014 schedule that was announced Wednesday night, San Francisco’s NFL team received both good and bad news.

But perhaps one of the biggest pluses is the fact the Niners won’t play the Super Bowl-champion Seahawks until Thanksgiving night, Nov. 27, at Levi’s Stadium.

The previous thinking had been that perhaps the NFL would pair the NFC West rivals in an early-season game on national TV. But the fact the 49ers and Seahawks won’t play until Nov. 27 – and then Dec. 14 at Seattle – gives the 49ers a chance to play both games with standout inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman.

Bowman, injured in the NFC Championship Game loss in Seattle in January, isn’t expected to be ready to play until midseason, which would be late October. If he stays on track, that means Bowman can fully recover, get three or four games under his belt and be ready to help against the Seahawks on Thanksgiving.

There’s no question that to beat the Seahawks, the 49ers will have to be at full strength and with all their weapons.

Last season, the two teams met in the second game of the year in Seattle when San Francisco was without wide receiver Michael Crabtree, and the 49ers not only lost the game, but were put in the position of chasing their rivals in the division race for the remainder of the season. They never caught up.

This time, both teams can muscle through the first two-thirds of their schedules and meet when both could theoretically be at the top of their games. The Thanksgiving game means the 49ers will be playing just four days after playing the Redskins on a Sunday, but the Seahawks also will be playing on short rest – following a game against the Cardinals – and will travel.

By late November, the 49ers would not only have Bowman back, but will have had a chance to let new safety Antoine Bethea get comfortable and work out their cornerback and wide receiver options.

As Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee noted,  meeting the Seahawks twice late in the season might be good for another reason as well.

“If, as expected, star inside linebacker NaVorro Bowman returns from his ACL injury at midseason, it means he would be on hand for both showdowns,” he wrote. “… The same would go for Aldon Smith if, say, he is given an eight-game suspension. That, of course, is pure speculation, but he is expected to sit out at least some games in 2014.”

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