For some reason, the NFL schedule makers must have a grudge against new 49ers head coach Chip Kelly.
Certainly they did him no favors in making the team’s 2016 schedule, which was released Thursday night. Kelly – already facing a steep, uphill climb with a team that has an uncertain quarterback situation and a questionable roster coming off a 5-11 season – could easily start out his first season in the Bay Area winless in his first three games.
The 49ers begin the season with a prime-time game at the Los Angeles Coliseum against the Rams in what could be an emotional homecoming game for them in their new-old home. Then comes a game at Carolina against the NFC champion Panthers and a trip to Seattle against the Seahawks, where the Niners have been crushed in recent games.
It was known previously that the 49ers will go into the 2016 season tied with the Falcons in owning the toughest strength of schedule in the NFL (based on the combined .555 winning percentage of opponents), but 49ers fans probably were hoping for an easier start to allow their team to gather some momentum. Now, that appears unlikely.
The Rams – even without an effective quarterback and in limbo in their final season in St. Louis in 2015 – were 7-9. The Panthers were 15-1 and the Seahawks were 10-6.
In addition, the 49ers’ late-season schedule is no easy stroll, either. The Niners will play four of their final six games on the road, including three in the Eastern time zone. They'll be at Miami on Sunday, Nov. 27, at Chicago on Sunday, Dec. 4 and at Atlanta on Sunday, Dec. 18.
All told, the 49ers will be one of the NFL’s most traveled teams in 2016, due to fly 25,328 miles. However, it’s about 2,500 miles less than the team flew in 2015 when it accumulated more miles in the air than any other team in the league. So, Kelly at least has that in his favor.