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San Francisco 49ers' 2022 schedule: Trey Lance can ease into season

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- The San Francisco 49ers' 2022 schedule was released along with the rest of the NFL slate Thursday.

The 2022 NFL season will kick off on Thursday, Sept. 8 with the Buffalo Bills against the defending champion Los Angeles Rams at SoFi Stadium. ESPN opens its schedule with Monday Night Football on Sept. 12 featuring the Denver Broncos at the Seattle Seahawks.

The NFL expanded to 17 regular-season games last season. The final regular-season games in 2022 will be played Jan. 8, 2023. The playoffs begin Jan. 14 and continue through Super Bowl LVII on Feb. 12 in Glendale, Arizona.

Here's what's in store for the 49ers:

Schedule

Sept. 11: at Chicago

Sept. 18: vs. Seattle

Sept. 25: at Denver (SNF)

Oct. 3: vs. L.A. Rams (MNF)

Oct. 9: at Carolina

Oct. 16: at Atlanta

Oct. 23: vs. Kansas City

Oct. 30: at L.A. Rams

Nov. 6: BYE

Nov. 13: vs. L.A. Chargers (SNF)

Nov. 21: at Arizona (MNF in Mexico City)

Nov. 27: vs. New Orleans

Dec. 4: vs. Miami

Dec. 11: vs. Tampa Bay

Dec. 15: at Seattle (TNF)

Dec. 24: vs. Washington

Jan. 1: at Las Vegas

Jan. 8: vs. Arizona

Strength of schedule: T-5th, .533

49ers | Tickets

Biggest takeaway

If, as expected, Trey Lance takes over at quarterback, this is a difficult slate for a first-time starter. There are plenty of tough matchups and the maximum amount of prime-time contests (five). The good news for Lance and the Niners is the early season offers a couple games to get his feet wet before diving into the deep end. What's more, the Niners only travel to the Eastern Time Zone or Central Time Zone once after Week 6 (the game in Mexico City). If Lance shows steady improvement as the season goes on, he should be rounding into form when the Niners get the benefit of playing five of their final seven games at home in what they hope will be a postseason push.

Revenge game

Kansas City, Oct. 23. There are plenty of games with familiar ties here, but in the spirit of the name of this section, this is the only choice to make. The Niners and Chiefs' most recent meeting came in Super Bowl LIV in Miami, a game in which San Francisco blew a two-score lead in the fourth quarter and ended up losing by 11. Winning a Week 7 regular-season game won't wipe away the pain of losing the Super Bowl, but it will carry a little extra meaning for the 49ers still on the roster from that fateful night in south Florida.

What oddsmakers think

The oddsmakers have the 49ers win total at 10. That's the number of games the Niners won last season before making a deep postseason run and feels about right for a roster that remains mostly intact. But there's a lot more possible variance with this group because of the expected ascendance of Lance to the starting quarterback job.

Bold prediction

The 49ers will post the best record in NFC West division games, going 5-1 and sweeping Arizona and Seattle. Think that's not bold? Considering the Niners are 5-15 combined against the Seahawks and Cardinals since Kyle Shanahan took over as coach in 2017, it would be a big step forward against their divisional counterparts. That type of performance in the division would go a long way toward a return to the playoffs, but you'll have to pay extra for that type of prediction here.