Under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh in 2011, the 49ers came out of nowhere to return to relevancy with a run all the way to the NFC Championship Game.
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In 2012, they’ll have a much harder time sneaking up on people.
The NFL announced its 2012 schedule on Tuesday and the 49ers are scheduled to play in five prime-time games, the max allowed under league rules and the most the team has had since 1999. The five prime-time games include two Monday night matchups, two Sunday night contests and one Thursday night appearance.
San Francisco’s schedule also features several juicy rematches from 2011.
The Niners will jump right into the fray when they’ll take on the Green Bay Packers, who went 15-1 last season, at Lambeau Field in their season opener Sept. 9. The Packers were bounced in the divisional round of the playoffs last year, but San Francisco has lost eight straight in Cheesehead country.
Plenty of hoopla is sure to follow for the Niners’ home opener the next week when the Detroit Lions invade Candlestick for the Sunday night game.
The Niners pulled out a narrow victory against the Lions in the waning moments last season, but the game will always be remembered for the infamous postgame handshake scuffle that broke out between Harbaugh and Lions coach Jim Schwartz. Could we be in for an encore?
San Francisco’s schedule also features rematches of both 2011 playoff games against New York Giants on Oct. 14 and the New Orleans Saints on Nov. 25.
A Week 15 road matchup on Dec. 16 against San Mateo native Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will offer a stiff challenge.
Overall, three of the 49ers’ first four games are on the road before they enter a stretch where five of six are at home.
NOTE: The 49ers re-signed linebacker Larry Grant and wide receiver Brett Swain to one-year deals. Grant, a seventh-round pick by the 49ers in 2008, signed the one-year deal he had been tendered previously.