Four in prime time for Niners 

Back in prime time, baby. The 49ers will play at least four games on national television this year under the NFL schedule released Wednesday.

Coming off a 7-9 season in which the Niners found a good nucleus to build a playoff team, they will open the season as the second half of a "Monday Night Football" doubleheader Sept. 10 at Monster Park against the Arizona Cardinals, the same team the 49ers began the 2006 season against.

They will appear on ESPN’s "Monday Night Football" one other time, Nov. 12 when they travel to Seattle to play the defending NFC West champion Seahawks, whom the 49ers almost caught at the end of the season. In Weeks 15 and 16, the 49ers will make back-to-back national appearances. On Dec. 15, they play the lone Saturday game of Week 15 when they host Carson Palmer and the Cincinnati Bengals on the NFL Network. The Niners wrap up their home schedule by hosting former Raiders coach Jon Gruden and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Dec. 23 on "Sunday Night Football," which is on NBC affiliate KNTV (Ch. 11).

In a policy that began last season, Weeks 11-17 fall under the NFL’s flexible scheduling policy, meaning teams can be moved to and from the "Sunday Night Football" spot.

The 49ers’ new-look defense will get tested early. After the opener vs. the Cardinals, the Niners travel to St. Louis and Pittsburgh, before returning for home games against the Seahawks and Steelers before having a bye in Week 6. Following the bye, five of the next seven games are on the road, before finishing with three straight at home and the regular-season finale Dec. 30 at Cleveland.

Lane Kiffin will make his debut as the Raiders’ coach Sept. 9 when the Detroit Lions visit McAfee Coliseum.

The most notable game for the Raiders comes in Week 15, when they host Peyton Manning and the defending Super Bowl champion Indianapolis Colts on Dec. 16. Former Raiders coach Norv Turner, who was the 49ers’ offensive coordinator last season before being hired as the San Diego Chargers’ coach, returns to Oakland in the regular-season finale Dec. 30. The Raiders also make their first trip to Jacksonville in franchise history Dec. 23.

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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