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SANTA CLARA — Earlier this week, the NFL demoted the 49ers-Rams matchup out of the Sunday Night Football slot in Week 7 in favor of Bengals-Chiefs. 49ers players, as you may expect, felt slighted.
“It’s definitely an insult, kind of a slap in the face,” defensive tackle DeForest Buckner said Thursday. “That’s just the way this league is. The guys are definitely juiced to play Monday night (at Green Bay). It definitely gives you a little more adrenaline out there, knowing you’re the only game on, and everybody is watching. I am sure guys are excited for this week.”
The decision is an obvious reflection on the lack of national interest surrounding the 49ers, which sit at 1-4, tied for the league’s worst record, and have lost franchise quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and starting running back Jerick McKinnon to season-ending knee injuries. Their struggles, juxtaposed with Los Angeles’ dominance, sitting as one of two remaining undefeated teams in the league, forms one of the most lopsided matchups you could draw up. That Week 7 matchup is when the 49ers planned to unveil statues of Dwight Clark and Joe Montana outside of Levi’s Stadium to commemorate “The Catch.” They also plan to wear the 1994 white throwback jerseys against the Rams.
Despite being flexed out, the 49ers enter a seven-week stretch featuring four primetime games, three of which are guaranteed.
Their first primetime game of the season comes this Monday night at Green Bay. In Week 9, the 49ers host the Raiders on Thursday Night Football. The following week, the 49ers host the Giants on Monday Night Football. San Francisco’s Week 13 matchup at Seattle also falls in the Sunday Night slot, and it, too, could be flexed out for a more high-profile matchup.
Much of the anticipation of the 49ers’ 2018 season centered upon Garoppolo. With him sidelined for the remaining 11 games of 2018, the 49ers may have to string together some wins in the upcoming weeks to hold onto their Sunday night matchup at Seattle.
The 49ers are trying to look past the demotion.
“It was mentioned, but it wasn’t a big discussion,” Buckner said. “It happens. We just got to go out and make sure we take every advantage with this Monday night game coming up.”