Green Bay Packers: Previewing the San Francisco 49ers

SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 27: Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after sacking Kyle Allen #7 of the Carolina Panthers (not pictured) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
SANTA CLARA, CALIFORNIA - OCTOBER 27: Nick Bosa #97 of the San Francisco 49ers celebrates after sacking Kyle Allen #7 of the Carolina Panthers (not pictured) during the first quarter at Levi's Stadium on October 27, 2019 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

Before the Green Bay Packers matchup with San Francisco on Sunday, here are five things you need to know about this 49ers team.

Sunday Night’s matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the San Francisco 49ers could end up being an NFC Championship preview. And whoever ends up winning the game, will be the front-runner for the one seed with just five games left in the regular season.

As I do for every Packers’ game, I’ve teamed up with a writer from this week’s opponent and once again it is Justin Fried of Golden Gate Sports, where they cover anything and everything about the Bay Area sports scene. Justin was kind enough to answer five of my questions about the 49ers to help provide some insight, while I also answered five of Justin’s about the Green Bay Packers. So be sure to check that out on their site as well.

The Niners have cruised to a 9-1 start but what is your biggest concern?

Justin: The 49ers have gotten off to their 9-1 start on the heels of their dominant defense. But that defense has started to show cracks in recent weeks which is very worrisome given the offense they’re about to play. Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers have a very impressive ground game led by Aaron Jones as well.

Meanwhile, the 49ers run defense has quietly been very bad lately as they’re absolutely missing Kwon Alexander. Stopping Jones remains a must because if they allow him to get going, it could be a long day for the defense. They’ve been dominant to this point, but the dam could burst this week against Green Bay.

What are one or two keys to victory?

Justin: As is with any football game, the victor generally wins the battle in the trenches. And for the 49ers, there is no more important battle this week. A running game that once led the offense has grown stagnant in recent weeks. Part of this is due to the loss of Matt Breida but you also have to put some of the blame on the offensive line that has taken a step back as well. And, of course, missing George Kittle has had just as much of an impact in the running game as it has in the team’s passing attack.

Establishing the ground game is essential this week as is halting the Green Bay Packers’ rushing attack. It’ll be up to the front-seven to control the line of scrimmage on defense and force the Packers to remain one-dimensional. From there, the pass rush could hopefully do the rest.

Who is one player on offense and one on defense that Packer fans may not know but could make an impact?

Justin: On offense, tight end Ross Dwelley has been fantastic filling in for the injured George Kittle. He hauled in the first two touchdowns of his career last week and figures to remain a part of the offensive gameplan even if Kittle returns. Don’t forget about Dwelley.

And on defense, the 49ers are stacked with top-tier talent at every level but one player whose success has flown under the radar this season has been K’Waun Williams. Williams has done a phenomenal job manning the slot corner role this year and is ranked among Pro Football Focus’ top-graded cornerbacks. Richard Sherman has been great, Fred Warner is an athletic freak, and everyone knows about the 49ers’ dangerous pass rush. But Williams has quietly put together a Pro Bowl-caliber season and I’d expect him to make a splash play or two this week.

The Niners are pretty beat up, how will they overcome potentially missing some of those key players?

Justin: That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it? The 49ers come into this game nursing an abundance of key injuries and it’s going to take all hands on deck to compensate. The 49ers have enough pass rush depth to get by without Dee Ford, although the loss of Ronald Blair a few weeks back hurts as well. But if the 49ers go another week without both Emmanuel Sanders and George Kittle they could be in big trouble.

The team’s receiving core is super thin with rookie Deebo Samuel perhaps as the only reliable option. The 49ers are hoping that Kittle could return this week which would be a huge boost in every way for an offense desperately needing one. Also, look for left tackle Joe Staley to miss this week and for rookie sixth-round pick Justin Skule to continue starting in his place.

What do the Niners do really well that has led to their fast start this season?

Justin: Even though the defense has slipped up as of late, everything has revolved around that unit. Simply put, the 49ers would not be in the position that they’re in right now without the stellar play of their defense for the majority of the season. They’ve bailed out Jimmy Garoppolo more times than could be counted and have made life much more difficult for opposing quarterbacks.

Next. 5 Stats You Need to Know About the Packers. dark

There is no greater front-four in football than the foursome of Nick Bosa, DeForest Buckner, Arik Armstead, and Dee Ford and even with Ford out, expect the other three to wreak havoc in this game. Credit to defensive coordinator Robert Saleh who entered the season on the hot seat and could finish it as a top head-coaching candidate.