49ers v Lions: 3 Keys to Success for Each Team

49ers-Lions opener among worst games on NFL 2021 full schedule | RSN

Week 1 is finally upon us, and the San Francisco 49ers and Detroit Lions are facing off. The game kicks off at 1:00 p.m. EST, often a challenging time frame for teams coming over from the West Coast. The 49ers are the heavy favorite heading into Sunday’s match-up; they are a 7.5 point favorite (odds from MyBookie).

Both teams will be trotting out changes to the coaching staff, most notably the Lions. From the front office down to the position coaches, Detroit has gone through a significant overhaul. Dan Campbell and his team will look to make changes to the on-field product and the culture in the building, too. It will be interesting to see what the identity of the Lions will be. However, one can infer based on Campbell’s press conferences that they will be a team who will look to run the ball and take the will out of defenses.

Not only did the Lions make changes to the coaching staff and personnel, but also to who will operate under-center. Detroit elected to move and trade Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for two first-round picks and Jared Goff in return. Goff doesn’t possess Stafford’s talent, but he has helped lead a team to the Super Bowl. He isn’t going to put the team on his shoulders like Stafford did time and time again in the 4th quarter, but he can operate an offense and help push the ball downfield, especially behind the Lions’ formidable offensive line.

As for the 49ers didn’t lose/gain as much as Detroit did this offseason, but they did lose strength to their team, defensive coordinator Robert Saleh, who took a head coach job with the New York Jets. DeMeco Ryans, a part of the 49ers staff, got promoted from coaching linebackers to the defensive coordinator. Saleh ran a “safer” defense than what Ryans plans to run this year. So we may see more blitzing from San Francisco and perhaps some more man coverage on the back end.

With changes schematically being made for both teams, it makes for an exciting match-up. Again, San Francisco is the favorite, but there is a path in which the Lions could come up with an upset.

49ers Keys to Success:

Putting Pressure on Jared Goff

When Jared Goff is able to sit back in the pocket and move through his progressions he is a viable option at quarterback. When Goff has pressure in his face, he is the opposite of a viable option; he is a liability.

Goff suffered the biggest decline at his position from a 55.8% passing DVOA without pressure to a -126.8% DVOA with pressure in 2020…”

Not only was it an issue last year, but it has been a problem for the past several years and probably played a crucial factor in McVay wanting to find another quarterback. In 2018, Goff posted a 69.1% DVOA vs. no pressure (good for 5th in the league) and a -67.9% against pressure (11th worst). In 2019, he posted a 52.9% DVOA vs. no pressure (14th in the league, a bit of digression) and a -66.8% DVOA vs. pressure (19th worst, the league average was -62.8%).

The 49ers’ front four doesn’t have to be as good as they were in 2019, but they will need to push the pocket and put Goff in uncomfortable situations. If they can force Goff to make bad decisions, it will likely lead to turnovers, and the 49ers can continue their win streak against Goff-led teams.

Eliminate Turnovers in Their Own Territory

The Lions’ offense, aside from their offensive line, isn’t full of world-beaters. They don’t have weapons on the outside and will likely rely on rookie receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, to be one of their main targets. If the 49ers can refrain from committing turnovers in the Lions’ territory and force them to move the ball the length of the field, the Lions are less likely to score (obvious, I know).

Even with one of the better defenses in football, it is still tough to keep the opponent from scoring when they get the ball in with less than 50 yards to go. If the 49ers can keep the mistakes to a minimum and not give up free yards, it sets them up nicely to not only get the win but to cover the spread as well.

Consistency From Jimmy Garoppolo

This option may run hand in hand with the last “key to success,” but it’s more than just a turnover issue with Garoppolo. If you surveyed the conventional fan in the NFL and asked them what type of quarterback Garoppolo is, they would like to tag him with the “accurate, game manager” label. However, that isn’t necessarily the case. Aside from the injuries, Garoppolo’s most significant issue is his game-to-game consistency. One game, he looks like the quarterback that led San Francisco to the Super Bowl, and the next, he seems like the quarterback that forced them to draft Trey Lance third overall.

If the 49ers get the latter, they could be looking at an upset. Garoppolo tends to throw the ball high, which often leads to tipped balls. Tipped balls equal easy interceptions. Of course, interceptions are not the only cause of concern, but having to punt the ball is another possibility they want to avoid. Garoppolo doesn’t have to have the best game of his career for the 49ers to win, but he must avoid having a game as he did against the Miami Dolphins last season.

Seth’s Score Prediction:

49ers: 31 – Lions: 17

Penei Sewell thriving at his best position

With the injury to starting Left Tackle Taylor Decker, the #7 overall pick in Sewell will be asked to play at LT. This is the position in which he thrived in at Oregon and in his first start for the Lions, he will get a real big test by facing Nick Bosa.

If the Lions can get real consistency from the left side of the O-Line with Sewell and Jonah Jackson, we could see a nice game from D’Andre Swift. Sewell tended to struggle at times during the Preseason, but he did an excellent job of adjusting and bouncing back quickly in the following drives.

Setting the Edge on Defense

The Lions have one of the better EDGE tandems in the league with Trey Flowers and Romeo Okwara. They are facing a run-heavy Offense in the 49ers this weekend and it’ll be crucial to make sure Mostert and Sermon don’t get easy access on the outside.

If the Lions can get solid EDGE play from those two, they can make this game really interesting with the lack of depth at Wide Receiver. Though the Interior of the DL is young, aside from Michael Brockers, they’ve looked really good during practices and preseason so there shouldn’t be too much of an issue there.

Getting some success from the Play-Action

If the Lions can get that run-game going, which I think they will, then the Lions are going to need Jared Goff to make some really nice throws out of the Play-Action. They have a lack of weapons at Wide Receiver, but attacking the middle of the field will be key with Hockenson.

Goff is a pretty big downgrade from Stafford but he did help lead a team to the Super Bowl back in 2018. Would it be nice to get that from him this year? Sure, but even a 2017 version of Goff is more than good enough.

Ronnie’s Score Prediction:

49ers: 34 – Lions: 20

Lions Keys to Success:

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