• Travis Rapp

X Factors for 49ers vs. Chiefs Game

Image Credit: Kelley L. Cox/USA TODAY Sports

If you are a gambling man, and like to take a risk, this Sunday’s San Francisco 49ers game against the Kansas City Chiefs could be time for you to visit your favorite online betting site, and make some cash. The 49ers come in as a six-point underdog, presumably because Patrick Mahomes is doing his best Tom Brady impersonation, while Jimmy Garoppolo just came off of a game that Alex Smith would be awfully proud of. So what factors are needed for the 49ers to pull out the upset? Let me explain how the 49ers can pull this one off.

Matt Breida

Flash back a year ago and Matt Breida was playing a very quiet second fiddle to Carlos Hyde as an unheralded and undrafted rookie. Meanwhile Kareem Hunt was flashing so much talent that this third round selection was indeed the best running back to enter the league that year. Oh what a year makes. Currently, Breida is leading the league in rushing yards (184) and yards per carry (8.4 yards on 22 carries) while adding a touchdown on the ground and 26 yards off of 4 receptions. Coming into the season many people knew that Jerrick McKinnon was going to the focus of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. It looks like Breida will be an able-body fill in to eliminate the void left by McKinnon’s knee injury. With the Kansas City Chiefs’ defense letting teams keep pace with Mahomes’s offense, there is no reason to not believe Breida will once again put up huge numbers on the ground and enter the Arrowhead end zones at least once this Sunday.

Jimmy Garoppolo

One would say that any teams quarterback is always going to be an X factor in any game, but Garoppolo really needs a good game here. Kansas City’s defense is arguably the worst defense in the NFL right now, allowing the fourth most points (32), the most yards per game (508), and the second most yards per play (6.9, which is 0.1 yard behind the New Orleans Saints). The only situation Kansas City is doing well at is in third downs, where they have allowed a first down only 27% of the time, third best in the league. Garoppolo on the other hand is coming off of a much improved game after having the worst game of his career in Week 1. This all lines up for Garoppolo to look more like the Weeks 1 and 2 versions of Mahomes than a check down king. A lot of this will depend on his ability to keep the team moving on first and second downs, avoiding the Chiefs’ rush on third down and finding open receivers down field. Having Marquise Goodwin back would sure help.

Trent Taylor

Taylor makes this list as the forgotten target in the 49ers passing game after being held catchless on two targets against the lions. With the Chiefs’ strong third-down defense, Mr. Third Down from a season ago really needs to step up his route running and be a force when the 49ers need him the most. George Kittle has taken some the targets away from him, but Taylor needs to start showing up on Sunday’s and receiving more targets if the 49ers are going to improve on their own third down conversion rate.

Reuben Foster

He’s back! For two weeks fans have been salivating waiting to see Foster line up next to Fred Warner Jr. The comparisons to Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman are relevant, in that both of these players are other worldly. Elijah Lee had a solid performance last week, but nobody brings the speed and ability to read the opposing offense’s line of scrimmage like Foster. Expect to see Foster blow up at least a couple screen passes to Hunt, and keep any wide receiver from wanting to enter the middle of the field. Having the defensive leader back in the huddle will be the biggest factor in how well this defense handles the leagues number one offense.

49ers Defensive Backs

With Mahomes handing out touchdown passes like he’s Oprah on her birthday, the 49ers defensive backs will be the absolute key to stopping this offense. Richard Sherman is showing that he is still the most feared cornerback in the NFL, with only one target over 99 plays this season. This also means that his teammates in the backfield are getting thrown at on almost every play. Akhello Witherspoon was hurt all last week and didn’t look quite right throughout the game on Sunday. The dynamic duo of Adrian Colbert and Jaquiski Tartt has been a bit underwhelming, while K’Waun Williams has held on decently in the slot. These men will be tasked with keeping Tyreek Hill, Travis Kelce, and Sammy Watkins out of the end zone, something the rest of the NFL is trying to figure out how to do. I would expect the Chiefs to line Hill up in the slot in an attempt to keep him away from Sherman, so Williams and Jimmie Ward will have their hands full, if Ward doesn’t earn the start over Witherspoon. Another name to keep in mind is D.J. Reed, a rookie who showed last week that he has big play potential and the speed to keep up with players like Hill. Whether Shanahan deploys him in this game we will have to wait and see.

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