Image Credit: Andrew Giesemann
The 49ers arguably have their toughest matchup this Sunday when they face the Panthers. This will be a tough ask for them on both sides of the ball, But one thing working in their favor is that the game is in Santa Clara, but the faithful have traveled well this season. From a fantasy standpoint the 49ers defense is second behind the Patriots in limiting fantasy points.
From an NFL standpoint the 49ers have limited every opponent to 20 points and under. Over the past three games they’ve held opponents to under 10 points each. They only had seven turnovers all of last season but have 13 through their first six games.
They have yet to allow a 100-yard rusher though a couple have come close and only the Rams have managed a rushing touchdown. Can the 49ers bottle up Christian McCaffrey, one of the most talented running backs playing right now?
Over the six games that he has played, McCaffrey has run for more than 100 yards three different times. He was held to under 40 yards twice by the Buccaneers, who the 49ers have already beaten this season. In the games against Tampa, McCaffrey was held to under 30 yards receiving, but he did have two touchdowns in the last meeting. But the point is that it’s possible to slow McCaffrey down.
Let’s put something into perspective. Yes, the Patriots have the best defense, because of course they do. What else would happen when Brady starts to show decline but the rest of the team dragging him along with a historic defense? But in fantasy terms the 49ers are number one against the running backs. Tampa is number three, so they are close, and Carolina is a division opponent with Tampa, but the 49ers are slightly better against the running back. I think they can bottle McCaffrey up, but what will it take?
First off, the defense is going to have to keep playing the way they have been playing. We have seen how over the past two weeks teams would get chunk plays against the 49ers on their first drive and defensive coordinator Robert Saleh making adjustments. I am not sure how well this strategy will work against McCaffrey; the defense cannot afford for McCaffrey to get into any type of rhythm. If they can bottle the Carolina offense up from the get-go than McCaffrey can be contained.
Also, the 49ers offense will need some long, sustained drives. The defense has been great this season because of the talent they have acquired. Nick Bosa is everything as advertised. Arik Armstead is playing himself into a huge contract next season, and DeForest Buckner almost seems like an afterthought because he’s not the only one trying to get it done on that defensive line.
But the Carolina defense is not a pushover so the offense will have its hands full this season. But their ability to move the ball and give the defense time to rest has been crucial this season. The 49ers are ranked eighth in the NFL for time of possession. They are keeping the ball away from the other team’s offense and keeping their own defense off the field.
Don’t let McCaffrey get into a rhythm to start the game. Keep the defense rested with long, sustained drives on offense, which also keeps McCaffrey off the field, they yes, I do believe the 49ers can have success against Christian McCaffrey.
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