The San Francisco 49ers are set to do battle on Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs. The 49ers come into the game with a 2-2 record having defeated previously unbeaten Philadelphia a week ago in a contest that saw the defense hold an Eagle offense that came in averaging over 30 points per game scoreless.
Like the 49ers, the Chiefs come into the game with a record of 2-2, having blown out the New England Patriots on Monday night. The last time these two teams matched up was during the 2010 season and the Chiefs blew out the 49ers at Arrowhead 31-10, the 49ers touchdown coming on the final play from scrimmage.
The game also will be the first start in a regular season game against the 49ers for Alex Smith. The former number 1 pick of the 49ers was traded following a 2012 season which saw him lose his starting job to Colin Kaepernick after sustaining a concussion against the St Louis Rams.
With that as a backdrop here are 5 burning questions to which the answers will be key to the outcome of the game.
1) Is Frank The Tank back? - While the majority of the attention this week has focused on the return of Alex Smith to take on the 49ers, the outcome of the game will likely be decided by how the 49ers utilize Frank Gore. Simply put, when the 49ers don't get Gore involved in the game bad things happen.
Since 2011, Gore has averaged 18.6 carries per game in 49ers victories. That number drops to only 11.6 carries in 49ers losses.
Against the Eagles last week, the 49ers were very pass heavy in the first half, but turned to the running game in the second half. The result was a come from behind victory and a return to the type of football that has made this organization successful under Jim Harbaugh.
2) Will Ian Williams play? - Ian Williams was a late addition to the 49ers injury report, showing up Friday with an ankle injury. It will be a big blow to the 49ers defense if he cannot go. Through the first four weeks Williams has shown why he beat out Glenn Dorsey a season ago for the starting nose tackle role. In addition, he has been the 49ers most consistent pass rush threat so far this season and is currently among the top five nose tackles in the NFL according to ProFootballFocus' grading system.
3) Will the 49ers be poor hosts to their old friends? - Everyone already knows that Alex Smith is returning, but Sunday will also showcase the return of 2012 first round bust A.J. Jenkins. With starting wide receiver Donnie Avery out due to sports hernia surgery all signs point to Jenkins being in the starting lineup for the Chiefs. So far this season Jenkins has four receptions for 16 yards.
4) Can the 49ers contain Jamaal Charles? - Charles is coming off a performance on Monday night which saw him average over 5 yards per carry against the New England Patriots. If the Chiefs can get Charles going early and maintain that throughout the game it could go a long way towards an upset victory.
5) Can the 49ers put the special back in special teams? - The 49ers have seen their special teams units struggle mightily over the last two weeks. They have cost the team 17 points with a blocked field goal in Arizona followed by a blocked punt that was recovered for an Eagles touchdown, followed by a punt return for a touchdown.
49ers 23 Chiefs 10
Be sure to check out my Twitter feed @JackHammerNFL for analysis throughout the game.