Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports


49ers vs. Packers: 5 things to watch for San Francisco on Monday night

Oct 15, 2018 at 10:41 AM


The San Francisco 49ers visit the Green Bay Packers in Week 6 for a prime-time Monday Night Football showdown, and Niners fans should pay attention to these five specific elements during the game.


It sure doesn't seem likely the 1-4 San Francisco 49ers, who have found more ways to lose games this season, stand much of a chance to knock off the 2-2-1 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in Week 6 on Monday Night Football.

After all, the Packers have a future Hall of Fame quarterback in Aaron Rodgers. The Niners are fielding a backup quarterback, C.J. Beathard. A bit of a mismatch? Sure.

That said, Week 6's prime-time matchup could be one of those contests where San Francisco winds up pulling off the upset and stunning the Packers at home in front of a national audience. This wouldn't be the prediction, no. But Green Bay still has some vulnerabilities. Its defense, which ranks 10th in scoring this season, is skewed by having shut out the lowly Buffalo Bills in Week 4. In three of the other four games, this unit has allowed 29-plus points.

Granted, San Francisco's offense hasn't exactly benefited from either help or consistency this season. And a five-turnover loss to the Arizona Cardinals last week isn't exactly the formula for success.

Regardless, let's take a look at some things that will be essential for the Niners to pull off an upset in Week 6. Starting with those turnovers.

Winning the Turnover Differential


It's Football 101, but this is crucially important going up against a quarterback like Rodgers. Keeping him off the field as long as possible is one of the few ways the 49ers can prevent the perennial Pro Bowler from doing damage. Turning over the ball only increases that likelihood San Francisco can ill afford.

Last week versus Arizona, Beathard was tagged with four of the team's five turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) in the Niners' 28-18 loss. Statistically, the 49ers dominated the Cardinals in every other aspect. But those turnovers were ultimately what forced San Francisco's fourth defeat on the season.

On the year, the 49ers have lost a total of 11 turnovers, which is third worst in the league. One would expect head coach Kyle Shanahan to make this a point of emphasis throughout the game, as putting the Packers offense back on the field sooner than it should be will be an ultimate downfall X-factor.

Feeding the 49ers Run Game


It doesn't help matters that No. 1 running back Matt Breida is listed as questionable with an ankle injury. He'll be a game-time decision, which means we'll likely get a lot of backup running back, the veteran Alfred Morris, even if Breida is ready to go. Shanahan will probably want to keep his top ground weapon, Breida, rested and en route to a full recovery.

Morris' abilities against the Packers are solid enough to suggest he'll have a good game. Over three career games versus Green Bay, Morris is averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

Feeding either Morris or Breida would be a wise move. It takes pressure off Beathard, chews up clock and tires out a suspect Packers defense.

Oh, and keeping Rodgers off the field is still a thing.

Containing Aaron Rodgers on Third Down


This was broken down earlier over at Niner Noise, but preventing Rodgers from making a massive impact on third down will be essential to San Francisco's chances.

Here's the scoop with a little bit of Pro Football Focus' numbers to look at:

According to Pro Football Focus, Rodgers is posting a passer rating of 110.3 on third downs. He has an 87.5 adjusted completion percentage during these plays, which doesn't bode well for a 49ers squad hurting in the pass-rush department.

On the season, San Francisco has a lowly nine sacks in total — tied for 24th in the NFL. While the 49ers have managed to get pressure a bit more regularly, Rodgers is among the best at extending plays and avoiding said pressure.

If there's a slight benefit for the Niners, it's the fact that Rodgers has been hobbled by a knee injury. His elusiveness within and outside the pocket might be a bit more in check this week than previously, meaning the 49ers pass rush won't have to be quite as effective as it otherwise might need to be.

Getting the 49ers Wide Receivers Involved


For whatever the reasons, San Francisco hasn't exactly benefited from even average wide receiver play on the season. To date, the Niners' top wide receiver is the veteran, Pierre Garçon, who leads all 49ers wideouts with 188 receiving yards. That's less than the total for tight end George Kittle (399) and even fullback Kyle Juszczyk (197).

Injuries have been a major factor. The rookie, Dante Pettis, has been sidelined with a knee injury. Marquise Goodwin has missed time and slot receiver Trent Taylor (back) has been ruled out for the contest.

Green Bay is allowing 5.9 pass yards per attempt on the season -- fifth best in the NFL.

Will San Francisco's Second-Year Players Bounce Back?


Outside of Kittle, few of the Niners' 2017 NFL Draft picks have made much of a positive impact this season. Linebacker Reuben Foster -- who leads the team in missed tackles, per Pro Football Focus -- is a likely candidate to rediscover the prowess that made him something of a household name last season. Aside from those two, however, San Francisco hasn't gotten much from its second-year players.

Cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon has been one of the main culprits, and his 2018 struggles are a main reason why the 49ers defense has been vulnerable in the secondary.

It's not just Witherspoon, though. Safety Adrian Colbert has worked his way back to a rotation with rookie defensive back D.J. Reed instead of solidifying himself as a bona fide starter. And Colbert hasn't exactly flashed the ranginess and playmaking abilities he displayed during the latter half of 2017.

If there's ever a time for both Witherspoon and Colbert to bounce back, Week 6 in Green Bay would be it.

The 49ers and Packers kick off at 8:15 p.m. from Lambeau Field in Green Bay.
  • Written by:
    Peter Panacy has been writing about the 49ers since 2011 for outlets like Bleacher Report, Niner Noise, 49ers Webzone, and is occasionally heard as a guest on San Francisco's 95.7 FM The Game and the Niners' flagship station, KNBR 680. Feel free to follow him, or direct any inquiries to his Twitter account.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


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