Week 1 Preview: San Francisco 49ers @ Detroit Lions

Finally, after waiting so long, we have regular season 49ers football again! Leaving a disappointing 2020 season behind, there is a lot to be excited about in 2021! Following a great offseason and what appears to be a very promising draft, both sides of the ball have seen significant upgrades, whilst the standout players already on the team have gotten themselves healthy and hungry.

Trey Lance has 49ers fans extremely excited for the 2021 season.. Photo Credit: Jose Carlos Fajardo/Bay Area News Group

We’re unlikely to see WR Jalen Hurd week 1, as he’s been dealing with knee pain since the preseason game against the Las Vegas Raiders – he’ll probably go onto IR which carries a minimum 3-game period. This must be so frustrating for Jalen and the 49ers organization – I know it certainly is for us fans. This probably means veteran receiver Travis Benjamin will be called up from the practice squad for Sunday’s debut.

CB Emmanuel Moseley has been held out of practice with a knee injury. Should he miss the game, which could force rookie Deommodore Lenoir to make his NFL debut, with a possibility for Dontae Johnson to be called up. A significant signing on Monday this week was of course veteran CB Josh Norman. Even though he is a seasoned vet, familiar with various systems, it’s unlikely he’ll be ready to go so quickly; but not impossible. The decision will be made following a full week’s practice.

Detroit has also had some roster turnover since last season. They lost offensive stars Kenny Golladay (WR), Kerryon Johnson (RB) and Mohammed Sanu (WR) (thank you Lions). Additions include Jamaal Williams (RB), Breshad Perriman (WR) and Quinton Dunbar (CB). Add to that a new coaching staff led by their fiery head coach Dan Campbell, with the receiving corps coached by Antwaan Randle El. The Lions drafted offensive tackles with their first three draft picks, including the extremely talented OT Penei Sewell in the first round. In addition, the Lions scooped up my personal draft crush, WR Amon-Ra St. Brown in the fourth round. They most notably traded beloved and extremely talented QB Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff, a third round pick and two future first round picks. Goff is well known to 49ers fans, and it’ll be interesting to see how he performs in a brand new offensive system.

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions
Jared Goff is no stranger to the 49ers (their defensive line to be specific). Photo Credit: Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Matchups to Watch:

Dee Ford vs Penei Sewell

Dee Ford expects to be on a pitch count on Sunday against the Detroit Lions. (AP Photo/Tony Avelar)

While a lot of focus will be on the other side of the line with Nick Bosa back strong, the rookie RT will be up against an also reserving Dee Ford – a prototypical talented rookie vs vet storyline. Detroit’s OL has looked rather shaky so far this preseason, and I expect some disruption to say the least. Goff has historically struggled when under pressure (and against SF in general, as he’s 3-5 in his career), so this could be the key to getting off the field on third downs and maybe even turnovers.

Fred Warner vs T.J Hockenson

San Francisco 49ers middle linebacker Fred Warner plays against the Seattle Seahawks during an NFL football game in Glendale, Ariz., in this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021.
Fred Warner looks to continue to show why he’s the best MLB in the NFL on Sunday. (Jennifer Stewart/Associated Press)

We may see several two TE sets from Detroit if the pressure from the front four shows success early. Even so, Hockenson will be a preferred target for Goff to lean on. Warner is not only the best coverage LB in the game, but also one of the best defenders full stop. Whether in pass-coverage or run defense, this will be a marquee clash.


Arik Armstead vs D’Andre Swift/Jamaal Williams

San Francisco 49ers defensive end Arik Armstead before an NFL football game against the Los Angeles Rams in Santa Clara, Calif., Saturday, Dec. 21, 2019. (AP Photo/John Hefti)
Arik Armstead is looking forward to seeing a familiar face in Jared Goff again. (John Hefti/Associated Press)

With rushing lanes collapsing, AA always seems to be around the ball-carrier, and I’m expecting more of the same come Sunday. Let’s see what Armstead can do with his defensive line fully healthy again.

Deebo Samuel & Brandon Aiyuk vs Lions CBs

49ers' rookie receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught five passes for 70 yards and added 31 yards rushing on three carries - 19 of which came on a third-quarter touchdown run.
Brandon Aiyuk will look to improve upon an extremely promising rookie season. (Elsa/Getty Images)

Detroit’s starting corners, Jeff Okudah and Amani Ourwariye will have their work cut out, especially if that 3-4 front isn’t able to generate pressure. The Niners OL has been great, from the league’s best LT (according to GMFB), the solid Laken Tomlinson, one of the best at C with veteran Alex Mack, Brunskill at RG and the dependable McGlinchey rounding things off. With time in the pocket, Jimmy Garoppolo can be very dangerous. In addition, he once again has a plethora of healthy weapons, the forefront of which are the starting WRs. I fully expect the gameplay to be very run-heavy, with Mostert putting up big numbers, but when a pass is called and the protection holds up, Deebo and Aiyuk are going to eat!

My score prediction: 49ers 31 – 17

Tweet me @TaggSimon with your keys to this game!

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