With the tumultuous offseason officially in the rear-view mirror, 49ers fans can finally focus on the regular season. The official 53-man roster has been named, as well as the practice squad, and the depth chart is, for the most part, known.
As far as the preseason goes, there were a few things 49ers fans can take away from it, like the emergence of Jarryd Hayne in the return game (who accumulated half as many return yards this preseason than the 49ers did ALL OF LAST YEAR!), Mike Purcell, and of course, the return of Navorro Bowman.
According to Torrey Smith, the 49ers were definitely holding back on offense with the starters in the Preseason, so there is still unrest among The Faithful because the high amount of unknowns going into the regular season.
Let’s get to the preview:
1) When the Vikings have the ball
Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is poised to build on his strong finish to the 2014 season and he will have a chance to prove that it wasn’t a fluke. Because of the unknown commodities on the 49ers defense, most experts are predicting a double-digit Vikings victory because of the belief that Bridgewater will be able to pick the secondary apart.
Then there is the return of Adrian Peterson. It is widely believed that Peterson will be more like his 2012 self than that of a 30 year old running back. Once again, with the uncertainty of the 49ers front seven, Peterson is projected to gain well over 100 yards.
All of the above could happen, but with injuries to their best two offensive linemen, tackle Phil Loadholt (achillies) and center John Sullivan (back spasms), Minnesota could have a protection problem, enabling the 49ers defense to limit Peterson and put pressure on Bridgewater, making this a far more competitive contest than many would want to believe.
The keys for the 49ers will be to hold Peterson under 75 yards and force Bridgewater to throw the ball sooner than he wants as well as get a couple of sacks. If San Francisco can force an early turnover, they could set the tone for the upset.
2) When the 49ers have the ball
While Teddy Bridgewater may have protection issues, Colin Kaepernick may have the same problem, especially on the right side of the line. Jordan Devey and Erik Pears will likely need help to ensure that Kap doesn’t get under a heavy storm of pressure and that could hamper the offense.
The key will be a strong running game led by Carlos Hyde. If the Niners expect to make this a competitive game, Hyde will likely need to get sizable, consistent gains.
If Kaepernick can remain upright, receivers Anquan Boldin, Torrey Smith, Vernon Davis and even Reggie Bush can create matchup problems and make some big plays.
The Bottom Line?
It will come down to who can run the ball and who can protect their quarterback. While Minnesota is favored, don’t be fooled. The reason most are picking against the 49ers is simply because of who they lost and because most do not know who the starters even are, not because they aren’t good.
But they will be tested. It will be up to many of these young players like Aaron Lynch, Quinton Dial, Tank Carradine, Kenneth Acker, Keith Reaser, Carlos Hyde, and Marcus Martin to step up and make plays, which they’re all more than capable.
The 49ers have no pressure as they are picked by most to win about 4 games this season. They have nothing to lose and the world is against them. I don’t think they would want it any other way.
Prediction: San Francisco makes big plays early, sets the tone, and builds confidence. 49ers 24, Vikings 20