Our 49ers.com staff writers break down San Francisco's next matchup, a Week 15 road game against the Atlanta Falcons.
Let's dive into the keys to the game in this "Four Downs" preview of the 49ers upcoming matchup, presented by SunPower.
1st Down:Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?@Joe_Fann: Pierre Garçon
Taylor nailed this prediction last week, and I'll take the odds that Hyde does it again this week. "El Guapo" has scored in two of the team's last three games, both of the receiving variety. Hyde is also coming off of his career-best rushing performance in Week 14 as he racked up 193 yards on 17 carries. Atlanta has allowed 13 rushing touchdowns in 2016.
@TaylorPrice: Quinton Patton
With Torrey Smith out this week due to a concussion, Patton's role in the passing game increases a great deal. We've yet to see the fourth-year wideout get into the paint this season, but I believe Patton's increased targets will get him an opportunity to cross the goal line in Week 15. Atlanta's 32nd-ranked pass defense should be vulnerable for downfield throws. Look for Patton to be a benefactor on Sunday. 2nd Down: Which 49ers defender will force a turnover?
@Joe_Fann: Tramaine Brock
I'll happily take credit for predicting Jimmie Ward's interception against the New York Jets. This week I'm taking Brock, for no other reason other than he's due. The corner had three picks in 2015 and is still looking for his first this season.
@TaylorPrice: DeForest Buckner
How about we stick with a hot-hand of sorts? Buckner recorded two sacks last week and was a tough blocking assignment for the Jets offensive line. I'd expect Buckner to apply consistent pressure against Matt Ryan this week. Atlanta has given up 31 sacks on the year, so look for Buckner to add to his sack total (five) and possibly force a fumble or recover one.
3rd Down: The key stat of the game is...
@Joe_Fann: Time of possession
You can tie third-down production into this. San Francisco's offense converted just 2-of-12 third-down attempts in Week 14. That led to the Jets dominating time of possession 41:55 to 24:30. I am usually of the belief that time of possession is an overrated statistic, but that doesn't mean it's irrelevant. There aren't many situations in which a team wins a game where its defense is on the field for nearly three full quarters. Kaepernick and the 49ers offense will have to do a better job of staying on the field in Atlanta.
@TaylorPrice: Second-half points
Don't let me dig up the stats... Don't make me do it! Second-half scoring has plagued the 49ers in 2016. San Francisco averages 8.2 points per game in the second half, ranking 28th in the league. In comparison, Atlanta leads the NFL with 16.5 points. The 49ers are in dire need for momentum to end the year. Scoring more than the 8.2 average and out-scoring the Falcons in this department will go a long way in helping the road team's chances of pulling off an upset.
4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: Buckner reaches his season goals
San Francisco's first-round pick had his best game of the season against the Jets: two sacks, four quarterback hits and 11 tackles. Buckner said this week his goal was to get to six sacks and 70 tackles as a rookie. He's currently at five sacks and 65 tackles. So one takedown of Ryan and five tackles seems more than reasonable for Buckner in Week 15. I think he'll reach his goals on Sunday with two games left to add to those numbers.
@TaylorPrice: Hyde gets to 1,000
The 49ers starting running back needs 121 rushing yards to get to 1,000 on the year. Coming off a 193-yard outing, the 49ers running back wouldn't shock anyone by putting up 121 on the ground this week. What makes this a bold pick is Hyde doing it in Atlanta. The Falcons allow 101.1 rushing yards per game, good for the 14th-best average in the NFL this season. Hyde's quest for 1,000 yards would be the first time he's reached the major benchmark in his three-year career.