Four Downs: Bold Predictions for 49ers-Broncos Preseason Game

Our 49ers.com writers are back to break down four pressing topics as the San Francisco 49ers face the Denver Broncos on the road this Saturday.

Let's get to the four downs of what you should look forward to in this "Four Downs" update, brought to you by SunPower.

1st Down: What is your matchup to watch?@Joe_Fann: 49ers receivers vs. Broncos secondary

My "major key" for San Francisco's week in Denver was to see which 49ers wide receiver stepped up. Torrey Smith, DeAndrew White, Quinton Patton and Bryce Treggs all had their moments in practice, but who will be able to make those splash plays in Saturday's preseason game? Chip Kelly and receivers coach Bob Bicknell have both said they're looking for consistency. A matchup against Denver's standout secondary will provide each 49ers pass-catcher with an opportunity to impress the coaching staff.

@TaylorPrice: NaVorro Bowman and Michael Wilhoite / Gerald Hodges / Ray-Ray Armstrong vs. C.J. Anderson

We all know what Bowman can do. He makes tackles. Lots of them. But what we're looking to find out, is who will earn the right to play beside No. 53 in the regular season. San Francisco's three-way competition has been fascinating because of the high level of play from all three 'backers. Wilhoite started in Week 1 of the preseason, but Armstrong has come on strong during the joint practices this week in Denver. I'm curious to see who gets the start and how they fare against a talented running back like Anderson, who will be an even bigger part of Denver's offense with Peyton Manning's offseason retirement.

2nd Down: Who will have the longest play from scrimmage?

@Joe_Fann: Mike DavisWhy not? Davis will be out to prove that his 72-yard performance against the Texans was not a one time thing. The second-year running back's 44-yard burst was the 49ers biggest play last game. I wouldn't be surprised if he topped that against the Broncos, especially behind San Francisco's offensive line that created running lanes during the week in practice. Don't be surprised if Davis receives more than the five carries he saw against Houston, either.

@TaylorPrice: DeAndrew White

If Bruce Ellington is unable to play due to the sprained ankle that kept him off the field this week, keep an eye on White. Blaine Gabbert applauded the second-year receiver for his performance this week. White will likely have a large role in this game. It wouldn't surprise me to see White make a splash play and improve on Davis' 44-yard run in last week's loss to the Houston Texans.

3rd Down: The 49ers will win if they ... ?

@Joe_Fann: Win the turnover battleJim O'Neil told reporters after the Texans game that his defense needs to find a way to create turnovers. The 49ers lost the takeaway battle 2-0 in Week 1 of the preseason. Both fumbles proved costly: The first was returned for a touchdown and the second happened inside Houston's 5-yard line. A few timely turnovers, especially in the second half, will help the 49ers come away with a road victory against the Broncos. Which leads too...

@TaylorPrice: Finish the second half strong

San Francisco took a 13-7 advantage into the locker room last week. They ultimately lost, 24-13. Without Colin Kaepernick in this game, the spotlight will be on Jeff Driskel and Christian Ponder to finish the game by putting points on the board. Preseason or not, you can't win many football games if you don't score in the final 30 minutes of play. I'm curious to see how much, if at all, Ponder gets to play in this game. My gut says he'll get some valuable on-field reps in the fourth quarter.

4th Down: What is your bold prediction?

@Joe_Fann: Eli Harold gets two sacksI think this is the week for Harold. Outside linebackers coach Jason Tarver commended Harold for his play in the preseason opener against the Texans. Tarver told reporters that the second-year linebacker did a great job of finishing plays unblocked. The only problem was that the ball usually went away from Harold while he was on the field. Tarver added that Harold's edges were really good and that he's improving as a pass-rusher. if that progression continues against the Broncos, I'm guessing Harold will have a few chances to make a play in the backfield.

@TaylorPrice: The defense will record a pick-six

I'm 0-for-1 on bold predictions after Ronald Blair III did not record multiple sacks against the Texans. That's OK. I'm back swinging for the fences with this week's pick. I saw numerous opportunities for defensive touchdowns slip through the fingertips of San Francisco's defense this week. There was great anticipation on short underneath routes by linebackers and defensive backs. I think we'll see one of the 49ers get his hands on a short pass and return it the other way for a score. Maybe it's wishful thinking. But then again, it definitely qualifies as a bold prediction.

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