Our staff writers break down the San Francisco 49ers Week 16 matchup, a home game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Let's dive into the keys to the game in this "Four Downs" preview of Sunday's matchup, presented by SunPower.**
1st Down: What is the key statistic of the game?
Jacksonville didn't rename their Twitter account to "Sacksonville" for no reason. The Jaguars defense boasts a whopping 51 sacks entering Sunday's matchup. Calais Campbell ranks second in the NFL with 14.5 sacks and Yannick Ngakoue isn't far behind with 11. Jacksonville's ability to get pressure with just a four-man rush poses a challenge to any offense. San Francisco's offensive line has had its troubles all season. Jimmy Garoppolo has been fantastic, but he'll need help from the boys up front.
@KeianaMartinTV: Red zone efficiency
Against the Jaguars top-ranked scoring defense, settling for field goals just won't cut it. The Jags have limited opponents to just 14.9 points per game, and the 49ers are converting on just 40 percent of their trips to the red zone. Meanwhile, the Jags have limited opponents to 35 percent efficiency in the red zone – best in the league. San Francisco is 3-0 when leading going into the half. The 49ers will need to build momentum off of an early lead to stay ahead of the Jaguars dominant defense.
2nd Down: Which Jaguars player is most important to stop?
@Joe_Fann: Leonard Fournette
I get it. Blake Bortles has been fantastic this season, especially over his past three games with seven touchdowns and no interceptions. That said, I'd much rather see Bortles beat the 49ers with his arm than watch Fournette run all over San Francisco's defense. The 49ers have been stout against the run of late, holding opponents under 100 yards in four straight games. Fournette is returning to the lineup after missing one game with a quad injury. The fourth-overall pick in 2017 has 923 yards and eight touchdowns this season and will be fed throughout Sunday's game.
@KeianaMartinTV: Calais Campbell
Zane Beadles is up for a spirited challenge against the Jaguars defensive end. He's big and long and having a career-season with 14.5 sacks on the year, good for second in the league. According to Pro Football Focus, Jacksonville's edge defenders have recorded 179 total pressures this season, the most of any team. The 49ers have a tall task clearing the way for Garoppolo against Campbell and Jacksonville's dominant pass rush.
3rd Down: Which 49ers player are you most eager to watch?
@Joe_Fann: Jimmy Garoppolo
Nearly everyone has bought in on Garoppolo, but some people are reserving judgement until they see the quarterback face Jacksonville's top-ranked passing defense. It's undoubtably his biggest challenge yet, and I'm also eager to see how he fares against the Jaguars. Nothing could happen on Sunday to lessen my confidence in Garoppolo and his future with the 49ers, but if he shreds Jacksonville? Mercy. He's got 1,008 passing yards through three starts but he'll need to find the end zone more than once if the 49ers are going to pull off the upset.
@KeianaMartinTV: Marquise Goodwin
Goodwin has become Garoppolo's go-to target, and the duo has connected 24 times over the last three weeks for 319 yards. With a 100-yard (103 to be exact) game against the Jaguars, Goodwin can eclipse his first career 1,000-yard season and become the just the third player in franchise history to register at least three-consecutive 100-yard games in a single season, joining Jerry Rice and Dwight Clark. The Garoppolo-to-Goodwin connection gives you a lot to be excited about come Sunday.
4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: 49ers win
San Francisco enters the game as four-point home underdogs, which tells you about how much respect the Jaguars have nationally. Even so, the 49ers are hot right now, and I believe that they have a shot at topping Jacksonville. The huge caveat is that if the Jaguars are forcing turnovers and creating short fields for their offense, which is entirely possible, San Francisco is going to be fighting an uphill battle. An even worse scenario for the 49ers is that Jacksonville's defense scores points. The Jaguars lead the NFL with six defensive touchdowns. If the 49ers don't turn the ball over and make Bortles drive the field, I like San Francisco's chances in the holiday showdown.
@KeianaMartinTV: 49ers defense gets a pick-six
Over the last three contests, Bortles has thrown seven touchdowns and leads the league with a 128.6 passer rating. But what's most impressive is that he hasn't thrown an interception during that time span. The 49ers defense hasn't scored all season. That can change on Sunday against the Jags 19th-ranked passing offense. I'd like to see Bortles deliver San Francisco an early Christmas present with a pick-six.