Our 49ers.com staff writers break down San Francisco's next matchup, a Week 13 road game against the Chicago Bears.
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: Garrett Celek
Last week I correctly predicted that McDonald would have San Francisco's longest play from scrimmage, what ended up being a 35-yard reception against the Miami Dolphins (humble brag). Thus, I'm sticking with the tight end for a second straight week. I think the team's leader in touchdown receptions (four) adds another to his total against the Bears. Chicago's defense has surrendered touchdowns to tight ends in its past three games to Delanie Walker of the Tennessee Titans, Will Tye of the New York Giants and Cameron Brate of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. McDonald is going to make it four in a row on Sunday.
@TaylorPrice: Pierre Garçon
The 49ers starting running back hasn't scored a rushing touchdown since Week 5. This means "El Guapo" is more than due to get a rushing score. But Hyde's touchdown chances increase when you consider he recorded his first career touchdown catch last week in Miami on an 11-yard throw from Colin Kaepernick. Hyde envisioned being a dual-threat out of the backfield in Chip Kelly's offense. Hyde caught five passes last week for 30 yards. I'd expect him to continue being a resource in the passing game on Sunday. 2nd Down: Which 49ers defender will force a turnover?
@Joe_Fann: Jimmie Ward
Ward recorded his first career interception in Chicago last season and returned it for a pick-six. The third-year cornerback told 49ers studios this week that he forgot the football in the end zone and needs to get another for his mantle. What's more, that interception was the last pick by a 49ers cornerback as the group is yet to record one in 2016. Bears starting quarterback Matt Barkley threw two interceptions in his first career start last week against the Titans so there should be ample opportunities for a takeaway.
@TaylorPrice: Jaquiski Tartt
Let's go with Ward's high school teammate. Tartt had an interception go through his hands last week in Miami. I don't see the second-year safety letting the opportunity slip past him this week. Tartt started last year in Chicago. He recorded seven tackles and a vicious body-slam on Jay Cutler. I'm looking at No. 29 to be an active player near the line of scrimmage like he was in Week 12. Jim O'Neil's scheme has made a concerted effort to stop the run. Tartt is a big part of those plans. Look for him to be around the ball all day at Soldier Field.
3rd Down: San Francisco's key to victory is...
@Joe_Fann: Contain Bears running back Jordan Howard
San Francisco did an admirable job against Jay Ajayi last week in Miami. The 49ers limited the "Jay Train" to just 45 yards on 18 carries (2.5-yard average). The group will need a similar performance on Sunday against Chicago's impressive rookie. Howard is a lock for at least 15 carries, and the Bears aren't shy about using him in the passing game. On the season, the fifth-round pick out of Indiana has 766 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He's added 242 receiving yards and another score. With Jay Cutler and Alshon Jeffrey out for the Bears, Howard will be the focal point of their offense.
@TaylorPrice: Scoring more than 24 points
We've seen Kaepernick improve over the course of his six starts, but we haven't seen the 49ers score more than 24 points in any of his starts. San Francisco's quarterback is without a win as a starter in 2016, but we saw some major strides last week in Miami. The offense put up 24 points with Kaepernick throwing for a season-high three touchdown passes and rushing for 113 yards. I believe San Francisco's chances of winning rest mostly on Kaepernick's playmaking ability. If he's able to extend plays with his legs and consistently on passes to McDonald, Torrey Smith and Jeremy Kerley, the 49ers will end their 10-game slide on Sunday.
4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: The 49ers force three turnovers
It's easy to argue that San Francisco outplayed Miami in Week 12. The 49ers had more first downs (25-19) and more total yards (475-358). The difference in the game was the turnover battle. San Francisco turned the ball over twice while failing to secure a single takeaway. A costly first-half fumble and second-half interception were both momentum swings in Miami's favor. I think the tables turn this week. Barkley threw the ball 54 times last week. Between interceptions and sack-fumbles, there's no reason why three takeaways for San Francisco's defense should be out of the question.
@TaylorPrice: Rashard Robinson gets first career INT
The Florida native has relished his time in the "Sunshine State" this week. I think the positive vibes carry over into the coldest game of Robinson's football life. The rookie cornerback broke up two passes last week in Miami and looks like a solid find in the fourth round of the NFL Draft. The next step for the long-armed cornerback is to create a turnover. Robinson said he's eager for the opposing quarterback to make a "donation." Let's see how generous Barkely is feeling on Sunday.