Our staff writers break down the San Francisco 49ers Week 13 matchup, a road game against the Chicago Bears.
Let's dive into the keys to the game in this "Four Downs" preview of Sunday's matchup, presented by SunPower.1st Down:Expectations for Jimmy Garoppolo?@Joe_Fann: 220 yards, two touchdowns, one interception
Despite owning a top 15 defense, Chicago has allowed five passing touchdowns over the last two weeks. Meanwhile, the Bears offense ranks 29th this season. That combination means that the 49ers defense should be able to get off the field, which would give Garoppolo and the offense several chances to put points on the board. Garoppolo is by no means a master of Kyle Shanahan's offense so there will be bumps in the road, but I believe in his ability to thrive in this trial by fire scenario.
@KeianaMartinTV: 250 yards, two touchdowns and a win
The Bears have a small sample size when planning for Garoppolo on Sunday. Aside from last week's brief 49ers debut against the Seahawks, John Fox and Co. got a glimpse of Garoppolo during the Bears joint-training camp practices in 2016 against the New England Patriots. That was the same year Garoppolo started two games for New England. In his two starts, Garoppolo averaged 248 yards and two touchdowns per game. I predict he keeps that trend going as San Francisco's starter.2nd Down: Who will score the 49ers first touchdown?
@Joe_Fann: George Kittle
One of the more intriguing points of this game is that we have no idea which 49ers pass catchers Garoppolo has built chemistry with. That's why I'm taking a shot in the dark and predicting a red-zone score for George Kittle. If for no other reason, how great would it be if that is the 49ers quarterback-tight end connection of the future?
It's hard to believe the 49ers No. 1 receiver has found the end zone just once this season, and that didn't occur until Week 10 against the New York Giants. Goodwin is having a career-year with 578 yards through 13 weeks. That's more than 200 yards above his numbers last season with the Buffalo Bills. A new quarterback could mean new opportunities for San Francisco's speedster. Who wouldn't want to see Garoppolo air it out to Goodwin for six?3rd Down: Which 49ers defender will force a turnover?
@Joe_Fann: Solomon Thomas
Who's in for a repeat of last year's Sun Bowl? Thomas relentlessly harassed Mitchell Trubisky in Stanford's win over North Carolina. Thomas made his return to game action last week after missing two games with a knee injury. The pass rusher has been stuck at two sacks since Week 6. No. 3 is coming on Sunday against Trubisky in what will be a sack-fumble against the rookie quarterback.
The 49ers leading pass rusher is having a breakout season. Among NFL defensive tackles, he's at the top of the league in both stops and in tackles. But his big question is, when will the sacks start to come in bunches? On top of his three passes defended and a forced fumble, Bucker has totaled 1.5 sacks on the season. He's been vocal about wanting to get to the quarterback, and on Sunday, Mitchell Trubisky is Buckner's next target.4th Down: What is your bold prediction?
@Joe_Fann: A 49ers win
I actually don't think this is that bold. Maybe I'm naïve and this will blow up in my face magnificently, but I was surprised to see that the 49ers were three point underdogs. Chicago is coming off of a 31-3 blowout loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. They're without top pass rusher Leonard Floyd and a few of their top wide receivers. This should be a very winnable game for San Francisco in ideal conditions this time of year by Chicago standards.
@KeianaMartinTV:Robbie Gould kicks a game-winning field goal
Week 13 marks his first return to Soldier Field since December 2015. In his 11-year career with the Bears, Gould is Chicago's all-time leader in career points (1,207), field goals made (276), career field goals of 50 yards or more (23), consecutive made field goals (26) and field goal percent (85.4). This season, Gould has led the 49ers in points (79) and converted 16-of-17 PATs and 21-of-23 field goals. It would be poetic if Gould kicked a game-winning field goal on his old stomping grounds.