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49ers vs Chiefs: Week 1 NFL preseason preview

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The San Francisco 49ers and two-time defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs kick off their 2021 NFL preseason schedules on Aug. 14. This represents the first time they have met since Patrick Mahomes led Kansas City to a win over San Francisco in Super Bowl LIV. Below, we preview the initial matchup between these two teams.

49ers vs Chiefs: What you need to know

See where the Chiefs and 49ers stand in our Super Bowl predictions

Trey Lance vs Patrick Mahomes

49ers vs chiefs: trey lance
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going to see a lot of Trey Lance in his preseason opener Saturday evening. The rookie No. 3 pick has impressed big time thus far during training camp. While the 49ers remain steadfast that there’s no quarterback competition between Lance and Jimmy Garoppolo, that’s hard to believe.

On the other hand, Mahomes might see a series of action in this one against the 49ers’ first-team defense. It will be interesting to see if he’s already clicking on all cylinders. For what it’s worth, Andy Reid has opted to play his starters on a limited basis in Kansas City’s first two preseason games since taking over. Whether that changes Saturday night remains to be seen.

  • Trey Lance, 49ers Week 1 starter? What we’ve heard from Santa Clara during the summer is that Lance has impressed with his poise, accuracy, athleticism and strong arm. One report suggests that opposing defenses would rather face Garoppolo than the rookie.
  • Fine-tuning things with Mr. Mahomes: We’re probably going to see the most out of Mahomes in the Chiefs’ second preseason game. However, it will be interesting to see if the Chiefs let him play more in front of their revamped offensive line come Saturday.

San Francisco 49ers wide receivers vs Kansas City Chiefs secondary

49ers vs chiefs preview
Billy Hardiman-USA TODAY Sports

It was surprising to see San Francisco avoid wide receiver in both the draft and free agency. The team will now be relying on the likes of veteran Mohamed Sanu as well as youngsters Jalen Hurd and Jauan Jennings to perform well behind Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk.

On the other hand, Kansas City lost a ton of experience at cornerback during the NFL offseason. It will now have to rely on Deandre Baker, Rashad Fenton and the recently-added Mike Hughes to make an impact.

  • Wide receiver as the 49ers’ Achilles’ heel: Outside of Aiyuk and Samuel, current 49ers receivers tallied a combined 45 receptions in the NFL last season. Someone must step up if this is not going to be a weak spot for the 2019 NFC champions.
  • Chiefs must improve in the secondary: Here’s a unit that gave up nearly 4,000 passing yards with 29 touchdowns through the air a season ago.

Kansas City Chiefs offensive line vs San Francisco 49ers pass rush

49ers vs chiefs: patrick mahomes
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

After seeing Mahomes manhandled by the Buccaneers’ defensive line in the Super Bowl, the Chiefs sought to upgrade their line in a big way. This means adding four new starters to the mix, Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Brown included. That new core group must get some work in during the preseason.

Meanwhile, San Francisco returns Nick Bosa and Dee Ford from injury. The Pro Bowlers played a combined three games a season ago and seem to be 100% healthy. This is the meat of the 49ers’ defense.

  • Protecting the franchise: In addition to Brown, Kansas City spent big bucks to sign guard Joe Thuney away from the New England Patriots. It also has two potential rookie starters in Creed Humphrey and Trey Smith — both of whom will play a lot Saturday evening.
  • San Francisco 49ers’ depth: Neither Bosa or Ford will see the field against Kansas City. Instead, it’s going to be all about a deep group of players. We’re intrigued to see how offseason additions Maurice Hurst, Arden Key and Zach Kerr perform in the opener.

Click here to see where the 49ers defense ranks among NFL teams

The bottom line: This has the potential to be one of the must-watch NFL preseason games of the week. Primarily, all eyes are going to be on how Lance performs in his initial professional action. San Francisco will likely come out on top because Lance will see the field a lot while the team has more roster battles than the Chiefs.