Lions vs 49ers: Week 1 NFL preview

The San Francisco 49ers open their regular season as more than a touchdown favorite against a talent-stricken Detroit Lions squad led by new quarterback Jared Goff.

For Detroit, this is the change of an era with Goff replacing Matthew Stafford under center. They’ll be looking to pull off the major home upset against a 49ers team with renewed Super Bowl aspirations. Below, we preview this Lions vs 49ers NFL Week 1 game.

Lions vs 49ers: What you need to know

Find out where the 49ers and Lions stand in our Week 1 NFL power rankings

Jared Goff vs Jimmy Garoppolo

lions vs 49ers: jared goff
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Detroit Lions fans will find themselves in a love, hate relationship with Goff after seeing Stafford perform well in the city over the past dozen years. The former No. 1 pick and Super Bowl quarterback regressed during his past two seasons with the Los Angeles Rams, and is looking to turn it around.

In San Francisco, Jimmy Garoppolo surprisingly found himself in a training camp battle with rookie No. 3 pick Trey Lance. A Super Bowl quarterback himself, Jimmy GQ is on a short leash heading into Week 1.

  • Turning it around in Detroit: After putting up a brilliant performance with the Rams back in 2018, Goff threw a combined 42 touchdowns against 29 interceptions over the past two seasons. The New Lions quarterback is also slated to take on a San Francisco defense we have in the top 10 heading into Week 1. For his career, Goff has posted a 3-5 record in eight starts against his former NFC West foes.
  • Jimmy’s short leash: Based on what we saw from Lance during the preseason, it’s clear that 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan will not hesitate to replace Garoppolo under center. The good news? He’s slated to go up against a Detroit defense that yielded north of 32 points per game last season and has not improved much. If Garoppolo struggles here, don’t be surprised if Lance gets the call.

Advantage: San Francisco 49ers

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George Kittle vs Jamie Collins

lions vs 49ers preview:
Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

Regardless of who is under center for the 49ers throughout the 2021 season, Kittle will continue to be the primary focus on offense. His ability to physically dominate smaller defensive backs and outrun linebackers in coverage is unmatched in today’s NFL.

As for the Lions, this is one of the many areas they must improve in from last season in order to even be competitive on a weekly basis in 2021.

Are the San Francisco 49ers legit Super Bowl contenders?

  • George Kittle is the X-factor: Like pretty much the rest of San Francisco’s roster, Kittle struggled with injuries a season ago. He missed a combined eight games, catching 48 passes for 634 yards. He needs to be 100% throughout the 2021 campaign if the 49ers are going to return to Super Bowl contention. It’s that simple.
  • The fast track in Motown: Opposing tight ends caught 65% of their targets against the Lions last season. All said, quarterbacks threw 38 touchdowns against seven interceptions against Detroit. There’s absolutely no way Detroit improves as a team if this doesn’t change. As for Collins, he’s in the top five of the NFL among linebackers in interceptions and passes defended since the start of the 2019. It’s time for the veteran to come up big against Kittle.

Advantage: San Francisco 49ers

Taylor Decker vs Nick Bosa

lions vs 49ers: nick bosa
Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

One of the biggest issues for Detroit on offense last season was pass protection. Its quarterbacks were sacked 42 times. The Lions attempted to rectify that by selecting Penei Sewell No. 7 overall back in April. But it’s all about Decker as Goff’s blindside protector.

In San Francisco, the 2020 season was marred by injury. Bosa and fellow former Pro Bowler Dee Ford played in a combined three games. It showed with the 49ers’ defense giving up more than a touchdown more per game than their Super Bowl campaign of 2019.

  • Jared Goff needs protection: One thing that will become rather obvious in Week 1. If Goff does not get consistent protecting, a ball-hawking 49ers defense will pounce with takeaways. That will ultimately lead to a blowout rather early in the game. It’s up to Decker to find a way to fend of Bosa.
  • Returning from the ACL: This will represent Bosa’s first game action since he suffered a torn ACL during Week 2 of the 2020 NFL season. The former NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year will likely be on a pitch count. But on the snaps he sees, it’s going to be interesting to watch Bosa take off. A dominating performance here could be a sign of things to come, and spell and end to Detroit’s upset aspirations.

Advantage: San Francisco 49ers

Bottom line: Two teams on completely different trajectories. San Francisco believes it has a championship roster. The Lions are doing their best to stay competitive under first-year head coach Dan Campbell. If Detroit is even able to keep this a one-score game through the first half, I will be surprised.

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