SANTA CLARA — On Sunday, the high is going to be 58° and partly cloudy, but nothing too extreme. There will be a Christmas chill in the air, but that will just add to what us players call “football weather”. Football weather motivates us players — as the chill adds an extra push in our game. The 49ers defense will need that extra push going against the high-tempo Jacksonville offense. Although the Jags will be short at receiver with Marqise Lee out, their QB (Blake Bortles) and RB (Leonard Fournette) who both have had beyond what was expected from them this season. Bortles has thrown 268/439, 3,147 YDS, 19 TD & 8 INTs in 14 games this year. Rookie running back Leonard Fournette has totaled 923 YDS on 231 CAR and 8 TDs. The aforementioned Marqise Lee was the leading receiver for the Jaguars heading into the game Sunday, totaling 702 YDS on 56 REC and 3 TDs (Stats per ESPN).
Both Jacksonville and San Francisco are coming off of winning 4 out of their last 5 games (actually Jaguars go back as far as 7 out of their last 8). As a matter of fact — these two teams are tied with the Dallas Cowboys for the longest current winning-streak in the NFL at three games. Also, both teams are being coached by first-year head coaches (Doug Marrone JAX & Kyle Shanahan SF) and seem to be hitting their strides at the same time. Unfortunately for the 49ers, Jacksonville’s stride might carry them into the Playoff as one of the AFC’s top seeds, whereas the 49ers have nothing to play for but pride.
The Jaguars offense goes into Sunday, averaging 26.7 points per game & 375.9 total yards, whereas the 49ers defense goes in allowing 24.1 points per game & 361.4 total yards. So, I think it goes without saying that the match-up may turn into an old-fashioned shootout between two of the hottest quarterbacks playing right now.
“I think just getting more confident the more you win. Including our bye week, only having one loss in these last five weeks, it’s a much more positive feeling that you put together week after week and you build off that. Everybody wants to be confident, but that only happens when you experience some success.” – 49ers Head Coach Kyle Shanahan.
The young and hard-hitting 49ers defense has played well over the past four match-ups, improving as each game goes by. They are fourth in the NFL in total yards allowed per game (287.5), fourth in rushing yards allowed (89.0), and have allowed seventh least in passing yards allowed (198.5). I expect this trend to continue despite going against the young phenomenon rusher, Fournette and 3,000-yard passer Bortles. I expect a big game from both the Jags and 49ers in the trenches. Expect a big game from offseason-signee and starting nose guard, Earl Mitchell who has been a huge run stopper for SF this season. I also am expecting a break out game from first-round pick, Solomon Thomas. Whether he’s playing left-side end or right-side end he is going to have his hands full with great talent, but I expect a breakout game with all the promise he’s been showing in previous weeks. The Christmas Chill is going to light a fire under our young defense, expect the positive defensive play to continue this week against the Jags!