Welcome back for another week of San Francisco 49ers football! The 49ers are back home to face the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 15. The game airs on CBS, and kicks off at 1:25 p.m. PT. The announcers will be Spero Dedes and Solomon Wilcots, with former NFL kicker Jay Feely on the sideline.
The 49ers come into this game at 4-9, having lost any momentum in a 24-10 loss last week to the Cleveland Browns. The 49ers had beaten the Chicago Bears, and seemed to have something to build on with that victory. Instead, they came out incredibly flat against the Browns on both offense and defense. They got some good work from the special teams units, but it did not really matter, as they could get nothing else going in an embarrassing effort.
The 49ers welcome a Bengals team that is in a state of flux, even at 10-3. They hold a two-game lead in their division, and should be able to lock things up in the final three weeks, but they face big questions due to injuries. Quarterback Andy Dalton fractured his thumb on his throwing hand last week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, and is expected to miss four-to-six weeks. In his absence, AJ McCarron is getting his first career start. He put up some big yards against the Steelers defense, and has now had a week to prepare for the 49ers.
The Bengals opened as a four-point favorite, and the line has climbed as high as six points in some sportsbooks. This is a tough one for me to get a handle on given the many variables in play. On the one hand, it is odd to see a first-time starter get this many points. The look-ahead line was seven points, so some people seem to think McCarron might only be a one- or two-point downgrade. That's intriguing, to say the least. The 49ers defense has been much better at home than on the road, particularly against the run.
On the other hand, the can the 49ers score enough points to keep this thing close? I have a hunch we see something similar to the Cardinals game a few weeks back. It was even for much of the day, and was the deciding score did not come until the final couple minutes. The Cardinals got some breaks, and ended up winning 19-13, covering the spread. I feel like 20-13, or something along those lines would not surprise me.
Both teams are dealing with some notable injuries. For the 49ers, Alex Boone and Michael Wilhoite will continue to miss time. Torrey Smith, Tramaine Brock, and Aaron Lynch are all listed as questionable. Smith and Brock seem more likely to play than Lynch, but we won't know for sure until 90 minutes before the game. Lynch and Vance McDonald entered the concussion protocol last week, and missed last week's game. They both started in a non-contact jersey on Wednesday, but while McDonald moved past it on Thursday, Lynch remained in it all week. Lynch's absence would be significant for the pass rush.
Dalton is the big Bengals absence, but they will also miss a key player on each side of the ball. Tight end Tyler Eifert, in the middle of the best season of his short career, will miss the game due to a concussion. Safety George Iloka will also miss the game after aggravating a groin injury last week. Cornerback Adam Jones will return for the Bengals.
Nuts and bolts
Location: Levi's Stadium, Santa Clara, CA
Game time: Sunday, December 20, 1:25 p.m. PT
TV channel: CBS
Online streaming: NFL Game Pass on replay
49ers Radio: 680-AM, 107.7 (Ted Robinson, Tim Ryan) | Full listings
Announcers: Spero Dedes, Solomon Wilcots, Jay Feely
Spanish Radio: KTRB 860-AM (Jesus Zarate, Luis Landero)
Odds: 49ers +4.5
Matchup history: 11-3 (including 2-0 in Super Bowls)
Enemy blog: Cincy Jungle
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49ers regular season schedule
Week 1: vs. Minnesota Vikings - 49ers 20, Vikings 3
Week 2: @ Pittsburgh Steelers - Steelers 43, 49ers 18
Week 3: @ Arizona Cardinals - Cardinals 47, 49ers 7
Week 4: vs. Green Bay Packers - Packers 17, 49ers 3
Week 5: @ New York Giants Giants 30, 49ers 27
Week 6: vs. Baltimore Ravens - 49ers 25, Ravens 20
Week 7: vs. Seattle Seahawks - Seahawks 20, 49ers 3
Week 8: @ St. Louis Rams - Rams 27, 49ers 6
Week 9: vs. Atlanta Falcons - 49ers 17, Falcons 16
Week 10: BYE
Week 11: @ Seattle Seahawks - Seahawks 29, 49ers 13
Week 12: vs. Arizona Cardinals - Cardinals 19, 49ers 13
Week 13: @ Chicago Bears - 49ers 26, Bears 20
Week 14: @ Cleveland Browns - Browns 24, 49ers 10
Week 15: vs. Cincinnati Bengals - Sunday, December 20, 5:30 p.m. NBC (SNF)
Week 16: @ Detroit Lions - Sunday, December 27, 10:00 a.m. FOX
Week 17: vs. St. Louis Rams - Sunday, January 3, 1:25 p.m. FOX