It feels like it’s been a month since we’ve seen the San Francisco 49ers play in a regular-season game. We’ve gone over a few of the matchups between the Cleveland Browns vs. the Niners. You can read about each team’s personnel groupings, how the offense will slow down the Brown’s pass-rush, and a few other articles worth your time. Let’s talk about which group on both sides of the ball will make the difference. Defense is obvious, as everything starts up front. I don’t think it’s as cut and dry offensively. This will be the lines toughest test, but there hasn’t been a defense to stop the 49ers offense yet. It’s been themselves that have taken points off the board. Here is my X-Factor for the 49ers on both sides of the ball for Monday Night’s game.
Sick ‘em, Samuel
We are going to see a heavy dose of play-action against this Browns defensive front. We should also see a higher amount of quick, timing passes that feature isolation routes on the perimeter. Jimmy Garoppolo is getting rid of the ball the third-fastest in the NFL among all quarterbacks that have attempted at least 50 throws. He’s throwing the ball at 2.33 seconds. This should be a game where we see the 49ers wide receivers showcase their athleticism. I wouldn’t mind seeing more Richie James down the field. I’d love to see Dante Pettis move the chains underneath. I’m betting Deebo Samuel will have a game.
Samuel is breaking a tackle 38.5% of the time when he touches the ball, per Football Outsiders charting. He doesn’t qualify as he doesn’t have enough touches, but the league leader is Seahawks RB Chris Carson at 38.3%. Samuel has proven difficult to bring down when he’s in space. Cleveland will dial-up pressure, but don’t expect to see a lot of press-man on the outside. That means Samuel will have ample opportunities to make plays in the open field, and I like his chances. Deebo doesn’t have to turn every play into a 40+ yard gain to be an X-Factor. Turning a slant or a reverse into a first down will suffice. I think he has a career night.
No more banged up Bosa
For the first time this season, we’ll see the Niners first-round pick when he’s not hobbled. Nick Bosa hasn’t been on the injury report all week. He’s been excellent, despite not being fully healthy. Bosa played 73% of the snaps two weeks ago against the Steelers, but I think we see the best version of Bosa on Monday Night football.
Bosa told the media on Saturday that the 49ers want to use the Monday Night Football spotlight to prove that they aren’t “the fake undefeated team” some are saying they are. Players are on social media. They know what’s being said about them and their team. The defense has the mindset that they’re under-appreciated. A combination of poor blocking and Baker Mayfield running into sacks has caused Cleveland to be 24th in adjusted sack rate. The sacks haven’t been there for Bosa, but that could change after getting some tips from his brother Joey. The older brother told Nick after he beats his blocker, to focus his eyes on the quarterbacks’ hips, and that will help him finish. I love this matchup for the 49ers defensive line. I think they out-athlete Cleveland upfront and harass Mayfield all night. I’m calling a two-sack game for Bosa.
Who are your X-Factors for tonight’s game?