The San Francisco 49ers are in the midst of preparing for their fourth prime-time game of the season. Coming to town for Sunday’s matchup are the 8-2 Green Bay Packers, who kick off a historically difficult three-game stretch for Kyle Shanahan’s team. The Baltimore Ravens (8-2) and New Orleans Saints (8-2) await. The stakes are high, with the 49ers competing for the NFC’s No. 1 seed and a first-round bye in the playoffs.
Here are five players to watch in the 49ers’ Week 12 matchup at Levi’s Stadium:
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
Witherspoon was the starter opposite Richard Sherman at the beginning of the season. He got off to a strong start in 2019, totaling five pass breakups and an interception returned for a touchdown in three games. Witherspoon suffered a foot sprain against the Steelers that sidelined him for seven games. In his place, former undrafted corner Emmanuel Moseley played well, making a serious bid to remain the starter. The 49ers are allowing Witherspoon to return to the starting role he earned after a solid offseason, but he’ll need to play well in order to hold off Moseley. A respectable Packers passing offense provides a worthwhile proving ground with Witherspoon.
WR Deebo Samuel
Saints wideout Michael Thomas is the only receiver in the NFL with more yards and receptions than Samuel over the past two weeks. The 49ers’ second-round rookie has developed into a go-to target for quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo. With tight end George Kittle sidelined and veteran Emmanuel Sanders battle a rib injury, Samuel and Garoppolo accounted for 16 catches and 246 yards against the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals. It’s unclear if Kittle will return to action against the Packers or how much Sanders’ injury will continue to impact his availability. Even if both return to the field, you can bet on Samuel having another significant impact in the 49ers’ passing game.
Interesting stat: If Deebo goes for over 100 yards against the Packers, he’ll be the first 49ers receiver since Jerry Rice in 1995 to go for three straight 100-yard games. Shoutout to Kevin over at NFL.com.
DL Nick Bosa
In his first six games, Bosa totaled seven sacks and 12 quarterback hits. With a start like that, it became impossible for offensive coordinators not to account for the 49ers’ No. 2 pick. Bosa’s been held without a sack over the last three games, receiving a fair amount of double-teams and chips. He’s still managed 14 total pressures, per Pro Football Focus. The 49ers cannot allow Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers to get in a rhythm. With Dee Ford expected to be sidelined with a leg injury, the defense will be depending on Bosa’s pressure off the edge.
RB Tevin Coleman
With Matt Breida still sidelined, Coleman is on track to get the majority of touches against the Packers. His success will largely depend on the offensive line’s ability to create rushing lanes, but Coleman will need to find a way to generate plays on his own, as well. Green Bay’s defense isn’t great against the run, allowing a 25th-ranked 126 yards per game. Coleman only managed 14 yards on 12 carries against a game Cardinals defense. He should be much more effective against the Packers on Sunday.
DL DeForest Buckner
Buckner is going to play a significant role in limiting Aaron Jones on Sunday. The Packers’ running back has found the endzone 11 times so far this season. In Week 10 against the Carolina Panthers, Jones accounted for 13 carries, 93 yards, and three scores. The 49ers haven’t been great against the run so far this season, ranking 20th and giving up an average of 110 yards per game. Buckner’s ability to disrupt the running lanes within a lackluster interior offensive line for the Packers should force Rodgers to throw more. While that may seem backward, the 49ers’ secondary is among the best units in the NFL. The 49ers will need to stop the run and allow their pass rush and coverage to go to work.