The San Francisco 49ers are going to face some very talented players this year. Pro Football Focus put together a list identifying the 17 best matchups of the year. Ben Linsey did one for each week of the season. The Niners found themselves on the list in back-to-back weeks.
The Cardinals will be hoping that Murray is the driving force in getting the Cardinals moving in the right direction after determining that their first-round pick a season ago, Josh Rosen, was not. The 49ers will be hoping that Nick Bosa follows in the footsteps of his brother Joey and becomes one of the most disruptive pass-rushers in the NFL over the next decade. After all, those are the expectations that are set when you’re taken with one of the first two selections in the NFL draft.
There is every reason to believe that both of these players will quickly show that they were worthy of those selections – Murray came in at first on the PFF Big Board and Bosa followed right behind at second overall. Murray is one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks to come out of college in some time and is one of only three quarterbacks since 2014 to record a passing and rushing grade over 80.0. His 93.7 passing grade last season ranks behind only his predecessor, Baker Mayfield, in the PFF College era. Similarly, Bosa dominated at the college level, posting an absurd 25.5 percent pass-rush win rate and a 93.6 career pass-rushing grade which trailed only Myles Garrett at the collegiate level since 2014. At this point in the season, both could be building their case in the Rookie of the Year race.
How surprised would everyone be if we get to Week 11 and the Kliff Kingsbury/Kyler Murray duo has taken the league by storm? I could buy in if it were 7-on-7, but you have to block somebody, which is why Bosa should have a field day against an offensive line that isn’t athletic or very talented. These are the games where you try to rack up a bunch of sacks after you get a big lead — stuff the box score. Murray is speedy and will inevitably scramble his way out of sacks. He could also run into a couple, too.
The following week should be an high-scoring, fun watch:
Sticking with the 49ers, their Week 12 matchup should be an interesting one for their breakout star at the tight end position, George Kittle. The former Iowa standout exploded onto the scene in his second season. His 89.7 grade in 2018 led the tight end position, and he put up historic numbers after the catch, averaging 9.9 yards after the catch per reception and putting up 873 total yards after the catch which was 299 more than the next closest tight end (Travis Kelce).
Last season, no tight end was targeted more when covered by a safety than Kittle (57 targets). He had a tame stat line of four receptions on five targets for just 30 receiving yards against the Packers. Considering their offseason acquisitions of Adrian Amos via free agency and Darnell Savage via the draft, the Packers should be in even better shape to cover Kittle in 2019. Over his NFL career, Amos has a top-10 coverage grade among safeties since entering the NFL in 2015. Savage is coming off two consecutive seasons with PFF coverage grades of 87.0 or higher. Together, they significantly upgrade the safety position in Green Bay and create an interesting matchup with Kittle.
The Packers signed my favorite safety in both free agency and the NFL Draft. It won’t be a “welcome to the NFL, rookie” moment for Savage, but good luck guarding Kittle. Savage ran under a 4.4 40-yard dash. Kittle ran a low 4.5 at a shade under 250 pounds. He is a different breed. Those will be two top-notch athletes going at it. Amos is no slouch himself, and he will likely have studied how Kittle runs his routes by then.
Just because you know something is coming doesn’t mean you can stop it.
What matchup are you looking forward to the most this year?