The San Francisco 49ers are eyeing their third win in a row with the help of staying at the Greenbrier Resort in West Virginia. Niners head coach Kyle Shanahan looks to keep control of the NFC West by beating his former team.
Shanahan hauls the 49ers to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to face off against the Atlanta Falcons at 1 p.m. (EST) Sunday. Atlanta is dealing with an array of injuries and cannot be overlooked as they change the tone of the franchise. Let’s look at three reasons for victory and three for concern below.
3 reasons for victory
Greenlaw, Warner, and Hufanga show out
DeMeco Ryans has been the most impactful coach on San Francisco’s staff in the last two years. Ryans face more adjustments with the possibility of soldiers not being ready for battle Sunday. Emmanuel Moseley’s season-ending injury to the Bank of America Stadium’s turf is a massive blow to the defense. Jimmie Ward’s surgery on his hand may sideline him through Week 8. And last but not least, the defensive line has already been without Arik Armstead and Javon Kinlaw but could now be without Nick Bosa and Samson Ebukam Sunday.
Fred Warner, Dre Greenlaw, and Talanoa Hufanga will have to fill the voids of those players. This trio is the team’s best-run fitters, and Ryans will need them to go the extra mile to make an impact Sunday. I’d expect Ryans to blitz Warner more to make up for Bosa’s missing pressure. Greenlaw can help the defense by forcing a fumble or playing sticky coverage. The secondary should hold up against the deep pass, so look for check-downs near the linebackers and Hufanga.
Shanahan’s offense keeps rolling
Jimmy Garoppolo was cash on third down last week in Charlotte, North Carolina. Shanahan needs that same Garoppolo going into Week 6 to calm his nerves for the stressful backend of the season. Feeding George Kittle is always an option to get the offense going and take eyes off Deebo Samuel.
This revenge game for Shanahan and Tevin Coleman is another way to keep Coleman rolling. Coleman rose to the 53-man roster after he showed his quickness around the edge and dynamic receiving ability last week. Shanahan needs to keep using Coleman as a receiving weapon as Falcon’s linebacker Mykal Walker could miss the game with a groin injury. Kittle can take advantage of Walker’s absence too. Atlanta still has an athletic Rashaan Evans active, but the former All-Pro should have his way.
San Francisco makes another statement win
This game will be no contest If Shanahan can get all three of the Yac Bros going. Brandon Aiyuk, Kittle, and Samuels can create explosive plays at any time. This could be a lazy take, but the 49ers are better than the Falcons. I’ve talked about this being a Super Bowl team for weeks, and they can’t let Atlanta ruin their momentum.
Last week’s win came by 22 points, and it felt like there was food left on the plate. We could see Shanahan be more aggressive in the red zone, with Robbie Gould feeling out the knee to see if he’s good to go. However, this can only happen if Garoppolo is on his Ps and Qs.
Mariota keeps San Francisco’s edges in conflict
Like Shanahan, Falcons head coach Arthur Smith uses wide zone, and bootleg passes to stretch the defense. Smith’s swiss army knife Cordarrelle Patterson landed on injured reserve after he injured his knee before the game in Week 4. You can bet for Smith to pull all of the tricks to get this 49ers defense to bend.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota can keep the chains moving with his legs. Mariota's rushing log is up and down, but he’s rushed over 60 yards in two games this year. DraftKings Sportsbook puts Mariota’s rushing over at 30.5 yards. I would take that bet as Mariota can scramble for cheap yards off play-action and other instances, like when the defense turns the back on him in man coverage. Kris Kocurek needs rookie Drake Jackson not to get rush-happy and over-pursue to give up a free lane to Mariota. Mariota’s rushes will be tedious and mandatory if Atlanta wants to have any success on offense.
Drake London and Kyle Pitts gash the defense
Kyle Pitts’ 2022 stats may not mirror what you think a fourth-overall Draft pick would produce. The second-year tight end missed Week 5’s contest against the Buccaneers and eyes his return against Warner and company. Look for Smith to line Pitts up as the single receiver to the field. Isolating Pitts is one of the sole ways this offense has to move the ball.
Falcons general manager Terry Fontenot selected Drake London eighth overall in the spring, and the newcomer has made noticeable plays. The 6-foot-five-inch receiver can create problems at the line of scrimmage with his smooth release and make difficult catches with his 33’’ arms. In addition, London is a savvy route runner that can do damage to zone coverage.
Grady Jarrett wreaks havoc on passing downs
The 49ers' offensive line allowed five quarterback hits and two sacks against Brian Burns and Carolina’s stout front. A minor step back after the Mike McGlinchey-led group sheltered Garoppolo against the Rams. Chris Foerster is hoping his young chap Aaron Banks can weather through knee soreness to help slow down Grady Jarrett. Jarrett has three and a half sacks, and seven quarterback hits through five games.
Foerster’s line will have tough matchups across the board, regardless of Jarrett being the only household name. Second-year left tackle Jaylon Moore watched Burns glide past him last week, and he’ll have his hands full with rookie Arnold Ebiketie. Ebiketie has power, attractive hands, and a lethal bend that could put stress on Moore. Ta’Quon Graham and Lorenzo Carter can generate pressure as well. Spencer Buford and Mike McGlinchey have to anchor against these bull-rushing studs.