The 49ers once again face off against an AFC West opponent on Sunday Night Football, looking for a bit of redemption in Santa Clara this weekend after playing a role in one of the most lackluster primetime games you will ever see in their Week 3 loss to the Broncos.
DraftKings Sportsbook currently has the 49ers as a touchdown favorite over the Los Angeles Chargers this weekend, and I’m going to help preview this matchup and give some insight as to why the spread currently sits at -7 for the home team.
Injuries to front-line starters
The 49ers have had their share of injury woes this season, but it has never been anywhere near as dismal as it currently stands for this Chargers team. As of right now, the Chargers now have 11 players on injured reserve, including three All-Pros in Joey Bosa, Rashawn Slater, and J.C. Jackson.
They likely will be without their starting wide receiver duo as well, with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams missing practice Wednesday and Thursday while dealing with their respective injuries that have sidelined the talented duo for weeks.
Adding to the lengthy injury report was starting right tackle Trey Pipkins missing practice with a knee injury. If Pipkins is unable to go, the Chargers will be starting backups at each of the tackle positions while squaring off with one of the most ferocious front sevens in the entire NFL.
Winning with this many players sidelined is a daunting task for any team, especially when it involves playing without not only two of your best players but two of the more talented players in the entire league in Bosa and Slater. Simply put, that next-man-up mentality will be tested in a big way early and often.
Strength meets weakness
The 49ers have had tremendous success running the football coming out of the bye under Kyle Shanahan, averaging 144 yards per game and eclipsing 100 yards on the ground in four of those five games.
The Chargers, on the other hand have the worst run defense in football this season, allowing 5.7 yards per carry, a number which would go down as the second worst in NFL history if it were to hold throughout the season.
Los Angeles has allowed three of their last four opponents to rush for over 200 yards, allowing nearly six yards per carry over that span. Kyle Shanahan’s ability to scheme coming out of the bye, combined with the Chargers' horrid run defense, points to this being a favorable matchup for the 49ers.
Battle of the 10’s
Look, I’m not going to insult anyone's intelligence here. Justin Herbert is far and away the more talented quarterback in this matchup. Still, he also is going to be tasked with carrying much more of the load compared to Jimmy Garoppolo if the Chargers are going to be victorious.
Despite Herbert having the edge from a talent standpoint, I would argue Garoppolo has performed better over the last month of the season. Since Week 5, Garoppolo has averaged 271.5 yards per game while averaging 8.2 yards per attempt with an 8/3 touchdown to interception ratio.
Garoppolo has been making incredible throws downfield at a rate we have not seen previously during his time with the 49ers, and the 5 percent Big Time Throw Rate he has posted is the fifth best in the NFL this season, trailing only Josh Allen, Aaron Rodgers, Geno Smith, and Lamar Jackson.
Herbert will likely have to provide a heroic effort for the Chargers to leave Levi’s with a win, which the young star has proven more than capable of doing over the years. On the flip side, as long as Garoppolo is efficient and manages the game the way he has been over the last month, it should put the 49ers in a spot to pull this one out.