The Niners will attempt to match their longest winning streak of the Kyle Shanahan era on Christmas Eve against the Washington Commanders. Currently sitting at seven straight victories, the seventh seed in the NFC will stand in the way of Brock Purdy and company from delivering an early gift for San Francisco fans far and wide.
These teams met in 2019 during the last big streak in what proved to be an iconic moment for the revamped defense, the DC Mud Bowl. There will be less slipping and sliding this time as the Bay Area might be one of the few places in the country not impacted by the bomb cyclone. It will be a downright balmy 60 degrees around kickoff, which everyone can agree is truly the best football weather.
To help us prepare for this matchup, I reached out to Kyle Smith of Hogs Haven, who helpfully answered all my questions to give us the advanced scouting report on Taylor Heinicke, Chase Young, and more.
Considering the Commanders are sticking with Taylor Heinicke over Carson Wentz, it would seem the trade is already an obvious bust. On the other hand, there’s a report the Niners had a Jimmy G trade lined up for two second-rounders before his shoulder surgery derailed the offseason. Since that’s about what it took to get Wentz, would you rather the Commanders paid the price for Jimmy, even with his current injury, over Carson and what he brings to the table?
Good questions. At the time, many Washington fans were fine with the trade for Wentz but thought the team badly overpaid (the value will end up being around two 3rds, a 4th, and his $28M salary in 2022). Before that trade, I actually wrote a piece looking at potential QB options that explored the possibility of pursuing Jimmy.
When I wrote the article, I thought his value had probably climbed too high to be worth it by virtue of his post-season success. All that said, in retrospect, I think Jimmy would have probably been the best scheme fit for this offense of the vets available last season. In many ways, I see Heinicke as a poor man’s Garoppolo.
What would you determine to be a successful return for Chase Young on Saturday?
At this point, I think the expectations for Young’s return are pretty guarded. For me, a successful return is that there is no drop off from the level of performance that James Smith-Williams and Casey Toohill have been providing in Young’s absence. I think most Washington fans aren’t expecting to see Young at his best until next year. If he happens to get a sack or two this week, fans will be ecstatic.
These two teams have been built similarly in that the defensive line represents the strongest and most complete position group for each side. They both generate pressure and create chaos. How do you anticipate the battle of the trenches to go, and who will reign victorious?
Throughout this season, I’ve referred to Washington as San Francisco 2.0 a number of times. Washington’s defense is very much built in the mold of SF, and if Chase Young comes back as a high performer, I could see both defenses competing for the number one spot next year.
For the time being, however, SF’s defense is better than Washington’s. More importantly, its offensive line appears to be much better. Give Heinicke Brock Purdy’s offensive protection, and I suspect they’re capable of pretty similar outcomes. I think the odds are that the 49ers will win, but I also think Washington is capable of beating San Francisco if they gamble a bit.
Who’s a player on either side of the ball that fans may not know about coming into the game but might make a huge impact?
On offense, rookie wide receiver Jahan Dotson has shown a lot of promise when he’s been healthy and targeted so far this season. He’s actually second in receiving TDs in this rookie class, despite only playing in nine games. Washington fans are really excited to see what he’s capable of in the years to come.
On defense, second-year safety Darrick Forrest has developed into an absolute beast this season. With three interceptions and two forced fumbles, he’s had a game-changing impact on several games this year. He’s also a menacing hitter in the secondary and along with Kam Curl, forms the best safety duo Washington has had in a very long time. If Curl is out with an injury this week, expect Forrest to have a notable impact on the game.
According to DraftKings Sportsbook, the Niners are 6.5-point favorites coming into this game, and the over/under is set at 37.5 points. Given that, how do you see the contest playing out? Do the Commanders cover, or could they possibly win outright? Will it be another low-scoring affair for both teams?
I could definitely see Washington covering, and I would hammer the “under.” Everything is lining up for this to be a battle of two very good defenses.