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3 bold predictions for the 49ers home opener

Air Ayuk. A QB leading the team in rushing for the second week in a row? Plus, the sacks pile up.

San Francisco 49ers v Chicago Bears Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images

You’d think we see a more focused team Sunday as the 49ers have their home opener at Levi’s Stadium against their rival Seahawks. Wednesday, head coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday night’s contest between Seattle and Denver was “fun to watch” and how the Seahawks are well coached with a bunch of talent, so it wasn’t surprising to see them come out and play the way they did.

Let’s make no mistake about it; that was Seattle’s Super Bowl. And while they’ve had the Niners' number during the past decade, Pete Carroll’s bunch were fortunate to get out of Week 1 with a victory.

Earlier in the week, the forecast in Santa Clara called for a 40 percent chance of rain. As of Thursday morning, that number has doubled to 80 percent, with the weather sitting at 58 degrees. The rain got up to 5” in Chicago. Sunday’s projection only calls for up to 0.35 inches.

I don’t expect puddles on the field, as we saw in Soldier Field, but there’s no doubt the conditions hinder how the 49ers are built. Shanahan has built his offense like a track team. So, naturally, one of the offenses’ most significant advantages, speed, was negated in Week 1 and could be once again in Week 2.

Despite the weather and the history of this rivalry, Vegas projects this game to be two possessions as the 49ers are favored by 8.5 points on DraftKings Sportsbook. How will the Niners bounce back in Week 2? Let’s make three bold predictions to figure that question out.

Aiyuk goes over 100 yards

Denver did whatever they wanted to offensively Monday night. They had a 50 percent success rate, and 30 percent of their plays resulted in first downs. Moving the ball wasn’t an issue, as Russell Wilson’s 0.43 EPA/play was the third highest among all QBs in Week 1.

Denver had gains of 67, 30, 27, and a few others in the teens. The big plays will be there for the taking. 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk caught both of his targets for 40 yards. That target number should be quadrupled Sunday, especially if Deebo Samuel will be used more in the backfield.

On Wednesday, Trey Lance said this about Aiyuk: “He’s a huge weapon for us, and he’s done a great job, and that’ll start to show up more and more, I promise.” I’m taking the bait and believe the team will get the ball into Aiyuk’s hands.

We saw the high cross that Aiyuk caught for 31 yards. He also aligned in the slot 16% of the time. With Jamal Adams out, the Seahawks are even more inexperienced in the secondary. I like Aiyuk’s matchups across the board this week and think he surpasses 100 receiving yards for the fourth time in his career.

Trey Lance leads the team in rushing for the second game in a row

The Broncos did a number of head-scratching things Monday night. One of those was only giving Javonte Williams seven carries, despite averaging over six yards a pop.

Seattle’s defense had a 21 percent rushing success rate on early downs. I think Shanahan leans into Lance’s legs on first and second down this week to get ahead of the chains. The Seahawks will key on Deebo, and that’s precisely what San Francisco wants. Option plays with built-in wrinkles are impossible to stop:

You have to guess right, basically.

Lance ran for 54 yards compared to Deebo’s 52 yards. It’ll be close, but I like Lance to lead the team in rushing this week as he presents the biggest matchup advantage in the running game for the 49ers.

4 different players have a sack

The 49ers pressured Justin Fields 12 times, including two sacks and a quarterback hit on 23 dropbacks. They were in the backfield every other play, and that shouldn’t change against a team starting a pair of rookie offensive tackles with a statue at quarterback.

First-round pick Charles Cross was charged with allowing two sacks, but one of those was on Geno Smith. Dating back to his days at West Virginia, Geno doesn’t move off his spot once he reaches the top of his drop. That bodes well for the Niners' defensive line.

Sunday would be disappointing if the defense only had two sacks. Another part of the weather that wasn’t discussed last week was it didn’t allow DeMeco Ryans to get into any of his exotic looks on obvious passing downs.

Geno was money under pressure and when blitzed last week, going 8-for-9 against the Blitz and 6-for-8 when under pressure. It should go without saying that those numbers are unsustainable, and on the road against an elite defense, one could expect a drop in production.

If I’m the Seahawks, I’m triple-teaming Nick Bosa and not letting him beat me. Obviously, it’s easier said than done when you have a threat at every position along the defensive line. This brings us to my prediction: four different players have a sack Sunday. Bosa, Samson Ebukam, Arik Armstead, and Charles Omenihu.