Rejoice, Niners Nation readers! You survived the offseason, and in a little over 48 hours, you will see the 49ers take the field in Chicago as they kick their season off against the Bears. DraftKings Sportsbook has the Niners at -7 heading into the weekend.
But, first, I’m going to highlight a few key matchups and give my prediction for a 49ers season that I predict will be very promising.
Let’s start with the quarterback position, where two top quarterbacks from the 2021 draft class will face off. Justin Fields enters year two with a bit more NFL experience than Trey Lance, having almost 200 more passing attempts during his rookie season. Fields finished the 2021 season throwing for 1,870 yards with seven touchdowns and ten interceptions on a 58% completion percentage.
Fields also possesses plus mobility, and the 49ers got firsthand experience with how dangerous Fields rushing ability can be when the two teams met last season.
Still in disbelief that this happened pic.twitter.com/TuPL135S29— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) September 9, 2022
On the flip side, the 49ers also have a young and mobile quarterback in Lance, who has shown his ability to stress defenses with his legs.
Trey Lance rushing TD on a ‘WIPE’ call that has the play side TE pin the DE while the PST (Trent Williams) pulls to the outside defender pic.twitter.com/fR4EQKtCYU— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) September 6, 2022
While Fields has the upper hand in experience at the NFL level, Lance has the luxury of having a better team around him which is more valuable in the vacuum of a single game. As a result, Fields will likely have to be heroic for the Bears to win this game, and Lance does not.
Chicago does have some nice pieces at the skill positions, as Darnell Mooney, David Montgomery, and Cole Kmet lead a solid group of playmakers. Nobody on the Bears is near the level of Deebo Samuel; however, who did this the last time these two teams met?
Brandon Aiyuk joined in on the fun last time the 49ers were in Chicago.
Brandon Aiyuk running “Lookie” to perfection pic.twitter.com/BdLA2ljhrE— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) September 1, 2022
It’s been reported that George Kittle is dealing with a Grade 2 groin strain, and I would expect him to be out for this game after missing practice Thursday. Being without Kittle is a huge blow to the offense, particularly in the running game.
The last time Kittle missed a Lance start, the ground game had a handful of missed opportunities directly tied to missed assignments and or poor execution in the run game from the tight end position sans Kittle. Something to keep an eye on in this game, particularly with a forecast calling for an 80% chance of rain which probably will lead to both teams running the ball more.
Moving to the offensive line, we get a great matchup between two First-Team All-Pro selections from 2021. Robert Quinn is coming off of a year that saw him post 18 sacks, while Trent Williams reset the standard of what greatness is at the left tackle position with one of the most dominant seasons we have ever seen from an offensive lineman.
When the 49ers met the Bears last season, Quinn lined up on Williams’ side for 27 pass-rushing snaps. On those 27 reps, this was the only pressure that Quinn registered against Williams.
Williams got the best of Quinn the last time these two squared off, with most of the reps going something like this.
Trent Williams vs 2021 First Team All-Pro Robert Quinn pic.twitter.com/10AfoQmBWE— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) September 5, 2022
Both teams have young starters on the offensive line, but the 49ers’ defensive line is more equipped to take advantage of that. There will also be some familiar matchups, as Arik Armstead will see a recognizable foe on the interior. Bears starting center Lucas Patrick was on the Green Bay Packers last year, and this is what happened the last time he and Armstead went toe to toe.
Arik Armstead vs Lucas Patrick from the divisional round last year— Jordan Elliott (@JLeeElliott) September 7, 2022
Patrick is now the starting center for the Chicago Bears pic.twitter.com/enE7NubxGP
Chicago also has a familiar face at right tackle, where Riley Reiff is penciled in as the starter. The 49ers saw Reiff in Cincinnati last season, and he and Nick Bosa are quite familiar with one another. Bosa did this against Reiff to cap off a win over the Vikings back in 2019.
I’d expect the pressure the 49ers will ultimately be able to get on the Bears’ defense to be the difference in this contest. In a wet game that will be dictated by who can win at the line of scrimmage, I give the nod to the 49ers in this one. Not having Jimmie Ward on the back end will be tough, and missing Kittle will undoubtedly be felt on the offensive side of the ball.
I think this 49ers team is too talented to let those two injuries prevent them from coming back from Chi-town with a win. My final prediction:
49ers 24 - Bears 13