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Detroit Lions vs. San Francisco 49ers preview: 5 questions with Niners Wire

Get to know the enemy

NFL: Las Vegas Raiders at San Francisco 49ers Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Let’s go! It’s finally Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season, and we couldn’t be happier. It’s time to enjoy some Detroit Lions football and all the spoils that comes with it. One of those spoils is getting to talk to our frenemies from around the league. Today we talked to our friend and fellow hat connoisseur Kyle Madson of Niners Wire and 95.7 The Game, and he gave us the 411 (kids still say that, right?) on what to expect from the 49ers this weekend. Here’s what he had to say.

1. Who’s going to be the 49ers quarterback on Sunday? Yes we have a gun to your head.

“Jimmy Garoppolo will start. The question is how much Trey Lance plays. It seemed like head coach Kyle Shanahan was planning to get him in for a handful of plays, but that was before Lance suffered a small chip fracture on his right index finger in the 49ers’ preseason finale. If Lance can’t fully prepare, they won’t play him. However, if he practices in full and they’re confident with him taking snaps and making throws, we could see him on the field Sunday. It will most definitely be as the QB2 behind Garoppolo though.”

2. Where can the Lions have an advantage in this game?

“So, I genuinely tried finding a schematic advantage the Lions might have. That’s not super easy because the 49ers have a roster that might get them to the Super Bowl, and the Lions are sort of on the opposite end of that spectrum. Detroit has a new head coach though whose motivational skills will surely have the Lions flying around in Week 1. If they can keep the 49ers from creating explosive plays in the run game, keep the score low and force Garoppolo to beat them — it gives them a much better chance to win. Also it’s a 10 a.m. Pacific Time kickoff. Shoutout to time zones.”

3. What off-the-radar 49er should Lions fans be worried about?

“I’m going to pick one from each side of the ball because I am indecisive! On offense it’s wide receiver Trent Sherfield. He’s been with Arizona for three years mostly as a special teams contributor. He had a big camp for San Francisco though and carried that over into preseason games. Sherfield can get vertical in a way neither Deebo Samuel nor Brandon Aiyuk typically do.

Defensively the guy to watch is DL Arik Armstead. He led the 49ers in sacks in 2019, but struggled last year with DeForest Buckner gone and Nick Bosa and Dee Ford hurt most of the year. Having Bosa and Ford back will allow Armstead to kick inside on passing downs where he’s a much better pass rusher than he is off the edge. If the 49ers are getting interior pressure it’ll be a long day for Jared Goff.”

4. How many times will the announcers mention that Matthew Stafford doesn’t play for the Lions anymore?

“Setting the over/under here at 6.5 if we include the pre-kickoff hit and I’m leaning slightly over. There’ll invariably be a couple third-and-longs where they mention Stafford or missed deep shot from Goff where they talk about Stafford’s arm strength and such.

And since we’re here — I’m a massive Matthew Stafford stan and went on record (read: tweeted it) that I thought Stafford would do 2016 Matt Ryan numbers in Shanahan’s offense. I think he can do something similar with McVay and the Rams might mess around and win like 14 games this year in large part because of Stafford. Thanks for giving me a platform to say this.”

5. Who’s winning this thing?

“I think the 49ers win it, but the 7.5-point line feels kind of outrageous. It’s the home opener for Detroit with a new coaching staff, and the game kicks off at 10 a.m. PT which should give the Lions at least an early advantage. It’s also worth noting Garoppolo is a notoriously slow starter. San Francisco has enough of a talent advantage to overcome those obstacles, but it’s not going to be a blowout. 49ers 24, Lions 19

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