The Detroit Lions travel to San Francisco to take on the 49ers on Sunday in the NFC Championship game. The Niners are one of very few teams who can make an argument for being more well-rounded than the Lions. They boast a solid quarterback, an absolute arsenal of weapons at the offensive skill positions, a stout presence in the trenches, and a menacing defense.
Question of the day: What is the biggest mismatch between the Lions and the 49ers?
The more I look at both teams, the more I’m amazed at how well they match up. You’ll have Nick Bosa vs. Penei Sewell on the edge and Javon Hargrave vs. Frank Ragnow on the interior. Sam LaPorta will face off against one of the league’s best linebackers in Fred Warner, while the Lions will deploy Alex Anzalone against Christian McCaffrey. I would expect the Niners to use former Michigan Wolverines CB Ambry Thomas, one of the fastest players, to mirror Jameson Williams.
There are two true mismatches that stand out to me, though. The first is in Amon-Ra St. Brown. He’s had his way with a number of corners this year, from Pat Surtain to Jaire Alexander to Jaylon Johnson—nobody has been able to stop him. Despite how good the Niners are on the back end, I don’t see anyone being able to completely neutralize St. Brown. It won’t help them either that 2022 All-Pro safety Talanoa Hufanga is on IR.
My answer: The other mismatch is 49ers wide receiver Brandon Aiyuk. If Deebo Samuel plays through his shoulder injury on Sunday, it’ll likely be Cam Sutton who follows him around all day. That means Aiyuk will likely spend most of the day matched up against Kindle Vildor.
Despite measuring in at just six feet tall, Aiyuk plays with every pound of his 200-pound frame. I have a hard time seeing Vildor, who has gotten most of the CB2 snaps as of late, keeping Aiyuk in check for the entire duration of the game.
Ultimately, I see this as the biggest mismatch between the two teams, and I’m curious to see where gaps show up as two of the most complete teams in the league face off Sunday. What do you think is the biggest mismatch between the Lions and the 49ers on Sunday? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.