Lions vs. 49ers: Battle of the NFC Darkhorses
What happens when you take a team with a seemingly unstoppable offense and pair them against one of the league’s toughest and physical defenses? You have the Week 6 matchup of the San Francisco 49ers against the Detroit Lions!
The Lions and the 49ers? Really? Unstoppable offense? Toughest defense? Really?
I know, right. I’m exaggerating a little bit but the Lions are scoring 31.8 points per game. Calvin Johnson is playing like Jerry Rice and Randy Moss had a lovechild. Matthew Stafford is finally healthy and clicking on all cylinders. Even Jahvid Best is nearly on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing and 1,000-yard receiving season.
On the other side of the field you have the 49ers. New head coach Jim Harbaugh has this team completely dialed-in and let’s all admit that former coach Mike Singletary didn’t leave the cupboard bare.
The 49ers are only allowing 15.6 points per game, the second lowest total in the NFL. They still have the game’s best linebacker in Patrick Willis at the center of it all and although there isn’t a single other household name on the defensive side of the ball, is there a better defense in the NFC? It doesn’t look like it. The Niners are +10 in turnovers, Detroit is +7.
Detroit has all the fantasy football firepower: Stafford, Megatron, Best, and Brandon Pettigrew. The 49ers have Frank Gore, at least when he’s healthy and the oft-inconsistent Vernon Davis. The 49ers leading wide receiver is Josh Morgan, who is now out for the year. Now the 49ers will have to rely on Michael Crabtree, which hasn’t worked out well yet in his young career. They’ve also got Braylon Edwards and Ted Ginn who have a combined eight receptions for 86 receiving yards. Best can beat that yardage total with his longest run of the year.
The key to the San Francisco’s success is their ability to shut down the run and make teams one-dimensional. They’ve only allowed 382 rushing yards and have yet to give up a touchdown on the ground. This will be, by far, Best’s toughest fantasy matchup of the year.
But San Francisco can be beat. They let Michael Vick pass for 416 yards and rush for another 75 in their Week 4 game on the road. In Week 2, Tony Romo passed for 345 yards and two TDs. If Detroit wants to gain any traction against this defense, they’ll need to be able to set up the pass with the run, limit how often they are in 2nd/3rd and long situations and take care of the ball. The Lions and 49ers aren’t juggernauts yet. Most teams would likely prefer a trip to the Bay or Motor City as opposed to Green Bay or New England.
The Lions and 49ers are a combined 9-1 and this early season matchup looks to be one of the best of the year. Whichever teams comes out on top immediately becomes a NFC frontrunner that will be expected to make the playoffs and potentially represent the conference in the Super Bowl. Of course, it’s still very early and a losing streak dampens the momentum each team has established, but it’s these sorts of games that can define a season and create a trajectory towards greatness or insignificance.