49ers week 15 preview and pick: Titans at San Francisco

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RB Carlos Hyde and the 49ers look to grind out their 3rd straight victory this Sunday at Levi's Stadium against the Titans.

The San Francisco 49ers are rounding in to form. Since the Niners abandoned the sacrosanct walls of “The Stick,” everything about the team has seem amiss, aloof and disjointed. There was a “mutual parting of ways” with the winningest coach since Steve Mariucci, a mass exodus of talent, a once loaded roster decimated by an incompetent general manager and a litany of one year head coaching terms. Levi’s Stadium has been at best, a ghost town. A once vibrant and boisterous fanbase has been relegated to — faith.

The Faithful have ample reason to put that bad bit of Baalke in the recesses of their mind and plunge forward in faith, and trust in direction of Shanahan and Lynch. The potential of what this team can be is starting to take form. After trading for QB Jimmy Garoppolo from the New England Patriots, the 49ers are primed and in shape to turn some heads in NFL circles. The Niners look to expound upon their two game winning streak when they host the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.

The Titans and their QB, Marcus Mariotta, were predicted to take a step forward and compete for the AFC South divisional crown this offseason. After 3/4 of the season gone, the (8-5) Titans have the record of a playoff team and are one game behind the Jacksonville Jaguars for tops in the division. These Titans are the least formidable team in the playoff hunt, and after Mariotta suffered a knee sprain last week against the Arizona Cardinals, they look very vulnerable.

A once promising passing game comprised of former 49er TE Delanie Walker, WRs Richard Matthews, Corey Davis, Eric Decker and Taiwan Taylor, looks middling. The two-headed rushing attack of RBs DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry, although still formidable, is underwhelming. Outside of DT Jurrell Casey, OLB Brian Orakpo and rookie CB Adoree’ Jackson — in flashes — nothing about this Titans defense warrants fear.

After two straight road wins, the 49ers will play inspired football against the Titans, Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first home start at Levi’s and with the front office having its future set at the quarterback position and the team trending in the right direction, perhaps the Faithful will swarm Levi’s Stadium and will show the rest of the country what home field advantage truly looks like.

San Francisco will attempt to extend their win streak to three games when they host the Tennes-see Titans. Kickoff is at 1:25 p.m. PT and can be seen on the CBS Network.

Essentials to win the game
The Niners rush defense will be again charged to contain a capable rushing attack. DTs Deforest Buckner and Earl Mitchell will need to be consistently disruptive in the run game to force Tennessee to pass the ball. The Titans passing game has been so anemic and inconsistent this year, that forcing Marcus Mariotta to beat them would serve the Niners well.

With the Titans rushing for 117 yards per game and the Niners giving up 121 on the ground. Whomever wills themselves the winner of the ground battle will have a big impact on who walks away victorious.

Possible downfalls to avoid
San Francisco cannot afford to have any lapses in pass protection. The Titans enter the game tied for 5th in the league with 37 sacks, and the slapdash offensive line of the 49ers has given up 39 sacks on the year. It is imperative that the 49ers pay particular attention to blitz pick up this week in practice. Tennessee blitzes on 36 percent of passing plays.

The Niners must anticipate the blitz throughout the day. It wouldn’t be far fetched for Dick LeBeau and the Titans to eclipse the 45 percent blitz mark for the game. Blown assignments and whiffs on blocks will result in catastrophic results for San Francisco if they are not keen to the Titans pass rush. If Niner RBs Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida are able to be stout in picking up the blitz, Garoppolo will be able to take advantage of a susceptible secondary.

Player spotlight
After dealing with Jadaveon Clowney last week, San Francisco will need to pay special attention to Brian Orakpo this week. Joe Staley will be tasked with protecting Garoppolo’s blind side and keeping Orakpo from bearing down on him.

The availability of RT Trent Brown is again in question as he may miss another game while nursing a shoulder injury. Reserve lineman, Zane Beadles filled in for Brown last week and struggled with keeping Clowney out of the 49ers backfield. If Brown is again unable to play, the Titans will bring various blitzes and stunts along the right side of the 49ers offensive line.

Game Projection
This game has the makings of having some late game heroics. The San Francisco 49ers will contain much of the Titans rushing attack and force Marcus Mariotta to beat them. Titans TE Delanie Walker will be motivated as he returns to the Bay, where ousted GM Trent Baalke had refused to resign the gifted pass catcher. Mariota will connect with Walker up the seam and in the end zone for much of the afternoon.

When Mariotta is unable to find and connect with Walker, he will opt to scramble and use his legs to extend plays and pick up chunk yardage. Walker will end the day with 80 receiving yards and a touchdown, and Mariotta will finish the day with 285 of total yardage. Mariotta will throw for 2 TDs and rush for an additional 1. The rest of the Titans offense will struggle to produce. Tennessee will have over 30 rushing attempts for the day and will amass 130 yards on the ground.

The 49ers offense will continue to click and showcase what it has the capability of being. San Francisco will give the Titans a strong dosage of outside runs with Carlos Hyde. As the Titans commit to the blitz throughout the day, San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan will dial up a screen pass that Matt Breida will take to the house. Hyde and Breida, and fullback Kyle Juszczyk, will give the Titans defense fits as pass catchers out of the backfield.

Jimmy Garoppolo will continue to light up defenses as he finds Marquise Goodwin and Trent Taylor. This performance against the Titans will get Jimmy Garoppolo paid. He will throw for over 300 yards and 3 touchdowns and everyone will get to see why all of Garoppolo’s teammates are believers in his leadership and skill set.

After sitting as underdogs the entire year, the Niners are favored for their first time this season. They currently sit as a 2 point favorite and are 7-6 against the spread for the 2017 season. San Francisco moves their official record to 4-10 on the year and Jimmy Garoppolo’s first start at Levi’s Stadium is capped with a 35-24 win over the Titans.

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