49ers week 16 preview and pick: Jaguars at San Francisco

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TE George Kittle and the 49ers face a stiff challenge for their fourth straight win, hosting the Jaguars this Sunday at Levi's Stadium.

Curb your enthusiasm, but the San Francisco 49ers are pretty good. At the beginning of the season, they were the pimple faced kid with a mouth full of braces. The Niners have gone from ugly duckling to beautiful swan and will face their greatest test when they face the Jacksonville Jaguars. The 49ers are primed with the opportunity to flirt with impending free agents by showing them that San Francisco not only is a beautiful city, but that the Niners will be the belles of next fall’s ball.

The 49ers and QB Jimmy Garoppolo are no longer courting — they’re engaged. With a solid showing against the leagues best defense, head coach Kyle Shanahan and GM John Lynch will ensure that Garoppolo and the Niners are espoused shortly after the season ends.

The Jaguars enter the game with a vaunted defense. They boast a pair of Pro Bowl cornerbacks in A.J. Bouye and Jalen Ramsey, and a pair of stout defensive lineman in Malik Jackson and AFC sack leader, Calias Campbell. Moving the ball against the Jaguars will be the toughest test San Francisco has faced this year, and if Jimmy Garoppolo is able to compete against a Super Bowl contender with minimal talent at his disposal, Garoppolo will be on the short list of MVP candidates for a few pundits next year.

With a win over the Jaguars, the 49ers would go from a recent laughing stock to a team worthy of attention moving into the offseason. San Francisco will put their three game win streak on the line when they host the Jacksonville Jaguars this Sunday. Kickoff is at 1:05 p.m. PT and can be seen on the CBS Network.

Essentials to win the game
The Niners will again need to rely upon their rush defense to contain Jacksonville rookie RB Leonard Fournette. San Francisco has held their last four opponents under 100 yards rushing. Although Jaguars QB Blake Bortles has looked phenomenal the past few weeks, the 49ers would be best suited forcing him to beat them.

The 49ers will need to eat up much of the clock and punctuate drives with touchdowns. They can ill afford mental mistakes that have plagued the team throughout the season. San Francisco currently are third in the league with 111 penalties on the year. If the Niners are to stand a chance, it is imperative that they not shoot themselves in the foot.

Possible downfalls to avoid
If San Francisco has any fissures along its offensive line, this game will get ugly. Jacksonville has a dominant defense. The Jaguars are able to get consistent pressure with their front four, and they play lock-down defense outside with Bouye and Ramsey all but shutting down receiving corps. If the 49ers are unable to win along the line of scrimmage, San Francisco RBs Carlos Hyde and Matt Breida will not have much room to run, and Jimmy Garoppolo will find himself under duress throughout the day.

The 49ers must not allow the Jaguar defense to score points off turnovers. If Jimmy Garoppolo has time to find underneath receivers, and the Niners are able to run the ball, they can keep the score from ballooning and getting out of hand. It cannot be stated enough, the Jaguars defense is the real deal. With how the team is playing in all three phases — offense, defense, and special teams, the Jaguars are capable of a deep playoff run. If the Niners are to upend the Jaguars, they can not give Jacksonville anything.

Player spotlight
49er WR Marquise Goodwin will be taken out of the game by the Jacksonville cornerbacks. The 49ers don’t have many proven options after him. Rookie pass catchers, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, and Greg Kittle will need to step up in a major way if they are to compete. Kittle and Taylor will be looked upon to win their individual matchups in the middle of the field. Bourne has size and physicality to win along the boundary. He will need to be physical at the top of his routes and win contested catches.

Game Projection
The legend of “Jimmy GQ” will continue to grow. After struggling to contain Leonard Fournette on much of the day, the 49ers QB will be tapped late in the game to drive them down the field. The Jacksonville Jaguars will have some success rushing the ball. The Jaguars power rushing attack will open up a few holes throughout the day, and Leonard Fournette will impose his physical running style to fight for every yard he gains. The 49ers will be able to keep Fournette from eclipsing the 100 yard mark, but Fournette will find the endzone. Fournette will end the day with 85 yards and 2 touchdowns.

After getting a stop with the game in the balance, the 49ers will get Jimmy G the ball for a last ditch effort to win. Garoppolo will find several different receivers on his final drive and punctuate it with a touchdown in the waning moments. Garoppolo will end the day with 270 yards and 2 touchdowns on the day.

The Niners currently sit as a 4.5 point underdog and are 7-7 against the spread for the year. San Francisco will win their fourth straight and move to 5-10 on the year, closing out their season at Levi’s Stadium with a 21-24 win over the Jaguars.

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