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Sunday Night Football Preview: Chargers at 49ers

Christian Mccaffrey

GAME PREVIEW: CHARGERS VS. 49ERS

Los Angeles Chargers (5-3) at San Francisco 49ers (4-4)

Line: 49ers (-7) | O/U 45.5

The Los Angeles Chargers will be eyeing their fourth road win of the season when they visit Levi Stadium Sunday night to battle the San Francisco 49ers. The Chargers overcame an early 10-point deficit to clip the Atlanta Falcons, while the 49ers are coming off a Week 9 bye.

TEAM BREAKDOWNS

The blockbuster Christian McCaffrey trade has rejuvenated a 49ers squad that rolled to a 31-14 victory over the Los Angeles Rams two weeks ago. McCaffrey threw, caught, and rushed for a touchdown in the lopsided win. The Chargers are 4-1 in their last five games despite losing both Keenan Allen and Mike Williams to injuries. Los Angeles edged San Francisco the last time these two teams met in 2018. Philip Rivers tossed three touchdowns, and Caleb Sturgis booted three field goals, including the game-winner with seven minutes left in the game.

CHARGERS

Los Angeles has the league’s 13th-ranked scoring offense with 23 points per game and averages 27 points in four road matchups. However, the Chargers have played a soft schedule with games against the Raiders (2-6), Jaguars (3-6), Texans (1-6-1), Browns (3-5), Broncos (3-5), and Falcons (4-6).

Justin Herbert leads a passing attack ranked sixth with 281.8 yards an outing. The third-year quarterback has thrown for 2,254 yards and 13 touchdowns while completing 66.4% of his pass attempts. Veteran receiver Keenan Allen has played in only two games this season, and WR2 Mike Williams is expected to miss at least one game with an ankle injury. Josh Palmer is the top healthy wideout with 34 receptions for 346 yards and one score.

Austin Ekeler is the leading rusher for the Chargers’ 28th-ranked running game. Ekeler has tallied 427 yards and six touchdowns on 98 carries, and has caught 60 passes for 381 yards and four scores. Joshua Kelley is nearing a return for Injured Reserve and will join a crowded backfield that includes Sony Michel and rookie Isaiah Spiller.

Safety Derwin James Jr. has a team-high 72 tackles and three sacks for a defensive unit allowing the fourth-most rushing yards (145.5) per game. Linebacker Drue Tranquill leads the Chargers with 45 solo tackles and has sacked three quarterbacks. Los Angeles has also surrendered the third-most points with opponents averaging 25.8 a game.

Khalil Mack has racked up six sacks for a squad hoping to get star defender Joey Bosa back in Week 12. Bosa tallied 1.5 sacks before suffering a torn groin in Week 3. Morgan Fox has collected 2.5 sacks for the Chargers’ 17th-ranked pass rush, while Sebastian Joseph-Day and Austin Johnson have one sack each.

Cornerback Bryce Callahan has a team-high two interceptions while Tranquill, Kenneth Murray Jr., Asante Samuel Jr., Nasir Adderley, and Alohi Gilman have all tallied one pick.

49ERS

San Francisco’s 19th-ranked scoring offense averages 22 points a game but has posted 54 points in eight quarters since acquiring McCaffrey. The 49ers’ vaunted rushing attack is ranked 15th with just 119.5 yards an outing.

Jimmy Garoppolo directs a surprisingly effective passing attack ranked 12th with 248.1 yards per game. Garoppolo has thrown for 1,691 yards and 11 touchdowns and has only been sacked 15 times in seven matchups.

Leading rusher Jeff Wilson was shipped to Miami at the trade deadline. Dual-threat Deebo Samuel has a team-high 138 rushing yards on 24 carries, and McCaffrey has run the ball 26 times for 132 yards. The duo has combined to score three touchdowns on the ground.

Brandon Aiyuk is the top receiver with 483 yards and four touchdowns on 38 receptions. Samuel has caught 32 passes for 387 yards and a pair of scores, while tight end George Kittle has reeled in 28 balls for 319 yards and two touchdowns.

Defensively, the 49ers boast one of the stingiest units in the NFL. Linebacker Fred Warner paces the league’s top-ranked rushing defense with 62 tackles, and Dre Greenlaw (58) and Talanoa Hufanga (48) combined for 106 tackles. The 49ers have also allowed the fewest total yards heading into Week 10.

The 49ers allow the eighth-fewest passing yards and have limited opponents to 199 yards per game. Nick Bosa has posted 8.5 sacks for San Francisco’s fifth-ranked pass rush, while Samson Ebukam has recorded 3.5 quarterback takedowns. Charles Omenihu and Drake Jackson have registered three sacks each.

CHARGERS VS. 49ERS PREDICTION

Los Angeles will struggle to run the ball against the league’s top run defense but will struggle to throw the ball consistently without their top two receivers. Ekeler should get showered with targets out of the backfield, but the 49ers have not allowed a receiving touchdown to a running back this season.

San Francisco will attack the Chargers’ leaky run defense, which is allowing a whopping 145.5 yards per game. Los Angeles has only allowed one touchdown pass to enemy tight ends but has surrendered nine scoring passes to wide receivers.

I think the 49ers will shut down the Chargers’ decimated passing game and will wear down Los Angeles’ defense with long scoring drives. Barring an injury to McCaffrey or Garoppolo, San Francisco should cruise to an easy win.

My Prediction: San Francisco 31, Los Angeles 26

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