49ers vs. Lions: Previewing Week 16 for San Francisco

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Oct 19, 2014; Denver, CO, USA; San Francisco 49ers tackle Joe Staley (74) prior to the game against the Denver Broncos at Sports Authority Field at Mile High. Mandatory Credit: Chris Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

49ers Offensive & Defensive X-Factors

Quarterback Blaine Gabbert has now had back-to-back games in which he has struggled to make adequate decisions and plays under center. His sack numbers have increased as have his interception totals, while his passer rating has dropped to 82.8.

Fingers can be pointed in a variety of directions here. But it will be interesting to see how Gabbert responds to a Lions defense ranking No. 6 in the league with just six interceptions on the season.

One of the players trying to get to Gabbert will be Detroit defensive end Ezekiel Ansah. He leads the Lions with 13.5 sacks and will frequently line up opposite left tackle Joe Staley.

Staley versus Ansah will be a battle to watch Sunday.

Another battle to watch will be nickel back Jimmie Ward facing off against Lions wideout Golden Tate.

The Lions like to use Tate in slot formations and as a complement to wide receiver Calvin Johnson. Ward has seen his stock rise considerably since his forgettable 2014 rookie season and has been one of the 49ers’ best defensive backs this year according to Jeff Deeney of Pro Football Focus.

But the 49ers secondary will have to get some help from the 49ers’ front seven. Thankfully, 38 sacks allowed is enough of an indication to suggest San Francisco’s pass-rushers will have ample opportunities to get to quarterback Matthew Stafford.

Combine that with a solid run-stopping effort from the 49ers defensive front, and it’s feasible San Francisco’s defense could limit what the Lions will want to do.

Next: Game Info & How to Watch