No. 2: 49ers’ Ahkello Witherspoon vs. Texans’ DeAndre Hopkins
Despite the Texans being forced to start backup quarterback Tom Savage in the wake of rookie QB Deshaun Watson’s season-ending knee injury, No. 1 Houston wideout DeAndre Hopkins is still putting forth a remarkable season.
Hopkins ranks second among all NFL receivers entering Week 14 in receiving yards (1,084),212 behind the league leader, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown.
It’s safe to say any chance the Texans have to win this game, offensively, comes down to how big an impact Hopkins has versus the 49ers secondary.
Covering him largely falls upon the shoulders of rookie cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon.
Witherspoon has been tested moderately this year — 210 pass-coverage snaps — but didn’t face much opposition with the Bears’ anemic receiving corps last week. Hopkins presents a serious challenge, vastly superior to what the rookie had to deal with last week.
If stopping Houston’s ground game is of serious importance to San Francisco’s defense, the Witherspoon-versus-Hopkins matchup is just as crucial.