SF 49ers: 5 best storylines to watch on Monday night vs. Bills
By Peter Panacy
The SF 49ers host the Bills on a Monday Night Football showdown in what’s essentially a must-win game, prompting must-see storylines.
The SF 49ers have overcome bigger odds before this season than the ones they face when they “host” the 8-3 Buffalo Bills at State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona on Monday Night Football this week.
At 5-6, the Niners now stand as one-point favorites over the AFC East-leading Bills, according to The Action Network, which has shifted from Buffalo being the modest favorite in recent days. Considering how close the line is, it’s almost a pick-em game anyway.
Yet San Francisco wasn’t overly close to being favored in Week 12 against the LA Rams, yet it managed to pull off a crucial road win there.
Still, currently seeded at No. 10 in the NFC playoff picture, the SF 49ers can ill-afford to lose this bout against a Bills team it hasn’t seen since 2016. The Niners have to leapfrog two other teams still out of the top seven seeds to have a shot at the No. 7 seed.
That’s going to be one storyline worth watching.
But there are others more specific to Monday night’s prime-time contest. And here are five you’ll want to pay attention to when San Francisco and Buffalo kick off.
No. 5: SF 49ers vs. Bills, who wins the turnover battle?
Neither the Bills nor the SF 49ers have been awfully adept at protecting the ball this season, as Buffalo enters the contest with 16 giveaways, which ranks 20th entering Week 13. The Niners, meanwhile, rank 29th in this category with 20 turnovers lost.
It might not matter quite as much for the Bills, who still have one of the league’s 10 best offenses.
But for quarterback Nick Mullens and San Francisco’s offense, ball protection will be vital.
As far as defensive takeaways go, both the SF 49ers and Bills are in the same ballpark with 16 and 17 turnovers generated, respectively. But Buffalo, stemming from its ability to protect the ball a bit more, is in the positive turnover margin with a plus-0.1 mark per game, whereas the Niners are minus-0.4.
It’s safe to assume whoever winds up being on the right side of the turnover margin in Week 13 winds up winning the game.