49ers vs. Lions: 4 matchups that determine who wins Week 1

DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Players from Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
DETROIT, MI - DECEMBER 27: Players from Detroit Lions and San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /
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San Francisco 49ers
San Francisco 49ers against the Detroit Lions (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images) /

The 49ers are heavily favored in Week 1 on the road against the Lions, but winning will come down to these four key matchups.

After months of waiting, the San Francisco 49ers‘ 2021 regular-season schedule is now just days away from beginning, and the team will kick off the calendar on the road against a rebuilding Detroit Lions squad looking for some early momentum under first-year head coach Dan Campbell.

It’s not too big a shocker to see the Niners heavily favored in this road bout. After all, San Francisco boasts a playoff-caliber roster, while Detroit is beginning only the opening phases of a large-scale retooling.

But, Week 1 games can be awfully weird. Remember when the 2016 49ers blanked the Los Angeles Rams in a shutout in Week 1 that year, only to go on and win a mere one more game that season?

One can hope the Niners don’t fall on the wrong side of that kind of anomaly to kick off their 2021 campaign.

Even though this seems to be a lopsided affair, the winner will ultimately be the team that takes care of these four matchups and X-factors on Sunday.

No. 4: 49ers pass rush vs. Lions offensive line

Some Football 101 chatter here, but teams that dominate the line of scrimmage typically come away with wins, and that shouldn’t be any different in Week 1 despite the differences in where San Francisco and Detroit both are in terms of their respective rosters.

While the Lions have a long way to go before becoming a playoff contender, their offensive line is actually a fairly strong unit, anchored by veteran center Frank Ragnow and infused with youthful talent by the first-round NFL Draft addition of right tackle Penei Sewell.

Interestingly enough, Pro Football Focus ranked Detroit’s O-line 10th entering 2021, one spot behind the 49ers’ own O-line.

Yet the Niners have a clear advantage in the pass-rush department, which showed its teeth during the preseason despite EDGEs Nick Bosa and Dee Ford both resting for the regular season.

Both are expected to play in Week 1, however, and it’s safe to say San Francisco’s defensive efforts will start up front by focusing on how effective both Bosa and Ford are at getting to quarterback Jared Goff.

Lacking offensive weapons, Goff being under pressure will only compound Detroit’s issues on that side of the ball.