49ers vs. Lions: 5 X-factors that must go San Francisco’s way in Week 1

Kendall Gaskins #30 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
Kendall Gaskins #30 of the San Francisco 49ers (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /
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Arik Armstead, Joique Bell, San Francisco 49ers, Detroit Lions
Arik Armstead #91 of the San Francisco 49ers tackles Joique Bell #35 of the Detroit Lions (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images) /

If the 49ers want to avoid the Week 1 road upset against the Lions, they’ll need to ensure these five X-factors go their way.

On paper, the San Francisco 49ers should have little trouble going on the road and dominating the rebuilding Detroit Lions from the opening kickoff to the final whistle.

But games aren’t played on paper, the football isn’t round, and there’s always the “any given Sunday” cliche fans so often use when describing why the games are actually played anyway.

Case in point, a non-call apparent offensive pass-interference play helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers stave off an upset against the visiting Dallas Cowboys late in the fourth quarter on Thursday night’s Week 1 regular-season opener.

Nobody likely predicted that X-factor from being a true factor. But it was and certainly played a massive role in determining the outcome of the game.

The Niners will want to eliminate the negative X-factors while exploiting the ones that could help them come away with what should be a one-sided victory over Detroit in Week 1.

Including these five that could have a direct effect on the matchup’s outcome.

No. 5: 49ers must avoid the yellow-flag pitfalls

Staying on the topic of the penalty department, getting flags thrown in your team’s direction is one easy way to open up the door for an upset.

Penalties against San Francisco alone won’t give the Lions an upset victory, but it could certainly allow them to hang around in the game, potentially setting up an opportunity for a last-second field goal or whatever.

Last year, the 49ers had 85 penalties called against them, which was in the bottom third tier of teams and not a bad place to be in. And while the bulk of the Niners starters at that point were reserves, in light of all the injuries they suffered in 2020, one might assume head coach Kyle Shanahan has a general command on his team’s discipline heading into 2021.

The Lions, meanwhile, were flagged 10 more times than San Francisco last season. Yet those numbers could essentially go out the door under first-year head coach Dan Campbell, as it’s not uncommon at all to see a new coaching staff struggle early on to control this kind of situation.

For the 49ers to ensure a win, they have to let Detroit make all the mistakes.