49ers vs. Colts: 3 key Niners who’ll make all the difference in Week 7

San Francisco 49ers, Brandon Aiyuk. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports
San Francisco 49ers, Brandon Aiyuk. Mandatory Credit: Brian Fluharty-USA TODAY Sports /
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Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers
Fred Warner, San Francisco 49ers. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images) /

2-4. 46. 2-3. 49ers -4.5. NBC. Sunday, Oct. 24. 42. 8:20 p.m. ET

There have been a lot of question marks for the 49ers in an inconsistent 2021 season, and these players need to find the answers in Week 7.

It’s time for the San Francisco 49ers to turn things around. With an extra week of rest, they have no excuse not to come out of Week 7 with a 3-3 record and a win over Indianapolis.

The 49ers are 4.5 points favorites over the Indianapolis Colts, and rightfully so. Indianapolis certainly isn’t having the quarterback drama that San Francisco is dealing with, but the offense is ranked two spots behind the Niners in both rushing and passing yards per game. No big advantages there, until you consider Indianapolis’ significantly inferior defense. Despite holding the Houston Texans to a field goal in their 31-3 victory last week, the Colts are ranked No. 20 in total defense.

The 49ers are ranked No. 6 in the same category.

The scales look to be tipped in San Francisco’s favor, and Indy is the type of team that the Niners will have to beat handedly if they want to make a case for a playoff slot down the road. It’s going to take more than a one- or two-score victory to jolt this team back into relevance in arguably the toughest division in football. This has to be a dominant performance.

As the 49ers look to turn things around with a Week 7 win and propel themselves back into a run for the postseason, here are some key players to watch.

3 San Francisco 49ers to watch in Week 7 vs. Indianapolis Colts

3. 49ers LB Fred Warner

Linebacker Fred Warner has bolstered an impressive San Francisco defense since 2018. In July, the All-Pro talent became the highest-paid inside linebacker in the league after signing a five-year extension worth over $95 million. You can’t talk about the top defensive talent in the league without mentioning Warner’s name.

Unfortunately, his play has regressed a bit in the 49ers’ 2021 campaign, and he’s fallen out of the top-10 linebacker rankings based on stats. Numbers don’t tell the whole story, and Warner is still making an impact each game, but his decline is hard to argue. If we are going to talk about making a u-turn in the right direction on the road to playoffs, Warner’s play has to drive that for the defense.

Even more reason to pay attention to Warner is Week 7 is the competition between him and his counterpart. Conversations about the league’s best linebackers often center around the comparison between Warner and the Colts’ Darius Leonard.

By the numbers, Leonard has had an edge over Warner. This head-to-head matchup between Indy and the Niners is the perfect opportunity for Warner to step up and elevate himself above the opposing linebacker.

Especially against a team with a very comparable offense, look for the defensive star to snap out of his slight slump and stifle the Colts.