Game planning in the NFL is all about matchups. It’s like playing chess – only in this case the chess pieces are soccer players.
How does Detroit fare against San Francisco?
Detroit is seven point underdogs: will Lions be able to cover this spread?
The chess masters in this game will be Detroit’s defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn against the sorcery of San Francisco head coach Kyle Shanahan.
Glenn is a new defensive coordinator with a strong defensive background – both as a player and as an assistant coach. Shanahan, on the other hand, is widely viewed as being very skilled at creating inequalities.
That preseason, Shanahan was busy gaining a game day advantage by installing a two-QB system, alternating with veteran QB Jimmy Garoppolo and rookie QB Trey Lance. But that will have to wait as Lance is inactive for this game with a hand injury.
It leaves Garoppolo under the center, which works the central parts of the field most effectively.
San Francisco has offensive weapons everywhere, with receivers Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, and Mohamed Sanu who is best in the red zone. Shanahan is also very fond of the Jalen Hurd Reserve. But Hurd has had a hard time staying on the ball this preseason.
The back of the 49ers is Raheem Mostert, a vicious inside-out runner with good hands.
Look for San Francisco to immediately target George Kittle and attack Detroit’s new 3-4 defense philosophy (three down linemen and four linebackers). Kittle will be reporting on Detroit OLB Trey Flowers who has spent the last couple of seasons as a 4-3 rush end. Although Flowers is a good athlete, it has been a while since he last played the “Jack” LB commercial in New England (a player who specializes in rushing the QB and falling into coverage ). Flowers will get help from security guards Tracy Walker and Will Harris, but that matchup alone could decide or destroy the game.
It will also be tough for Detroit to get Garoppolo hot because the top seven of the Lions don’t go well with the San Francisco offensive line.
Detroit’s two best pass rushers are Flowers and his OLB colleague Romeo Okwara.
Detroit’s only real hope of exerting heat is lightning, and that is inadvisable against Shanahan.