All eyes on Lance, Fields as 49ers visit Bears for opener
SAN FRANCISCO (12-8) at CHICAGO (6-11)
Sunday, 1 p.m. EDT, Fox
OPENING LINE: 49ers by 6½, according to FanDuel SportsBook.
SERIES RECORD: 49ers lead 35-32-1.
LAST MEETING: 49ers beat Bears 33-22 on Oct. 31, 2021.
49ERS OFFENSE: OVERALL (7), RUSH (7), PASS (12), SCORING (13).
49ERS DEFENSE: OVERALL (3), RUSH (7), PASS (6), SCORING (9t).
BEARS OFFENSE: OVERALL (24), RUSH (14), PASS (30), SCORING (27).
BEARS DEFENSE: OVERALL (6), RUSH (23t), PASS (3), SCORING (22).
TURNOVER DIFFERENTIAL: 49ers minus-4; Bears minus-13.
49ERS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Trey Lance. Lance begins his first full season as starting QB for the Niners after starting two games as a rookie in 2021. Lance completed 57.7% of his passes in limited action as a rookie, averaging 8.5 yards per attempt with five TDs and two INTs. Lance also ran 38 times for 168 yards and a TD and brings a new element to San Francisco’s offense.
BEARS PLAYER TO WATCH: QB Justin Fields. All eyes are on Fields this season as new general manager Ryan Poles and coach Matt Eberflus will decide if the former Ohio State star can be the one to stabilize a position that has haunted a founding NFL franchise for much of its history. Fields struggled as a rookie last year, with more interceptions (10) than touchdown passes (seven) along with an unimpressive 73.2 rating.
KEY MATCHUP: 49ers WR Deebo Samuel vs. Bears CB Jaylon Johnson. Samuel, coming off a stellar season, dominated the Bears last year with six catches for 171 yards. Johnson, beginning his third season, wants to establish himself as a top-tier cornerback. And a good showing against an All-Pro would go a long way toward doing just that.
KEY INJURIES: 49ers TE George Kittle (groin) missed practice early in the week and his status for the game is in question. ... S Jimmie Ward is on IR with a hamstring injury. ... The Bears had a long list of players injured during the preseason, including WR Byron Pringle (quad), C Lucas Patrick (right hand) and S Jaquan Brisker (hand). But they listed just two players on their initial injury report on Wednesday — WR Velus Jones Jr. (hamstring) and DL Dominique Robinson (knee).
SERIES NOTES: San Francisco has won two of three against Chicago.
STATS AND STUFF: The 49ers are looking to win back-to-back openers for the first time since having a streak of six straight from 2011-16. ... San Francisco is 2-1 in openers on the road under coach Kyle Shanahan. ... San Francisco has allowed a league-low 302.2 yards per game and 194.8 yards passing per game over the past three seasons. ... The Niners led the NFL averaging 6.1 yards per play last season. ... San Francisco WR Deebo Samuel had 1,770 yards from scrimmage and 14 TDs in 2021. ... Lance (22 years, 125 days) will be the youngest QB to start an opener for the 49ers, beating the mark Alex Smith set in 2006 at 22 years, 126 days. ... San Francisco RB Elijah Mitchell ran for a franchise rookie-record 963 yards last season. ... Niners DE Nick Bosa tied for the NFL lead with 21 tackles for loss last season, including a career-high 15 1/2 sacks. He had two sacks and three tackles for loss against the Bears last season. ... The Bears hired Poles and Eberflus to replace fired GM Ryan Pace and coach Matt Nagy after missing the playoffs for the ninth time in 11 years. This will be Eberflus’ first game as a head coach. ... Fields played in 12 games and made 10 starts last season, completing 159 of 270 passes for 1,870 yards. He ran for 420 yards and two touchdowns. ... DE Robert Quinn broke Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s franchise record with 18 1/2 sacks last season. ... LB Roquan Smith — who staged a “hold in” for most of camp over stalled contract extension negotiations — was second-team, All-Pro the past two seasons. ... WR Darnell Mooney’s 142 catches are the most by any Bears player in their first two NFL seasons. He led the team with 81 receptions for a career-high 1,055 yards last year.
FANTASY TIP: Assuming he plays, Kittle would figure to be busy particularly going against a rookie in Brisker.
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