Can the 49ers keep the good times rolling or will the Titans score the upset?
The Tennessee Titans are 8-5 entering an interesting matchup with the suddenly surging three-win 49ers. This is Jimmy Garoppolo's third start with San Francisco with the first two resulting in victories. The former Patriot has been very efficient going 48-for-72 for 645 yards, ;two touchdowns and two interceptions. He's playing for a potential long-term contract and is doing so with a lack of true weapons. Marquise Goodwin is the team's No. 1 receiver with 14 catches for just over 200 yards the last two weeks. Even better for the 49ers is that their defense has shown up big time, holding their last three opponents to 242 yards on the ground. The last two of those contests were on the road against Chicago and Houston.
Tennessee's coming off an ugly 12-7 loss to the Arizona Cardinals in which they managed 204 yards of offense and had two turnovers. The Titans go as their run game goes with DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry taking turns being the best in the backfield. Henry probably deserves more carries as his last 19 have resulted in 129 yards and two touchdowns. Murray, meanwhile, over the last two weeks has only managed 100 yards and no touchdowns on the ground. Tennessee has allowed just 41 points the last three weeks despite the fact that this defense isn't really that good. The Titans are holding opponents to just 90 rushing yards per game.
San Francisco is 1-11 the last three seasons when taking on teams with a winning record. There really aren't that many positive trends that go in the 49ers favor. Meanwhile, Tennessee is 10-12 against teams with a losing record over the last 22 such matchups and have only covered five of those games.
Tennessee at San Francisco
Kickoff: Sunday, Dec 17 at 4:25 p.m. ET
TV Channel: CBS
Spread: 49ers -2
Three Things to Watch
Tennessee is playing a fourth road game over the last five weeks and a lot of times we see it catch up to teams who spend that much time away from home. It all started out with a bad loss to the Steelers in Pittsburgh followed by a mediocre effort in the win over the Colts in Indianapolis. After dispatching Houston at home, the Titans fell flat against Blaine Gabbert and Arizona. They close out the schedule with home games against the Rams and Jaguars, so Tennessee needs to start playing better or it could be a rough ending. Meanwhile, this isn't a terrible scheduling spot for San Francisco, who is playing a fourth home game over the last six weeks. Can the momentum the 49ers have picked up as of late bring the fans to the stands and make it a tougher place to play? I'm guessing no, but that shouldn't matter for this team.
2. Where art thou Marcus Mariota?
Mariota (above, right) has not been playing good football for the most part this season. He got injured earlier in the year and some think that the injury is still lingering. Mariota has five rushing touchdowns, but it's just not the same when he doesn't scramble as much. The former Oregon quarterback had 26 touchdowns to just nine interceptions in 2016. His numbers in 2017 are quite uglier with only 10 TDs and 14 INTs. First-round draft pick Corey Davis has not connected with Mariota and Eric Decker has struggled as well. The whole passing game has been off and because of this the Titans are seeing more eight-man boxes. San Francisco's secondary has been pretty good as of late. The 49ers held Russell Wilson and Seattle to just 228 passing yards three weeks ago. If they can make the Titans a one-dimensional offense, San Francisco has a good shot to pick up a third straight win.
3. Run and Hyde
Jimmy Garoppolo's recent success should open up more running lanes for Carlos Hyde (right). Last week he averaged nearly six yards per carry in the win over Houston. The team has given him a steady diet of around 14-17 carries per contest which has kept him fresh for the whole season. As chronicled above, Tennessee has been very good against the run although last week the Cardinals finished with 136 rushing yards and that was without Adrian Peterson. The 49ers can throw the ball now, but they still need balance in order to keep the Titans guessing what is coming next. Wide receiver Marquise Goodwin is a nice piece to have, but he's not going to scare anyone. Because of that, San Francisco needs to commit to Hyde and allow him to soften up the defense.
It's crazy that the 49ers are favored in this one, but they probably are in better form then their opponent. The Titans are vying for a playoff spot, but the constant road trips as of late could take a toll in this one. Plus, Marcus Mariota's lack of success is hindering this offense. Bad teams that start winning and keep doing so are very tough to handle. I like the positive vibes around San Francisco and think they continue on Sunday.
Prediction: 49ers 21, Titans 16
— Written by Matt Josephs, who is a part of the Athlon Sports Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @MidMajorMatt.