WHEN THE 49ERS RUN
San Francisco is without starting running Matt Breida (ankle) and will rely on Jeff Wilson, an undrafted rookie recently promoted from the practice squad, with 22 rushes for 94 yards in two game appearances this season. The 49ers managed just 66 yards on the ground last week at Seattle. That bodes well for a Denver defense that hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher since Week 6 against Todd Gurley and the Rams. However, watch out for the versatility of 49ers fullback Kyle Juszczyk. Edge: Broncos.
WHEN THE 49ERS PASS
The 49ers are on quarterback No. 3 this season: Jimmy Garappolo (ACL) to C.J. Beathard (wrist) to Nick Mullens. The results haven’t been pretty at 2-10, but Mullens, undrafted in 2017 and promoted from San Francisco’s practice squad, has proven capable. He’s completed 64.5 percent of his passes with a 91.5 rating — including 414 yards through the air — last week against the Seahawks. Denver is without its top cornerback Chris Harris (leg) and must account for 49ers’ tight end George Kittle’s receiving ability. But San Francisco’s passing game has been mostly dormant this season. Edge: Broncos.
WHEN THE BRONCOS RUN
Running back Phillip Lindsay eclipsed 150 carries this season with a 6.08 yard average — third highest in the NFL since 1970. Royce Freeman provides added muscle. Devontae Booker brings pass-catching talents. And, with a resurgent offensive line, the Broncos run-game has flourished. San Francisco ranks No. 15 in the NFL with 108 rushing yards allowed per game this season and feature star defensive tackle DeForest Buckner to stuff gaps. Just don’t expect Lindsay, the player teammates call “Pitt-bull,” to slow down any time soon. Edge: Broncos.
WHEN THE BRONCOS PASS
Quarterback Case Keenum tossed 10 interceptions over his first eight games. He’s gone without a pick over his past four starts. Now Keenum must adapt to life without top receiver Emmanuel Sanders (Achilles) as rookie wideouts Courtland Sutton and DaeSean Hamilton‘s roles increase. Also expect a bump in production from first-year practice squad promotions Tim Patrick and River Cracraft. San Francisco, meanwhile, has just two interceptions all year and has allowed 300-plus passing yards in four games. Keenum doesn’t need to be the hero, he just needs to be consistent. Edge: Broncos.
San Francisco kicker Robbie Gould has connected on 23-of-24 field goal attempts and the 49ers’ kickoff return yardage (26.4) average ranks No. 3 in the NFL. Broncos’ kicker Brandon McManus has made only four of his last seven field goal attempts and Denver’s return units, both punt and kickoff, have struggled. Edge: 49ers.
THREE THINGS TO WATCH
1. Rushing milestone. With only 63 yards on the ground Sunday, running back Phillip Lindsay will reach 1,000 on the season to become only the third undrafted rookie to hit the mark (Dominic Rhodes-2001 and LaGarrette Blount-2010). Lindsay’s ability to grind out tough yards between the tackles and explode for huge gains in space make him a dynamic threat any time he’s on the field.
2. Rookie spotlight. Denver’s next-man-up mantra hits overdrive in Week 14 with young players stepping into prominent roles due to starters’ injuries at spots like wide receiver (DaeSean Hamilton for Emmanuel Sanders), cornerback (Isaac Yiadom for Chris Harris) and inside linebacker (Josey Jewell for Brandon Marshall). No time for growing pains at San Francisco.
3. Sack master. If linebacker Von Miller records one sack against the 49ers, it extends his streak to eight games, the longest of his illustrious career. Should Miller reach two sacks, he will become the franchise’s all-time career leader (regular season and postseason) with 104.5 to surpass Simon Fletcher.
Broncos: Out — CB Tramaine Brock (ribs), CB Chris Harris (leg) and linebacker Shaquil Barrett (hip). Questionable — LB Brandon Marshall (knee).
49ers: Out — RB Matt Brieda (ankle), S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) and WR Pierre Garcon (knee). Questionable — CB K’Waun Williams (knee).
Mark Kiszla: 49ers 28, Broncos 27
As a proud member of the Shanahan clan, guessing Kyle has a little something special planned for John Elway and the Broncos.
Ryan O’Halloran: Broncos 28, 49ers 17
Courtland Sutton rises to No. 1 receiver status with seven catches for 102 yards.
Kyle Fredrickson: Broncos 24, 49ers 21
Von Miller has many fond memories at Levi’s Stadium. Add a three-sack day to the list.
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