Strategy And Personnel

The Sports Xchange

December 20, 2018 at 1:01 pm.


–RB Matt Breida (sprained ankle) couldn’t finish the Week 15 win over Seattle, but likely will be able to start the Week 16 game against Chicago. He was able to practice on a limited basis when the 49ers began preparations for the Chicago game on Wednesday.

–FB Kyle Juszczyk was named to the Pro Bowl as a starter for the third consecutive season. Juszczyk currently has 29 receptions for 309 yards and one touchdown.

–TE George Kittle was selected to the Pro Bowl as a backup. Kittle leads the NFC in receiving yards among tight ends with 1,154, the product of 72 receptions with four touchdowns.

–WR Jordan Smallwood was signed to the 49ers’ practice squad on Wednesday. Smallwood went undrafted in 2018 after playing four seasons at the University of Oklahoma.

–DT DeForest Buckner was named as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. Buckner leads the 49ers in sacks this season with 11.0.

–OLB Mark Nzeocha (strained groin) almost surely will miss his second consecutive game in Week 16 against Chicago. He had to leave the Week 14 win over Denver with the injury, and did not suit up for the Week 15 win over Seattle. Nzeocha was selected as an alternate to the Pro Bowl.

–CB Ahkello Witherspoon (sprained knee) was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. He finished the year with a career-high 37 tackles, making 12 starts.

–CB K’Waun Williams (strained knee) aggravated a previous injury in the Seattle game in Week 15 and had to be removed from the game. He likely will try again in the Week 16 game against Chicago.

–S Tyvis Powell was added to the 53-man roster this week, replacing CB Ahkello Witherspoon. Powell made one start for the 49ers earlier this season before getting waived and claimed by the New York Jets. He spent one week on the Jets’ practice squad before becoming available to the 49ers again on waivers.

–SS Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder stinger) was on the field for just 33 plays (29 on defense) in the Week 15 win over Seattle before leaving the contest. He was able to practice Wednesday on a limited basis as the team began preparations for Chicago.

–K Robbie Gould was named an as an alternate to the Pro Bowl. Gould leads the NFL in field-goal percentage (29-for-30, 96.7 percent).

PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: DT DeForest Buckner. While most people will be watching Chicago Bears defensive ace Khalil Mack, Buckner should have a greater incentive to shine in the Week 16 matchup. Buckner was not selected to the NFC Pro Bowl team despite 11 sacks from his interior-defense position. Mack, a linebacker who is a candidate for NFC Player of the Year, has 12.5 sacks this season.

GAME PLAN: Same as last year. The 49ers went to Chicago with an inexperienced quarterback late last season and came away with a 15-14 victory. The keys to success: Shutting down the Chicago running game and limiting turnovers on offense.

The 49ers have held Denver and Seattle to a total of 37 points the past two weeks, so they have confidence their defense can handle everything Mitchell Trubisky throws at them. They just have to hope their own young quarterback, Nick Mullens, doesn’t throw the Bears anything.

–49ers LT Joe Staley vs. Bears DE Khalil Mack. No doubt, the Bears will line up Mack over rookie right tackle Mike McGlinchey as often as possible. But that puts him in the line of vision of quarterback Nick Mullens, allowing the young quarterback to know exactly where the defensive ace is. Any blind-side attacks will have to come through Staley, which is no easy task.

–49ers MLB Fred Warner vs. Bears QB Mitchell Trubisky. When the 49ers allowed the Bears to move up and select Trubisky in the 2017 draft, they moved down one spot and received three additional draft picks. After more wheeling and dealing, those picks became Reuben Foster, Dante Pettis and Warner, who will get an opportunity to stare down his draft rival for the first time. Who won the trade? Check back after this head-to-head.