The Jacksonville Jaguars might not be good, but they are dangerous.
Just ask the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills are one of the top teams in the NFL, but the Jaguars handed them a 9-6 loss on Nov. 7 in what ranks as the NFL’s biggest upset of the season.
The 49ers are going to have to fight for this one on a short week after traveling cross-country to play a game with a 10 a.m. (PT) kickoff.
If you believe the 49ers found their identity Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams, well, they might have to find a new one on Sunday.
The Jaguars’ strengths are they run the ball and they stop the run. In other words, the formula for victory against the Rams — an inconceivable 44 rushing attempts — simply will not work in Jacksonville.
Here are five players who must step up if the 49ers (4-5) are to get back to the .500 mark on the season:
5. RB Jeff Wilson Jr.
It’s looking doubtful running back Elijah Mitchell will be available after sustaining a fractured middle finger on his right hand on Monday night — an injury he is believed to have sustained early in the game. He underwent surgery a day later to insert a pin into his finger.
Jeff Wilson Jr. is likely to move into the starting role with Trey Sermon as the backup. Wilson has suited up for just two games this season after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason. He ran for 28 tough yards on 10 carries against the Rams.
Wilson’s ability to pound the ball inside, as well as catch passes out of the backfield, could set up well for the 49ers on third downs to keep the chains moving.
4. LT Trent Williams
Left tackle Trent Williams might be the 49ers’ best player. He ranks as the best offensive lineman in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.
Meanwhile, edge rusher Josh Allen is the Jaguars’ best player. Part of the same draft in whcih the 49ers selected Nick Bosa, Allen was the choice for Jacksonville five spots later.
Allen dominated two weeks ago in Jacksonville’s win over the Bills. And he must have another disruptive game in Week 11 for the Jaguars to remain in position to pull off the victory.
The 49ers will count on Williams to handle Allen in one-on-one situations, whether it is in pass protection or run blocking.
3. NT D.J. Jones
Quarterback Trevor Lawrence, the No. 1 overall pick in the 2021 NFL Draft, is not yet at the stage where he can put the team on his shoulders and lead the Jaguars to a victory. The Jaguars’ recipe for success consists of a ground-oriented attack.
Running back James Robinson is the Jaguars’ top threat on offense. He has 539 yards rushing and six touchdowns with a 5.4-yard average.
Nose tackle D.J. Jones should get a lot of action, and his job will be to clog up the middle, occupy blockers and allow middle linebacker Fred Warner to roam and make plays. Jones brings a little something in the pass rush, too.
Jones showed his athleticism with his open-field tackle on a fake field-goal attempt on Monday night. His contributions over the second half of the season are key to the 49ers bid to make a playoff push.
2. FB Kyle Juszczyk
Fullback Kyle Juszczyk has earned five consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl. He is well on his way to No. 6.
Juszczyk has been so consistent that he is often overlooked. But his athleticism and smarts are the big reasons the 49ers’ run game is so creative and effective.
Juszczyk’s contributions come primarily as a blocker, but this could be a game in which his number is called as a pass-catcher, too. He has 18 receptions (21 targets) for 166 yards and one touchdown this season.
1. QB Jimmy Garoppolo
After coming under intense scrutiny following his performance against the Indianapolis Colts in Week 7, 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo has done little wrong.
Garoppolo completed nearly 70 percent of his pass attempts for 830 yards with four touchdowns passing and two more rushing in the past three games.
And just like that, there is no serious talk that coach Kyle Shanahan is making a mistake by keeping Garoppolo as the starter over rookie Trey Lance.
As much as the run game got the headlines in the victory over the Rams, it was Garoppolo’s decision-making and accuracy on third and fourth downs that kept drives alive and gave the 49ers a huge time-of-possession advantage.
The formula will be different for the 49ers on Sunday. Garoppolo will be asked to throw more often. He must put the ball into the hands of Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk to enable them to rack up yards after the catch.
The pressure will be on for him to make plays on third downs and avoid costly giveaways.