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Washington Commanders vs San Francisco 49ers Preview: 3 matchups to watch

The Washington Commanders visit the San Francisco 49ers

NFL: Washington Football Team at San Francisco 49ers Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

The Washington Commanders lost to the New York Giants 20-12 in primetime and currently sit in the 7th seed in the NFC with a 7-6-1 record. They had a short week to prepare to travel to the West Coast to face the San Francisco 49ers on Saturday afternoon.

Washington is coming into this game as a big road underdog, but the line has dropped to 6 1/2 since it opened at 7. This is a huge game for both teams, and has massive playoff implications for the NFC. You can check out the odds for this one courtesy of our friends at DraftKings Sportsbook.

Matchup 1: Put the pressure on Brock Purdy

Brock Purdy has been getting a lot of attention after taking over for an injured Jimmy Garoppolo 3 weeks ago. He has started the last two games, and has wins in both of them. He, like Taylor Heinicke, has not been putting up big numbers, but he has been doing enough for their running game to function, and their defense to control the other team.

If Washington is going to have a chance against the 49ers they’re going to have to put the pressure on Mr. Irrelevant and try to slow down their running game. Purdy has not been mobile during the last three games, rushing for 0 yards and 1 TD. He hasn’t been sacked much either(hi Trent Williams!), only 4 times with 3 of them coming in the game he relieved Garoppolo. Purdy also only has 1 INT in the last three games, which also happened 3 weeks ago.

Washington’s defense has been very stout for most of the season, but they only have 15 takeaways which is tied for the 5th-lowest total in the NFL. They haven’t had an interception since Week 12 against the Atlanta Falcons, and have only had one multi-pick game(vs the Texans). Pursy is a very young QB playing in a QB-proof offense, but he will make mistakes when pressured. Washington gets Benjamin St-Juste and Chase Young back today, and it would be huge for either one to force a turnover.

Matchup 2: Feed Brian Robinson

Scott Turner lamented getting away from Brian Robinson during Sunday night’s loss to the Giants. Washington’s lead running back only had 12 carries, and that number should have been a lot higher. New York got out to an early lead, but that is no excuse to forget about the run game that has been a big catalyst in their winning streaks this season.

The 49ers defense is excellent, and they are not allowing a lot of rushing yards this season. They are the NFL’s #1 rush defense and have only allowed 1,046 yards over 14 games(74.7 ypg). They have also allowed the 4th-lowest rushing TDs(9). If Offensive Coordinator Scott Turner tries to run and doesn’t get the results he wants early, he can’t forget about Brian Robinson.

Matchup 3: Red Zone offense

The Taylor Heinicke-led offense isn’t going to be high scoring. They have relied on their defense to keep the opposing team’s scoring down. Washington’s running game has changed since Brian Robinson returned and then even more when he got his game legs back under him. The offense is averaging 19.6 points scored per game with Heinicke under center. The defense is averaging 17.6 points allowed per game.

If you listen to a few Ron Rivera pressers you will hear him talk about missed opportunities on the field. A lot of the time he mentions plays from the red zone. He has talked about taking the next step in scoring, and actually beating teams by more than 1 score. That has not happened, and the offense has stalled or gotten worse since then. Whether it’s penalties or playcalling, the offense continues to stall out inside the 20, and they’re not going to win attempting field goals.