2021 season preview: Lions vs. 49ers

Opponent: San Francisco 49ers

Location: Ford Field

Week/Date: Week 1, Sunday Sept. 12 at 1:00 p.m.

TV/radio: FOX/97.1 FM

Previous matchup: Sept. 16, 2018: The 49ers withstood a late rally and beat the Lions 30-27. Detroit sacked Jimmy Garoppolo six times in the loss.

Why this game matters: This is the first game of the Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell era, and it sets an early tone for the kind of football team they're trying to build here in Detroit.

This game is a little more special than home openers in the past because there is expected to be a crowd at Ford Field for the first time since 2019 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This is a welcome back for Lions fans, and the energy in Ford Field should be electric. Playing well and giving fans a show is big in this one. – Tim Twentyman

Crucial matchup: One of football's oldest cliches rings as true as the day it was coined. Games are won in the trenches. The Lions-49ers battle is a marquee matchup for two teams seeking to improve up front.

The Lions' offensive line should be better with the addition of star rookie right tackle Penei Sewell to a unit that features Pro Bowl center Frank Ragnow and steady veteran left tackle Taylor Decker. The Lions have the potential to improve on last year's 4.1-yard average per carry in the run game, plus give up fewer than the 41 sacks allowed in 2019.

Defensive end Nick Bosa's return should bolster the 49ers' pass rush. He went out for the season last year with a knee injury sustained Week 2. His absence was felt across the board. Bosa had nine sacks, 16 tackles for loss and 25 QB hits as a 2018 rookie. The 49ers dropped from 48 sacks, 87 tackles for loss and 93 QB hits in 2019 to 30 sacks, 67 TFL and 72 QB hits in 2020. – Mike O'Hara

Rookie watch: Tackle Penei Sewell. All eyes will be on new quarterback Jared Goff when the offense takes the field for the first time, but there will also be a lot of eyes on No. 7 overall pick Sewell too. Sewell makes his regular-season NFL debut against a very good San Francisco defensive front, so he'll be tested right away.

The offensive line is expected to be one of Detroit's real strengths this season. Sewell was the missing piece to solidify the group. How well will both he and that unit debut in this one? – Tim Twentyman

WEEK 1 · Sun 09/12 · 1:00 PM EDT


San Francisco 49ers

Ford Field