"The 49ers have looked very strong at times this year, but they stumbled against the Minnesota Vikings, and they've had some issues in their wins that can be exploited," Fucillo writes. "The biggest key is the most generic: the Bills likely need to bring their 'A game'. As cliched as that sounds, the 49ers now have a target on their back, and teams will be throwing everything at them. The Vikings game-planned well and took advantage of 49ers mistakes without letting up. The 49ers still had their chances, but there was definitely a let-down factor."
Got it. The Bills need to play well for four quarters. (That'd be nice, wouldn't it?) That's logical. What's next?
"As far as actual things the Bills can do, they need to bring consistent pressure on the offensive line," says Fucillo. "The 49ers offensive line has become a strength through the first four games, but the left side (the more veteran side) has had some inconsistencies. The line might hold up fine, but the Bills still need to try and bring pressure."
That left side of the line Fucillo mentions includes tackle Joe Staley, a sixth-year veteran, and guard Mike Iupati, now in his third year out of Idaho. Staley will draw Mark Anderson for most of the day, so it sounds like Anderson will need to be at his best rushing the passer. Obviously, if either Kyle Williams or Marcell Dareus draws Iupati one-on-one, that's a matchup that needs to be won, as well. But when you get right down to it, the defensive line needs to be strong across the board, because the Bills' young secondary will likely be taking an aggressive approach in the game plan.
"The secondary also needs to get physical with 49ers receivers. The 49ers have made a habit of going with quick passes to Michael Crabtree as he has become a key weapon, particularly on third down," Fucillo notes. "Engaging him at the line might disrupt him enough to open the door for Alex Smith to be forced into an uncomfortable situation."
Indeed, Crabtree leads the 49ers in receptions (21) and yards (198), with his 9.4 yards per reception lending credence to the idea that he's really their best possession receiver in a run-first offense. Buffalo often has trouble getting off the field on third downs defensively, so making sure the 49ers - and especially Crabtree - aren't running freely to spots all day will be key.
Fucillo sees areas of weakness to exploit on the defensive side of the football, as well.
"On defense, the 49ers big strength is stopping the run. However, one area where they struggled against the Vikings was on swing passes to Percy Harvin," says Fucillo. "They appear to have corrected that, but I would not be surprised to see the Bills test out some swing passes and see if the 49ers have any mental mistakes."
Buffalo does not generally use swing passes, instead relying on screen passes and bubble screens to receivers, but if they're going to try this out, C.J. Spiller and T.J. Graham would seem to be the ideal candidates. Both have explosive playmaking ability in space.
"I also think Scott Chandler would need to be a key," Fucillo concludes. "Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph had a strong performance against the 49ers, and I think Chandler would need to win the battle with the 49ers linebackers."
That's much easier said than done, considering the 49ers have the best linebackers in the business in Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. That said, Chandler is coming off of an excellent Week 5 performance (four catches, 62 yards, two touchdowns), and he's certainly capable of putting up the numbers Rudolph produced in Week 3 (five catches, 36 yards, two scores).
Be sure to stop by Saturday morning for our full in-depth preview of the Bills and 49ers game.