SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS (0-4) AT INDIANAPOLIS COLTS (1-3)
SERIES HISTORY: 44th regular-season meeting. Indianapolis leads the series, 25-18. The last matchup came on Sept. 22, 2013, when the Colts defeated the 49ers 27-7 at Candlestick Park at San Francisco. The 49ers have lost three straight games against the Colts dating to 2005. The 49ers will look for their first win in Indianapolis since defeating the Colts 40-21 in 2001.
KEYS TO THE GAME: There are two reasons the 49ers have lost three straight games by a total of eight points. First, they're near the bottom of the league in third-down conversions. Second, once they have gotten in the red zone, they have had trouble converting, ranking 28th in the league. QB Brian Hoyer has managed the games OK, but the 25th-ranked offense has been underwhelming, averaging just under 298 yards per game.
First-year coach Kyle Shanahan has got to figure out how to free up RB Carlos Hyde, who has shown flashes of brilliance, and how to get the ball in space to WR Pierre Garcon, who cut his teeth with Indy and Peyton Manning. Hyde has 321 yards rushing and two touchdowns while Garcon has 20 receptions for 285 yards. But Garcon has yet to reach the end zone.
The Colts have to figure out how to play four good quarters of football. Coach Chuck Pagano has said the little things are hurting the Colts. Too many ill-timed penalties. Mental and physical mistakes. Indianapolis has to figure out a way to play smarter. And they have to figure this all out with Andrew Luck still on the sideline. RB Frank Gore still has some gas left in the tank and T.Y. Hilton remains one of the most gifted wide receivers in the league. Tight end Jack Doyle hasn't tasted the end zone yet this year, but that could change Sunday.
MATCHUPS TO WATCH:
--Colts QB Jacoby Brissett vs.49ers OLB Ray-Ray Armstrong. The Colts are a poor running team, except in one aspect: When Brissett takes off. He burned Cleveland with two rushing touchdowns in Indianapolis' only win. With Reuben Foster out, the responsibility of keeping Brissett's scrambling from being a difference-maker again falls upon Armstrong, who has filled in admirably for the rookie star.
--49ers RB Carlos Hyde vs. Colts' run defense. Hyde has a team-high 321 yards rushing this season and has a pair of touchdowns on the ground. The former Ohio State standout has developed into one of the better all-around backs in the league. Indianapolis has shown improvement this season in its run defense but comes into this week's game ranked 25th in that category.
FRIDAY INJURY REPORT
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
--Out: S Adrian Colbert (hamstring), LB Reuben Foster (ankle), S Eric Reid (knee), LB Dekoda Watson (groin)
--Questionable: WR Marquise Goodwin (concussion)
--Out: TE Jack Doyle (concussion, neck), CB Nate Hairston (quadricep), QB Andrew Luck (right shoulder)
--Doubtful: RB Matt Jones (knee)
--Questionable: CB Rashaan Melvin (hamstring, ankle), WR Chester Rogers (hamstring)
PLAYER SPOTLIGHT: 49ers TE George Kittle. Without question, if rookie C.J. Beathard were to replace Brian Hoyer at quarterback, his plan of attack would include getting his former college teammate, Kittle, more involved. Unless he wants to lose his job, Hoyer would be wise to do the same. Kittle has been underutilized all season, commanding just eight targets the last three weeks. The Colts gave up five catches, 67 yards and a touchdown to Seattle tight ends last week on just seven targets, so it appears to be a vulnerable area.
FAST FACTS: San Francisco QB Brian Hoyer has 709 passing yards (354.5 per game) and four touchdowns against one interception in his past two games against the Colts. He passed for a career-high 397 yards in his only career meeting at Indianapolis while he was a member of the Bears. ... 49ers RB Carlos Hyde notched 95 yards (68 rushing) last week. He has 405 yards from scrimmage (135 per game) and two touchdowns in his last three games against AFC foes. He ranks third in the NFC with 321 rushing yards. ... 49ers WR Pierre Garcon ranks sixth in the NFC with 285 receiving yards. During four seasons with the Colts, he compiled 188 catches for 2,519 yards and 16 touchdowns. ... 49ers LB NaVorro Bowman recorded nine tackles the only time he faced the Colts. ... 49ers LB Elvis Dumervil had two sacks last week, his 26th career game with at least two. ... Colts QB Jacoby Brissett has 475 passing yards and three touchdowns (two rush, one pass) in his past two home games. ... Colts RB Frank Gore played 10 seasons with San Francisco (2005-14) and is the franchise leader in rushing yards (11,073) and rushing touchdowns (64). At 13,256 yards, he needs only four yards to pass Hall of Fame running back Eric Dickerson for seventh most in history. ... Colts WR T.Y. Hilton has 1,007 receiving yards (100.7 per game) and five touchdown catches in his past 10 home games. He has 5,289 receiving yards since 2013, fourth most in the NFL. ... Colts rookie S Malik Hooker is tied for the NFL lead with three interceptions.
PREDICTION: If this game were being played on any other Sunday, the pick would be the 49ers. QB Brian Hoyer is more consistent than Colts counterpart Jacoby Brissett. And he has more weapons on offense. But there's no way the Colts lose on a weekend when they are honoring Peyton Manning with a statue, which will be located in front of Lucas Oil Stadium and dedicated on Saturday. Manning will have his number retired and be inducted into the stadium's Ring of Honor Sunday.
OUR PICK: Colts, 28-20.