San Francisco 49ers Pass Offense vs. New England Patriots Pass Defense
The New England Patriots secondary has improved by leaps and bounds ever since the trade to acquire Aqib Talib, but the Pats three top corners are all nicked up (listed questionable) after being injured in last week’s win over the Houston Texans. They should all be good to go against the 49ers and Colin Kaepernick.
I like Kaep as a QB and feel like he is a tougher matchup for the Patriots than Alex Smith, because the Pats can contain the short and intermediate passes extremely well. The problem is that the Niners can now move the ball deep better with Kaep, and I could see some shots going Randy Moss’s way a couple of times in this game.
No Mario Manningham means a few more targets for Moss, but it should also mean more looks in Vernon Davis’s direction. He’s the most talented pass-catcher on the 49ers, and it is baffling to me as to why he hasn’t received more targets this season. The loss of Manningham hurts the Niners, but more targets for Davis is a bad thing for the Pats given the advantage he holds over the Patriots linebackers in coverage.
The 49ers wide receiver corps isn’t bad, but it isn’t exactly good either. Michael Crabtree has finally developed into a very good receiver in this league, but the only player who scares me is Davis. The 49ers should be able to move the ball on the Patriots through the air, but they aren’t going to have a huge amount of success either.
49ers Run Offense vs. Patriots Run Defense
Frank Gore is still one of the best running backs around, and he has an excellent interior offensive line in front of him to help pave the way. Mike Iupati and Jonathan Goodwin have been two of the best run blockers in the league this season (Ryan Wendell tops Goodwin among centers, however), and they have definitely been instrumental in Gore’s 1,000+ rushing yard performance so far this season. But a ton of credit should also go to Gore, who has averaged nearly five yards per carry. I could also see some looks from the dangerous LaMichael James, who looked threatening last week in his first glimpse of action.
This game is going to be much closer than the one against the Houston Texans, and I know Patriots fans who are picking against the home team. I’m not going to, because I’m not picking against Tom Brady and the Pats at home in December when coming off of a blowout victory of another great team. The 49ers are better, but their advantage in the running game won’t surpass the clear advantage that Brady holds as a QB. I think the Patriot win this 30-27.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.