Sunday, December 30, 2012

49ers Clinch NFC West, 1st Round Bye

After a rough 6 quarters that started with a second half meltdown in New England and carried over into a full on letdown vs. Seattle, the 49ers righted the ship in week 17 with a win over Arizona.

The victory gives San Francisco it's second division tittle in as many seasons, but perhaps most importantly, it gives them a week off during Wild Card Weekend in order to get some of their key components healed up. They played Sunday again without Justin Smith, an anchor to their defensive front, and although it wasn't exposed much vs. the lowly Cardinals, you saw the effect it had on the defense playing without Smith vs. the Seahawks last week. The other notable 49er who was coming off a concussion in week 16 was Vernon Davis, but he managed to suit up and play the majority of the game vs. Arizona. Still though, Vernon didn't contribute much offensively and really hasn't been a big part of the offensive focus since Colin Kaepernick took over under center. With Mario Manningham out for the year, and Randy Moss fading more and more as the season wears on, the 49ers need a few guys to step up and provide Michael Crabtree with some support in the passing game. On the plus side, Crabtree had a career day vs. Arizona, and appears ready to go into the postseason as the focal point of their aerial attack. Still, if the 49ers can't get some other guys going, they'll be in a similar spot as they were last January, when they just couldn't get anything done through the air.

As for the guy throwing the passes, Kaepernick had a nice rebound game Sunday vs. Arizona after a mediocre showing vs. Seattle last weekend. Kaep completed 16 of 28 for 275 yards and 2 TD's, both to Michael Crabtree who finished with 172 yards receiving. The 2nd year quarterback again showed his athleticism and the reason why Jim Harbough is so fond of him, making some excellent off-balance throws running to his left. He looks ready and confident heading into his first ever postseason as a starter, and the 49ers will be expecting a lot more out of him than your average 2nd year player with 7 starts under his belt. Although we didn't see any costly ones in the final week of the season, Kaep is still a young QB who's going to make some mistakes, but he's got enough big-play ability to overcome them. Plus, he really hasn't had a bad game yet since taking over as starter. We'll be breaking down the playoffs a lot more in the coming weeks, but as long as the 49ers defense plays more like they did in Week 17, and less like they did vs. Seattle and New England, you have to like their chances vs. anyone the NFC is lining up, including Atlanta.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Notes: 49ers, Giants and Warriors Take Over

With the Giants winning the World Series for the 2nd time in 3 seasons, the 49ers well on their way to another playoff birth and the Warriors off to their best start in over two decades, these three franchises have taken over the Bay Area sports media focus.

Giants: After staying relatively quiet throughout the first month of free agency, the Giants have made the moves they were hoping for all along in re-signing Angel Pagan and Marco Scutaro, but on Thursday, they added another familiar face back into the mix. Andres Torres was non-tendered by New York last month and one couldn't help but think the Giants would inquire about him with their need for outfield help. Torres is coming off a couple of down years after his breakout 2010 campaign, so the Giants were able to get him on a bargain 1-year, $2M deal. I was hoping the Giants would find that right-handed, power hitting corner outfielder they were looking for, but apparently in this market, even guys like Scott Hairston are out of their price range. That being said, Torres is not a bad fallback option at all and should be more than capable as the fourth outfielder and may even give Blanco a run for playing time in left field if he gets hot. He hit over .300 in a reserve role in 2009, and hit .265 with 16 HR's  and 29 SB as a full-timer in 2010. The Giants like Torres' switch hitting abilities, his solid defense and his speed on the base paths, so even if they aren't able to add another outfielder to the depth chart between now and February, they have to feel pretty good with their group heading into 2013. More Giants Talk Here!

49ers: Speaking of 2013, we're just a few weeks away from the new year and the start of the NFL playoffs, but for 49ers fans, it kind of feels like the playoffs start this weekend. The 49ers will head into New England Sunday for a matchup that was a muffed punt away from being last years Super Bowl. After a few less than spectacular games, including the loss to St. Louis and allowing the Dolphins to take hang with them at home last week, the 49ers will be looking to rebound vs. a well-rounded Pats team. New England's offense is a pass-first attack and Tom Brady has the ability to pick the 49ers defense apart. It'll be crucial to get pressure on him throughout the day if they want to contain that passing attack. Defensively, the Pats are much improved, but they can be beaten. The 49ers may need to go to the air a little more than they've been recently, so a lot of this game will lie on the shoulders of young Colin Kapernick. If there's ever a time to make your statement that you've arrived as one of the better young QB's in the league and are here to stay, it's vs. Tom Brady and the Patriots. However, this game isn't all on Kaepernick. The O-line must do it's job in keeping the Pats' pass-rush off Kaep's back, and the 49ers must establish Gore early and often. The Niners should be treating this game like a playoff game, and they should learn a lot from this one, win or lose.

Warriors: Finally, we have the team that's been giving the 49ers a run for their money in both air time and print space across Bay Area media outlets. The Golden State Warriors came up with perhaps their most impressive victory of the young season Wednesday, rolling into South Beach and beating the reigning Champion Miami Heat on an impressive last second layup by the rookie Draymond Green. The 'Dubs were hanging with Miami all night long, even holding the lead throughout most of the contest, but what really impressed me was the way they closed the game out down the stretch. As he's been doing a lot recently, Mark Jackson stuck with the small lineup of Jarrett Jack, Steph Curry, Klay Thompson, David Lee, Carl Landry and a lot of Draymond Green down the stretch, and for the fifth straight time on this 7-game roadie, that group closed out a Warriors win. Klay Thompson led the Warriors charge with 27 points, 7 boards and 4 assists as he thoroughly outplayed Dwayne Wade and did a tremendous job in containing the dangerous off-guard. David Lee also chipped in another 22-13 night to help overcome a bit of an off night out of Steph Curry, and that's another sign that this team is for real. When your top scorer gets shut down, and you still find a way to defeat the consensus best team in the NBA, you know you've got something special going on... With the win, the Warriors have moved to 15-7, and they've thrived even without their star 7-foot center, Andrew Bogut. More Warriors Talk Here!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Giants Re-Sign Pagan, Scutaro

After wondering for weeks whether the team would be able to bring back either Marco Scutaro or Angel Pagan, Giants fans have to be pleased that both will be returning to San Francisco for 2013.

On back-to-back days, the Giants were able to re-sign their leadoff man and center fielder, then their number 2 guy and second basemen, pretty much wrapping up Brian Sabean's work in free agency. I have to say, I do like both deals, even though both were a year longer than I was hoping for. Pagan did get his four year deal that he was seeking, but the Giants were able to get him for roughly $10M per season, which doesn't look bad at all considering what Torii Hunter, Shane Victorino and B.J. Upton just got. Heading into this offseason, I thought the best deal for the Giants in terms of Pagan would have been a 3 year, $30 million deal with an option for a fourth. Based on that, I have to say this deal looks like a win for the Giants seeing that they only had to go an extra year. Plus, the options after Pagan in terms of leadoff hitting center fielders weren't that intriguing. The other top center fielder/leadoff man on the market, Michael Bourn, is said to be seeking a $100M deal, and if he even gets close to that number, that makes this deal look even better... Rest of Article Here!