Sunday, January 27, 2013

49ers Favored in "HarBowl"

The odds are in, and to nobodies surprise, Las Vegas has picked the 49ers as the favorites to win Super Bowl XLVII by 4 points.

A big reason why the 49ers are being favored in their first Super Bowl appearance in nearly 20 years is because of their explosive offensive attack. In a game that features two stout defenses, it's going to come down to which team can generate the most offense, and if their last two games are any indication, the 49ers will be up for the challenge. With Colin Kaepernick under center, the 49ers have proven that they can put up points in bunches as they can now beat you in a variety of ways. Just look at last weeks game vs. the Falcons when San Francisco didn't get a single first down in the first quarter, then went on to torch Atlanta's D throughout the rest of the game. Once that switch gets turned on, the Niners are a tough team to stop thanks to the playmakers that offense has generated and particularly the play of that offensive line. We've seen Kaepernick have a couple of outstanding games in January, and Frank Gore and LaMichael James have been able to run at will because of the way that line is playing, and they are going to have to be the ones that again set the tone vs. Baltimore.

As potent as the 49ers offense has looked the last two weeks, this will be the toughest defense they've run into since that Seattle game in December, and that was the last time the 49ers were handed a loss. My guess is that Baltimore will stack the box heavily to keep an eye on both Gore and Kaepernick running the ball as I think they're going to try and force the Niners to beat them through the air. Kaepernick has done a tremendous job (for the most part) of protecting the ball, but the Ravens make a living off turning the ball over and 'Kaep is going to have to be extra aware of the playmakers in Baltimore's secondary. That being said, and as good as the Baltimore defense is, the 49ers are favored in this one because they can win whatever type of game this turns into. They've shown already during these playoffs that they aren't scared of facing an early deficit and making a comeback. They also are more than capable of playing defense and running the ball should this one turn into a low-scoring, smash-mouth type of contest.

I do think this one will be close, but I do think the 49ers will pull away in the end. They are playing with a ton of swagger right now, and Baltimore has just barely survived a few games in order to make it to this point. The only way the Ravens win this one is if they get to Kaepernick early and often, create some turnovers and make Kaepernick look like a 2nd year QB with just 12 career starts.Otherwise, if Kapernick gets going, it opens up the running game and like I said earlier, makes the 49ers a very tough team to slow down. I'll go ahead and make my prediction now, even though we'll be discussing this game again before next Sunday's showdown. My guess is it will be a bit of a defensive battle in the first half then the 49ers take over and dominate the 2nd. Picking a score is always just blind speculation, but I'd be surprised is San Francisco doesn't win by 7+. I'll go with 27-17, Niners.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

49ers Rout Packers, Headed to Atlanta

Well, after that third play from scrimmage to start the game which ended up a pick-six for Green Bay on a horrible decision from the young QB, I'm sure plenty of 49er fans had their doubts about this game. But instead of letting that turnover set the tone for the game though, Colin Kaepernick brushed it right off and put together one of the best games of his life.

There was so much made about whether the sophomore quarterback would be up to the task of beating the Packers with just a handful of starts under his belt and after that first series, I know I was wondering whether  or not this was too big a stage for the youngster. The key for Kaepernick came on the very next drive though, as he was able to erase some of those early game jitters with a beautiful touch pass over a defender to Frank Gore that Gore ended up taking for a huge gain. That led to a Kaepernick TD run, and the rest was really history. Although the Packers did regain the lead briefly on a DuJuan Harris TD run, that was the last lead Green Bay had Saturday afternoon, as the 49ers defense tightened up their play and the offense really set the tone for the game. The key to the game coming if was for Kaepernick and the 49ers offense to limit the mistakes and avoid turnovers to ensure the Packers offense stayed on the sidelines. They executed that part perfectly, and did more offensively than I was anticipating. Instead of the conservative, ball-control offense I was expecting from the Niners, we saw the playbook open up and cater to Kaepernick's strength's. When looking at the box score, of course, his 16 carries, 181 rushing yards and 2 TD's will jump out at you, but his conversions on third down, whether he was running or throwing, was what really impressed me.

The up-and-coming gun-slinger couldn't have had the success he did though without some help though. Michael Crabtree put on a clinic vs. the Packers' secondary, catching 9 balls for 119 yards and two scores. He and 'Kaep have had an uncanny rapport since Kaepernick took over the quarterback job, and looked a bit like Montana and Rice on Saturday night. Also, Frank Gore had his typical workhorse out of the backfield, surpassing 100 yards and also making plays in the passing game. They real key for the 49ers offense in this one though was the terrific play they got from their O-line. They kept the Packers pass rushers off Kaepernick's back and opened up huge holes in the running game. Sure, Kapernick gets the unofficial MVP, but without those guys up front buying him time and opening up the center of the field, he doesn't have the chance to do a lot of the things he was able to.

Of course, the play of the Niners defense can't go without notice either. As solid as the offense was, that defense was able to match the great effort they put forth in Green Bay during their week one victory. And as good as we all feel about this win, that defense has to get right back to work Monday with their focus shifted to Atlanta. The Falcons were the NFC's best this season, so it's only fitting the 49ers will have to go through them in order to get that rip New Orleans. We'll break down the game more next week, but early on, the obvious key to the game will be for San Francisco to at least contain the Falcon's top-flight receiving core.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

49ers Should Be Ready for Green bay

The 49ers kicked off the 2012 season with a huge win in Green Bay, and made it look relatively easy. Now they have to do it again if they want to earn a trip back to the NFC Championship.

It'll be a slightly different Packer team rolling into San Francisco Saturday though, as they won 9 of their last 11 games of the regular season then man-handled the Minnesota Vikings (who gave the 49ers won of their worst losses of the season) in the Wild Card round last weekend. The Packers, who were banged up and looked way out of synch in week one, have gotten all their key guys back and have had some players emerge over the second half of the season who the 49ers didn't see in week one. Instead of the sluggish Cedric Benson in the backfield, the Pack will display a much more complete duo of Ryan Grant and DuJuan Harris which will force the 49ers to have to game plan against this rushing attack.They really didn't have to do that in week one, it was mainly just contain Aaron Rogers and the passing game but the Packers have a new dimension now. Speaking of Rogers and the passing game, Green Bay has another dangerous weapon who's now fully established on offense in Randal Cobb. Before, he was sort of a punt return and occasional deep-threat, but he was Rogers favorite target throughout the regular season. With Cobb, the improved running game and the plethora of receiving options, this will likely be the best offense the 49ers will have played all year.

Still, even with the Packers improving across the board, the 49ers main goal heading in still has to be to contain Rogers. They did a great job of doing just that in September, and have to bring in that same mentality into this contest. No matter what though, you have to assume the Packers are going to score some points, so ultimately, it's going to be the 49ers offense that's the real key to this game. Colin Kaepernick doesn't have to out-perform Aaron Rogers, but he's got to make smart decisions and keep the 49ers offense on the field. He's going to have to avoid turning the ball over, and the 49ers are going to need some guys to step up in the passing game, most notably Vernon Davis. Michael Crabtree has been an absolute stud lately, and you have to assume the Packers will likely blanket him with double coverage all day, so Vernon Davis has to open up the middle of the field for Kapernick. Last year, it was Davis who was the only consistent threat in the passing game, but he's really disappeared since Alex Smith lost the starting QB job and has been basically non-existent since his concussion in early December.

I like the 49ers in this one, because of both home field advantage, and the fact they've had some time to heal up and get some players back. Justin Smith should be back and close to 100%, which should give a huge shot in the arm to a defense that sorely missed him while he was out. The one area I'm a little concerned about though is at kicker. Jim Harbough is going to have a tough decision to make with David Akers. On one hand, Akers has all the playoff experience and up until this year, had been the best kicker of the last decade but he's had an epic meltdown over the second half of the season. His range has deteriorated and all of the sudden, we're all holding our breaths on even easiest, chip-shot field goals. I have a feeling this one's going to be close and will come down to the fourth quarter, so the 49ers better have confidence in whoever they trot out there!

Prediction: 49ers 30-Packers 24