New England Patriots (2-1) vs. San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Bill Walsh Field at Candlestick Park
1:15 PM (PST)
The 49ers go against a Brady-less Patriot team coming off of their first lost in the regular season in almost two years. Not to mention the loss two weeks ago to the Dolphins was a humiliating 38-13 and gave Ronnie Brown’s NFL career new life. Bill Belichick and company do not like to lose so look for the Patriots to come out in full force on Sunday looking to get a win to stay with the undefeated AFC East leading Buffalo Bills. Even without Tom Brady the Patriots have deep threats in Randy Moss and Wes Welker. The 49ers D gave up too many big passing plays last week against wide receivers who were unknowns. Matt Cassel is no Brady but keep in mind with all the talent the Patriots have they will use them against a Niner’s D that all of sudden seems weak in the secondary. I am sure Belichick has used the bye week to develop a game plan that will demoralize the 49ers and get confidence in Cassel and his teammates. The 49ers can stop the Patriots passing attack by putting relentless pressure on Cassel who is starting in only his third game. By limiting the time Cassel has to make a decision, big plays will be kept to a minimum unless the 49ers secondary does not cover the deep routes. Putting pressure on the QB is one thing, but when you do that it takes players away from dropping back in coverage. Either the D gets to Cassel three seconds after the snap or they give up a big passing play. Look for Moss to be heavily involved in the game because he only has one touchdown this season and I am sure he is eager to have a breakout game with more touchdowns. No sacks last week against the Saints equaled a loss. The 49ers D needs more than at least one sack on Cassel if they are going to be successful with pressure causing turnovers.
On offense J.T. O’ Sullivan needs to not force plays especially in the red zone. Too many opportunities were missed by the offense last week. Instead of touchdowns they ended up having turnovers and drives stalled resulting in field goals. The Patriots will use this to their advantage if the 49ers continue resorting back to the style of offense that has define them the last couple of years. The Patriots linebackers need to be exploited in the passing game. Rookie Jerod Mayo has come along quickly but the 49ers can spread the offense against him and the rest of the aging LB’s on the Patriots. I say this every week and I am losing confidence but Vernon Davis needs to have a big game. Defenses need to start accounting for him by putting safety’s on him in coverage. However teams are doing the opposite and covering him with linebackers whose speed does not compare to Davis’. Opposing teams defenses are able to cover the wide receivers because neither Bryant Johnson or Isaac Bruce are big play threats. They can play the WR’s in single or zone coverage allowing for extra men to rush O’ Sullivan causing him to make mistakes. But if Davis is heavily involved and making plays than the secondary accounts for him allowing for Johnson and Bruce to get open. If anything Frank Gore should have a great game against a Patriots D that is ranked 25th against the run. Ronnie Brown was made to be a fantasy stud two week ago, so expect a similar game plan from Mike Martz. Also, Martz’ confidence in O’ Sullivan probably took a hit last week, so look for more protection for the QB and not as many deep balls thrown. Martz will want O’ Sullivan to release the ball as soon as he can to avoid sacks and to avoid the QB from making costly mistakes.
As much as the 49ers need to bounce back from an ugly loss I don’t see that happening against the Patriots. My confidence in O’ Sullivan being a solid starting QB is at a low point with all the mistakes he personally made last week. I have stressed many times if the 49ers are going to lose the games in their Scheduling Hell (Saints, Patriots, Eagles, Giants) it has not to be because of O’ Sullivan and turnovers. If the Red and Gold want to get of obscurity and back to the winning ways of past glory years than they need to lose in the final minutes/seconds of the game and not get dug into holes early causing them to get away from their game plan like last week’s loss. The Patriots have too much to prove and the 49ers are not quite there yet to be considered a serious team in the NFL. Look for the 49ers to fall behind early as offensive drives are stalled by mistakes. The 49ers D will contain the Patriots offense but they will win with big passing touchdowns and the field position handed to them from the 49ers turnovers.
Fantasy Studs of the Game:
Frank Gore (125 yards rushing, one touchdown, 5 receptions, 50 yards receiving)
Gore will always have a good game no matter who he is up against. With the Patriots weak against the run this year and the 49ers at home he should have no problem gaining a lot of rushing yards. The pressure will be relentless on O’ Sullivan so look for a lot of check down receiving receptions.
Randy Moss (8 receptions, 115 receiving yards, two touchdowns)
Moss and Belichick were called out by Al Davis this week for tampering with the trade of Moss to the Patriots last year. Even though Davis is across the bay, Moss will be looking to have a statement game in the Bay Area.
Out: T Jonas Jennings(shoulder); CB Shawntae Spencer (knee)
Doubtful: LB Manny Lawson (hammy)
Doubtful: LB Eric Alexander (hammy); DB Lewis Sanders (hammy); WR Kelley Washington (hammy)