The San Francisco 49ers may have the toughest two weeks ahead of them of any team in the NFL. They go up against the New England Patriots this Sunday who are coming off a trouncing of the Houston Texans on Monday night, a team who many thought was the best team in the league. Following that, they play another Sunday night game against the surging Seattle Seahawks who have not so quietly asserted they are a force not only in the NFC West, but in the playoffs as well.
The focus this week will be on the Patriots, however, and don’t expect the 49ers to look past this opponent. The 49ers have slipped in many of the major power rankings and this is a golden opportunity for them to re-assert they are a top-3 team.
The key to this game for the 49ers will be their passing game. The Patriots are good, not great, against the run allowing 100.8 yards per game. Expect they will try and take the run away from the 49ers and turn them into a pass first team, which is proven to work against this team. You can also expect Patriots head coach Bill Belichick will put pressure on young QB Colin Kaepernick and the offensive line that has allowed 7 sacks over the past 2 games and 38 on the year. Kaepernick is very good at moving out of the pocket and making plays so this could work to the advantage of the 49ers if the Patriots bring pressure and leave the middle of the field open.
WR Michael Crabtree has improved his play this year and is quickly becoming Kaepernick’s go-to guy and is ranked twelfth in total yards despite the 49ers ranking 26th overall in passing offense. With Manningham’s status for this game unknown at this time, look for more underneath throws to Crabtree and opportunities for a lot of yards after catch. The Patriots are ranked 29th in the league in passing defense so they will give up yards. It will be up to Kaepernick to connect with his receivers and tight ends to exploit this.
Weather will likely be a factor in this game. Current forecasts show cold and rainy weather which will be a huge test for Kaepernick and the 49ers passing game. If there was ever a time for the passing game to come to life, this is it.
It appears as though rain and perhaps snow is probable for Sunday’s game. I stand by my belief that the 49ers passing attack is and will still be a key aspect of this game; however, it will be that much more challenging for the Kaepernick.