This promises to be one of the most entertaining games of the year. Most anticipated that is for sure. In what could quite possibly be a preview of the Super Bowl, the San Francisco 49ers will travel to Foxborough for a meeting with the New England Patriots on SNF. After a dominating performance over the Houston Texans on MNF, the Patriots will be back in the spotlight against an above average opponent here. Following the victory over the Texans, the Patriots catapulted to the top of the power rankings. While we all know how good Tom Brady and the offense is, but the defense has looked impressive this season, a major improvement from a season ago. The Patriots utilized superb drafting to bolster the defense up. After years of drafting down, the Patriots finally used some picks to draft marquee players. Most notably, linebacker Donta Hightower and defensive end Chandler Jones. The 49ers have gone a different route this year, opting to keep second year quarterback out of Nevada, Colin Kaepernick, in the starting role after Alex Smith went down with an injury. The 49ers will need a complete effort out of Kaepernick to defeat the surging Patriots.
One player goes down for the Patriots, that’s okay, they keep on rolling. There was some initial concern when tight end Rob Gronkowski went down to injury, but the Patriots have just gotten hotter since. Even the injury to the other fantastic tight end, Aaron Hernandez, hasn’t slowed down the red hot Patriots. They have been getting it on offense and defense, which they were only getting production out of their offense since their last Super Bowl win. It is what you come to expect from a Tom Brady led offense, first in almost every category, including, a much revamped running game under second year back Stevan Ridley. The Patriots’ run game is 7th in the NFL, averaging 139 yards. The passing game is in sync once again, as they are the 5th best. If the ground game wasn’t being as effective, I would expect the pass game to be first in the league. The Patriots average the most points scored out of any team, a whopping 36.3.
As I alluded to earlier, the defense has been much improved this season. Adding cornerback Aqib Talib from the Buccaneers to the fold has only helped the defense out immensely. An above average cornerback is what was missing from the Patriots defense, and they received that with Talib. While the pass defense is still ranked near the bottom at 28th, they are an opportunistic unit that gets pressure up front and forces turnovers. The Patriots’ frontline may be one of the best in the league, as they are not easy to run it on, the 8th best defense in that regard. One of the most eye opening stats is the fact they only allow 21.1 points a game. There is this perception that the Patriots’ defense is horrendous, but they make plays when they need to.
49ers’ quarterback Kaepernick has had some bumps along the road, but he has added another dimension to the ‘Niners offensively. Kaepernick has a cannon for an arm, but can run with the best of them. His long strides make for a difficult player to take down. Kaepernick has only tossed 3 touchdowns, but has a 97.5 QB rating, throwing for 1073 yards and rushing for 351 yards with 5 touchdowns. Kaepernick has the benefit of having an extremely good defense on his side. Most notably against the run, where they are 3rd in the league allowing only 90.8 yards. They are equally good against the pass, surrendering an average of only 184.7 yards through the air.
49ers vs. Patriots Spread and Betting Odds:
San Francisco 49ers +4.5 (-105)
@ New England Patriots -4.5 (-115)
Over 47 (-110)
Betting odds taken from Bovada.lv
49ers vs. Patriots Pick:
This is the Patriots last big test before the 2012 season concludes. They are the hottest team in the NFL and would want nothing more than to smack around another top team on SNF. The Patriots are virtually unbeatable at home, their only loss coming against the Cardinals in week 2. They Patriots are also 21-0 at home in December, mind boggling figure. The Patriots have improved greatly since that loss against the Cardinals, winning 7 straight and doing most of them in decisive fashion.
This will be one of Kaepernick’s first big test on the road. With the lights on, it will be interesting to see how he does in Foxborough. The Patriots have seen scramblers before and have handled them well (Tim Tebow). Kaepernick is no doubt better than Tebow, but the Patriots are no strangers to shutting down an option offense. I’ll ride the hottest team in the league at the moment, with a 21 win streak in December.
PICK = Patriots -4.5