The New England Patriots will play the San Francisco 49ners tonight at 8:20 p.m. EST. on NBC in prime time. This will be the second game in 6days the Patriots will play a huge game featuring two of the best teams in the NFL. This match up might be the best NFC team vs the best AFC team and the winner might be declared that through 15 weeks of play they are the best team in the NFL. The 49ners are a tougher match up then the Texans were and actually match up better on defense then the Texans did.
Five Things To Look For:
Patriots Offensive Line: The number one thing that will decide who wins is how well New England pass protects. The 49ners have a better defensive line then the Texans. They feature on the defensive line Justin Smith and Ray McDonald. McDonald is an excellent defensive tackle for the 49ners, he is great at stopping the run, and a solid pass rusher with half a sack on the season. Smith is an excellent pass rusher with 3sacks on the season, he might not always get the sack, but he harasses the QB, is a play maker on the defense, and is a handful mixed with Aldon Smith. The linebackers for the 49ners is their clear strong point with Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith. Aldon Smith is their best pass rusher and has 19.5 sacks. Putting both Smith players together will be hard for the Patriots to deal with and they must figure out a way to shut them down. First and foremost they must control Aldon Smith on blitzes and then make sure Justin Smith isn’t wrecking havoc by himself. The defensive line and linebackers are certainly going to be a challenge for New England’s offensive line. They might man to man everybody and leave a tight end or a RB back with Brady to try to slow down a tad bit the 9ners pass rush for Brady.
Tom Brady: The 49ners are solid at every position. Against the Texans the Patriots took a lot of deep shots because the Texans were playing man to man, and focused on stopping New England’s short passes, and left it up to Watt to try to get to Brady. This week I don’t think New England will get a lot of chances to go deep. The 49ners have to many pass rushers and excellent blitz packages to have enough time to get deep like they did Monday night, Brady will have time but not nearly as much time as he did Monday night. He might get 3seconds to throw it so I look for Brady to throw a lot of short quick passes to avoid sacks and take some pressure off his line. Brady needs to be careful with Patrick Willis the great linebacker for the 49ners who makes plays all over the field: a sack, an interception, and two force fumbles this season. Brady needs to avoid Willis luring him into any throws.
RBS: The Patriots will try to be balance and the more balance they are the better off New England’s offense is. The running game will have a tough task going against the 2nd rank overall defense of the 9ners. The running game can always slow down an aggressive defense and Ridley can go along way with helping that cause, but Ridley must protect the ball. Ridley has been great this season but has fumbling problems. Ray McDonland is hard enough to escape from but then their is Patrick Willis who has two force fumbles on the season. He will look to strip Ridley often in this game and Ridley has to protect the football because if he can not, he might not get much carries in this game, or the Patriots will forgo the run. The 49ners secondary has caused quiet a few forced fumbles too so Ridley worries me in this game, but protecting the football is all I’d be asking of this young back in this game. That and pass blocking good.
WRS: Wideouts along with the tight ends have to get open quickly. They can’t take all day to get open or Brady is going to get hit if not sacked. The wideouts and the tight ends will be going against a very solid secondary. Their CBs to their saftey’s are play makers wheater by fumbles or interceptions, it is a dangerous back end of the defense. Culliver will probably go against Welker to try to shut down Brady’s favorite target and quick passes. Culliver has had 13 pass defended this season, 2 force fumbles, and 2 interceptions. If Welker can use quick moves to get open quickly he might have a good game but Culliver could face Lloyd, it boils down to who the 49ners see as a bigger threat. Regardless who they stick against Welker or Lloyd they will have to work hard to get open, but Lloyd needs to work on getting pass the defenders like he did versus the Texans to have any impact on the game. Brady must be aware of the ball hawking safetys in Donte Whitner and Dashon Goldston. The 9ners are loaded and I wouldn’t expect this game to be a shoot out.
The Defense: The defense has improved vastly since getting CB Talib. Talib had an excellent game in man coverage against Johnson before Dennard took over in the second half due to an injury. The Patriots can either play man to man or give one corner safety help. The Patriots have more flexibility in their secondary then they have had in years. Talib will probably be in man coverage against Crabtree while Dennard will go against Manningham with safety help. I wouldn’t doubt the Patriots going man to man in their coverage corners however, because they both can be successful at it. The wild card is Moss and when he is on the field the Patriots may switch their coverage with two defenders like Talib and McCourty on Moss. The Patriots secondary will only deal with who is on the field and aside from Moss the Patriots can play man to man in this game. The Patriots will look to stop the run as it is a big part of the 49ners game plan. They have statistically the second best running game in the NFL. The Patriots boast a top ten run stopping defense and Monday night they showed h0w good they was stopping arguably the best running back in the game and holding him only to 46 yards on 15 carries. Wilfork is always the player to watch since he is the Patriots best defensive player hands down. He makes plays in both the running and passing game. Wilfork and Spikes will look to stop Gore from running on their defense. The pass rush will look to come from Scott, Hightower, Mayo and Jones. The biggest impact players on pressure on the QB is the linebackers Hightower and Mayo. In this game the Patriots have to account for Kaepernick’s ability to run the football. The Patriots may have a spy on the QB, and Hightower sole responsibility in this game could be to spy the QB and go for him every time. This defense can stop the run, and the QB, but their problem is controlling passes over the middle. Their linebackers can’t cover but Arrington has been solid in the slot and could try to contain the middle of the field again tonight. The defense must look to contain the running game of the 49ner’s RBs and QB.
Look for this game to be a low scoring grittiness game. This game will be similar to the two Super Bowl losses the Patriots have suffered at the hands of the Giants. The Patriots will have to prove they are a different team then they was in both of those games. They need to prove now their defense will hold up at the end, Tom Brady can take hits and continue to get scores when needed, and the running game needs to prove they can run the clock for New England. The Patriots are a different team I think from those two Super Bowl losses but tonight they can show they really are different.