With the San Francisco 49ers (6-4) looking for their second three-game winning streak of the season they will first need to fend off Washington (3-7). Two teams who are trending in opposite directions, it will be the 49ers offense that will need to improve. A team that ranks 31st in the NFL in red zone offense, they will surely need to do a better job as the unit has greatly underachieved so far this season. But the question remains, who will win the game? Despite the 49ers having an up-and-down season while fighting off key injuries, I believe they will be too much for Washington to handle.
If defense wins championships then the 49ers are set, as they have one of the best units in the game. Led by arguably the best defensive coordinator in the game in DC Vic Fangio, the 49ers rank 4th in the NFL despite playing shorthanded. A tribute to his scheme and ideological approach, Fangio continues to find ways to put his players in the best position to make plays. And two players that continue to benefit are ironically rookies in ILB Chris Borland and OLB Aaron Lynch.
Borland, who was named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Week for the second consecutive time, has been a pleasant surprise. A third-round pick (No. 77) whose draft stock fell due to his questioned H-W-S continues to make play-after-play. In Borland’s four starts this season he has played lights out as he’s racked up 56 tackles, seven tackles for loss, 1.0 sack, two interceptions and three pass break-ups. A player that has a ‘knack’ for the football, Borland should have no problem this week as he shoots the gaps with caution while bringing down Washington’s RB Alfred Morris.
While Borland mans the middle while his big men up front do the ‘dirty work’ down in the trenches, look for rookie fifth-round pick (No. 150) Lynch and OLB Aldon Smith to set the edge. The duo I like to call ‘double trouble’ look for these two pass-rush specialists to create pressure on Washington QB Robert Griffin III as I predict the pair to have at least three sacks. And with RG3 being sacked 12.4% of the time on his drop backs according to Pro Football Focus, look for Fangio to take advantage of that as he makes life uncomfortable for the Washington quarterback.
If the 49ers can create a solid pass-rush that should bode well for their ‘opportunistic’ secondary which ranks No. 1 in the NFL in interceptions (16). Led by SS Antoine Bethea and CB Perrish Cox those two should have their fair share of opportunities to get their hands on a few balls especially if RG3 forces the ball downfield to speedy WR DeSean Jackson.
A true home-run threat between the 20’s, D-Jax should have a big game as I predict he will score a 50-yard plus touchdown on Sunday. A player that Fangio called ‘really fast,’ Jackson should be targeted at least three times deep. If the 49ers secondary can keep everything in front of them that will do wonders for their confidence and team.
With the defense poised for a big game, look for the 49ers’ offense to stick to their smash-mouth ways. A formula that has worked ever since head coach Jim Harbaugh took over the reigns in 2011, look for RB Frank Gore and RB Carlos Hyde to punish tacklers while gaining valuable yards after contact. Whether running to their left or cutting back inside, Gore and Hyde should have big days as I expect the two to combine for over 100 rushing yards and a touchdown as they face the 11th ranked rushing defense.
If the 49ers can impose their will on both sides of the ball that should bode well for QB Colin Kaepernick. A player that has struggled inside the red zone, look for Kaepernick to get back on track. An elusive dual-threat quarterback that can win with both his feet and arm strength, I think Kaepernick will throw two touchdowns from inside Washington’s 20-yard line. Who will benefit from those passes? While it’s hard to say, I think one player will be TE Vernon Davis and the other being WR Anquan Boldin.
With the 49ers being heavy favorites heading into this matchup, this could also very well be a trap-game. We all saw what happened earlier this week as the Oakland Raiders defeated the Kansas City Chiefs so no game is a slam-dunk in this league. However, in the end I believe the 49ers are just too well coached, disciplined, and focused to lose at home as I predict them to win convincingly 27-13.
NinerFans.com 7-3 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 44, I would slightly take the under. Although I predict the 49ers to get back on track with their red zone efficiency, I don’t believe they will top 30 points making the under a slightly safer bet.
NinerFans.com 4-5-1 (line)
With the 49ers being nine point favorites, I would eat the points and take San Francisco. Not an easy pick here and I would stay away but if I had to pick I would have faith in the red and gold to cover.
Fantasy Football (9 out of 30)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks.
RB Frank Gore
TE Vernon Davis
WR DeSean Jackson
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