As the San Francisco 49ers (4-8) try to muster up their first winning streak of the 2015 season, it should come easy as they face the lowly Cleveland Browns (2-10). The 49ers who are clearly improving on the offensive side of the ball behind the solid play of QB Blaine Gabbert will likely do well against the Browns as they rank No. 31 in the NFL in points allowed (28.9 ppg).
The 49ers offense is by no means a juggernaut but playing against a depleted Browns secondary should help as All-Pro CB Joe Haden will be missing in action. Look for the 49ers to take advantage of this as WR Anquan Boldin and WR Torrey Smith have big games. Boldin will clearly take advantage of the underneath routes while Smith will expose the secondary with his blazing speed over the top.
If the 49ers can connect on those crucial opportunities while the offensive line keeps Gabbert clean inside the pocket, then look out for RB Shaun Draughn. The journeyman running back will be out for blood as he faces his former team and Gabbert loves to target him coming out of the backfield.
Look for Draughn to have a nice day as he finishes with a stat line around 14 carries for 63 yards and one touchdown while doubling up on five receptions for 40 yards.
While the 49ers offense looks to do their part, it will be the 49ers defense that will once again set the tone on the road. A defense that is finally coming into it’s own, look for DC Eric Mangini to hold the Browns to under 20 points as they keep the score low.
A very underrated yet stout defensive line as the 49ers have DE Quinton Dial, NT Ian Williams and DE Mike Purcell, it will be up to those three players to win their battles down in the trenches. Dial has played extremely well up to this point while Williams continues to be the two-gap monster at nose tackle. Look for them to hold the Browns rushing attack to under 70 rushing yards while turning them into a one-dimensional offense.
If the 49ers defensive line can create pressure while maintaing gap integrity, that should open up a lethal pass-rush as second-year OLB Aaron Lynch and OLB Ahmad Brooks hunt down Browns QB Johnny Manziel behind the line of scrimmage as I predict those two players to combine for a stat line around 11 tackles for 2.5 sacks.
Manziel gets rattled while forcing balls downfield when pressured and that’s where the 49ers will win this game as they win the turnover battle.
Last week we saw DB Jimmie Ward use game-film to his advantage by jumping a bubble-screen to Bears WR Alshon Jeffery, look for Ward, CB Kenneth Acker, SS Jaquiski Tartt, and FS Eric Reid to all jump routes on the daily in Cleveland as all four of them will be ball-hawks on Sunday as Manziel forces the ball downfield.
With the 49ers trying to win on the road for the second consecutive week, look for that to happen as I see the 49ers pulling out a victory 20-13.
Sakamoto: 30-14 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 41.5, I would slightly take the under. A game in which I foresee a defensive struggle for the majority of the first three-quarters, expect a low scoring affair as the playmakers on both sides of the ball are few and far between.
Sakamoto: 26-18 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -1.5 point underdogs, I would take the 49ers. A game in which I can see the 49ers easily covering the spread while winning the game outright if all goes well.
Fantasy Football (47/137)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks.
RB Shaun Draughn
TE Blake Bell
WR Anquan Boldin
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