As the San Francisco 49ers (2-6) prepare to face a very disciplined, tough, and aggressive Atlanta Falcons (6-2) squad, it will be a game in which the 49ers will be at a disadvantage due to their numerous injuries.
The 49ers backfield lost 10-year RB Reggie Bush (torn MCL) and rookie RB Mike Davis (fractured hand) leaving the team to sign free-agents RB Pierre Thomas and RB Shaun Draughn off the street. And while the team has RB Kendall Gaskins — he only suited up against the St. Louis Rams because the team was short-handed at the position as he was elevated from the team’s practice squad.
However, the injury bug doesn’t stop there for the 49ers, as they will be without their security blanket at the wide-receiver position as WR Anquan Boldin will also miss his second consecutive game due to a pulled hamstring. Not great news for a 49ers offense who needs continuity between quarterback and receiver — the switch to QB Blaine Gabbert may turn this game into a double-digit defeat if the 49ers can’t chew up valuable clock time.
An offense that will surely be struggling this week, as the 49ers offensive line continues to have their problems down in the trenches, look for the Falcons defense to get upfield and harass Gabbert all game long.
A unit which ranks No. 13 in the NFL in scoring defense, as they only allow 21.6 points per game, look for the Falcons to make the 49ers offense one-dimensional as the 49ers rank No. 31 in the NFL averaging only 181.1 yards through the air.
Not to mention, the 49ers rank dead last in scoring offense averaging a measly 13.6 points per game, it will be players like CB Desmond Trufant who may have a pick six on Sunday as Gabbert has a tendency to give up the big play.
While the 49ers offense may struggle, it will be up to the team’s defense to stop the deadly combination of QB Matt Ryan to WR Julio Jones.
Jones, the NFL leader in receiving yards, racking up a whopping 892 yards should have his way on Sunday as he goes up against a depleted 49ers secondary.
Second-year CB Kenneth Acker has been going through concussion protocol while CB Keith Reaser continues to deal with a nagging ankle injury. This spells trouble for them as Jones will likely tear this secondary apart with his rare combination of size, speed, and catching radius. A player who ranks No. 2 in the NFL in targets with 103, look for Ryan to look for Jones early and often, as I predict him to finish with a stat line around nine catches for 115 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
While the 49ers try to handle Jones on the outside, look for Falcons second-year RB Devonta Freeman to also have his way, as this touchdown machine gets off to a hot-start. Freeman leads the NFL in rushing yards (709) and touchdowns (9) so look for the 49ers to have trouble getting off the field, as this Falcons offense is as high-powered as they come. A balanced attack, I can’t help but think the 49ers will have trouble on Sunday as the Falcons try to get back in the win column.
With the 49ers trying to field a win at home, I don’t foresee that happening. Two teams who are going in opposite directions, look for the Falcons to win in convincing fashion despite giving up 12 turnovers in their last four games, as I see them winning 27-17.
Sakamoto: 28-12 (Over/Under)
With the total points set at 44, I would slightly take the under. A game in which I foresee a defensive struggle early on, it can turn out to be a low scoring affair especially if the 49ers offensive line can’t protect Gabbert in pass protection while not being able to generate touchdowns in red zone opportunities.
Sakamoto: 23-17 (ATS)
With the 49ers being -7.5 point underdogs, I would eat the points and take the Falcons.
Fantasy Football (43/125)
As you know we select three players each game who we think will score touchdowns (quarterbacks omitted). Here are this week’s picks.
RB Devonta Freeman
WR Julio Jones (twice)
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