The NFL schedule makers have given us an early Christmas present in the form of a Sunday night showdown between the two favorites for the 2013 Super Bowl: the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots (8.30pm ET, Sunday).
The (9-3-1) San Francisco 49ers, who saw their stock drop a little after tying the St. Louis Rams, are back to odds of 5/1 to win the Super Bowl. The (10-3) New England Patriots meanwhile, after starting 3-3, have won their last seven in a row and are the NFL high, 3/1 favorites to take home yet another championship.
The Patriots will host the Niners at Gillette Stadium where they have been money this year, dropping just one of six games played there. The Niners meanwhile have dropped just two on the road this year and have come into hostile environments such as Green Bay and New Orleans and gotten decisive wins.
Both teams boast top tier offenses but the Patriots have the edge and have been playing phenomenal football, winning their last four games by an average of 25 points. Defensively, San Francisco has the on-paper advantage, but Tom Brady’s offense won’t go down without a fight. They demolished what was supposed to be a very good Houston defense to the ring of 42 points last week and against San Francisco, there is no question this could happen again.
The Colin Kaepernick Equation
The 49ers this season have no doubt been one of the NFC’s best teams. On paper and on the field, they are a very well balanced team, boasting the second best rushing offense, rushing defense and passing defense in the league. There is however one glaring stat that blemishes an otherwise incredible statistical standing: The Niners rank 26th in passing yards, averaging just 198.5 a game.
So obviously, the 49ers excel not so much from a passing standpoint but more from using the run to create the avenue for QB Alex Smith to throw the ball when needed.
All of that changed however when Smith went down with a concussion and rookie Colin Kaepernick was forced to step in and run the offense. Since that time, there has only been one game in which San Francisco has scored under 27 points and that was in their only loss in the Kaepernick era, an overtime defeat at the hands of the Rams. In the two prior games to that loss, Kaepernick and the offense put up 32 and committed no turnovers against the NFL’s best turnover defense in the Chicago Bears and scored another 31 against the New Orleans Saints.
The biggest difference between Kaepernick and Smith and in turn, part of the reason why I think the 49ers will not get blown out by New England much the way the Texans were last week, is the fact that Kaepernick makes the Niners much less of a one-dimensional offense. In fact, since he has taken the starting job, San Francisco has bolstered Gore’s strong rushing with at least 23 passing attempts and 185 yards per game. This is more than what was done with Smith. Also, Kaepernick has some speed to take off and run and has had two rushes of 50+ yards now in back-to-back games.
Simply put, the 49ers are a much better team with Kaepernick at the helm. Considering that New England’s passing defense has been very iffy (29th in the league, allowing 275.5 yards per game) Kaepernick should do fine as long as he keeps the turnovers to a minimum. No one wants to give the Patriots a short field with the weapons they have.
New England’s Weapons
And that brings me to my next point: Is there anything, anything at all that the San Francisco defense can do to somehow slow down Brady’s offense?
On the surface, I don’t think any team can stop the momentum and the absolute dominance the Patriots have going for them right now. On the season, New England averages over 30 points a game and is converting over 50 percent of third down opportunities. While it doesn’t seem at all likely the 49ers can stop Brady’s attack, I do believe they have the talent on defense to at least slow down the speed and production. For the Niners, ultimately what it comes down to are match-ups.
- (ILB) Patrick Willis vs. (TE) Aaron Hernandez: To think that just because it is Hernandez and not Rob Gonkowski that Willis will be facing makes it an easy match-up, think again. Sure, Hernandez does not have the height or speed of Gronkowski but he still has big play ability and now that he is healthy, is a feared weapon for the New England offense. That said, Willis is no slouch either. He is widely regarded as the top rated inside linebacker in the league and has shut down some of the league’s most talented big-play tight ends in Jimmy Graham, Anthony Fasano and Kyle Rudolph. Only one tight end has scored a touchdown when he is on the field.
- (CB) Carlos Rogers vs. (WR) Wes Welker: Far and away, Brady’s favorite weapon is the talented and unstoppable at times, Wes Welker. Welker has the quickness to outduel Rogers no doubt. What the San Francisco corner will be tasked with is not stopping Welker from getting his catches, but in stopping him from breaking them off for long yardage plays. Unfortunately, Rogers has failed to do this in most of the situations he has come up against this season.
49ers v Patriots Betting Picks Advice
- The numbers and stats don’t lie. New England has been incredible for most of this season with Brady making every play and once again asserting himself as an MVP candidate. No disrespect to the Niner defense but Brady’s offense has covered the spread by an average of over eight points a game. Favored by 4.5pts at home, expect this trend to continue. So back the Patriots -4.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline. It is -5pts with Bovada).
- Also, take the over (46.5) once again as even with San Fran’s defense, Brady can still put on a clinic. Bet on over a total 46.5pts @ -110 with BetOnline or Bovada.
- Non-Americans: If you are not from the USA then you can get Patriots -4.5pts at evens with Paddy Power. You can get over 46pts @ 10/11 with SkyBet or Betfred.