There are a lot of clinching and eliminating playoff scenarios this week, for the full list you can check here. So let's get into our game of the week, yet another titanic clash in Foxboro...
Toby's Game of the Week: San Francisco 49ers (9-3-1) @ New England Patriots (10-3), Sunday 8.30pm ET
Last week the Texans came into Foxboro saying that it was the biggest regular season game in Houston Texans history, then they quickly got crushed.
On paper, San Francisco and Houston have a lot of similarities; strong defense, good running game, weak outside receivers and a QB who is yet to prove he can come through in the big situations. However I see them as vastly different teams in reality.
New England were able to abuse Houston over the middle thanks to their injuries at inside linebacker. They simply couldn't match up against Aaron Hernandez or Danny Woodhead in pass coverage. Well they won't be able to get away with that this week thanks to 2 guys you might have heard of before, Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman. Their presence in the middle is going to seriously hamper the Patriots passing game, from Wes Welker's crossing routes to Danny Woodhead's option routes out of the backfield.
While the Patriots, number 1 in our week 14 OLR, were able to handle the Houston front 7 fairly well (outside of JJ Watt), San Fran's is a different beast, with their own DE monster in Justin Smith, and an edge rushing stud in NFL sack leader Aldon Smith. That combo could cause serious issues up front in pass protection. Not only that, but Willis & Bowman will allow San Francisco to stay in their base front against an offense who thrive on Brady picking the best run/pass option against the front he sees. New England have leaned on their running game this season, keeping them balanced and their opponents guessing, but in San Francisco they face the league's best run defense who can clinch a playoff spot with win.
As for San Francisco's offense? Well their running game is truly a sight to behold. Traps, counters, powers, they run the lot. And out of formations you couldn't even dream of. Joe Staley, Mike Iupati and Frank Gore will have their hands full this week however, with New England being extremely strong against the run themselves. Last week Vince Wilfork and linebackers Jerod Mayo, Brandon Spikes and Dont'a Hightower held Arian Foster to just 46 yards at 3.1 yards a carry. Impressive.
So San Francisco could find themselves turning to dual-threat QB Colin Kaepernick more frequently than they would like. Can he and a returning Randy Moss find the holes in New England's secondary? Maybe they'll get the missing Vernon Davis more involved in the passing game than he has been since Kaepernick started playing? The Patriots secondary has been much improved since Aqib Talib came in but they are still weak against tight ends thanks to rather weak linebacker coverage.
While I expect this to be a much, much closer game than last weeks walkover, New England haven't lost a home december game with Tom Brady since 2002. That's 21 games. It's hard to look past something like that.
|CIN @ PHI||CIN||CIN||CIN||CIN|
|NYG @ ATL||NYG||ATL||NYG||NYG||ATL||NYG|
|MIN @ STL||MIN||MIN||STL||MIN|
|WAS @ CLE||WAS||WAS||CLE||WAS|
|DEN @ BAL||DEN||DEN||DEN||DEN|
|IND @ HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU||HOU|
|TB @ NO||TB||NO||NO||NO|
|JAX @ MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA||MIA|
|CAR @ SD||SD||SD||CAR||CAR|
|SEA @ BUF||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA||SEA|
|DET @ ARI||DET||DET||DET||DET|
|KC @ OAK||OAK||OAK||OAK||KC||OAK|
|PIT @ DAL||DAL||PIT||PIT||DAL|
|SF @ NE||NE||NE||SF||SF||SF||SF||NE|