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Thursday, 13 December 2012

Nick Hard-pick Prediction League - & Games of the Week - Week 15

The early games of week 14 swung in favour of our picks leader Phil, but the 4.25 ET kickoffs resulted in another tied week for Phil and Toby, who continue to be separated by just 1 win, but don't think this is just a 2 horse race. Sneaking up on the outside, with the best record from week 14, is Thomas Moore from TomTom Sports. He now sits just 2 games from the lead, with Gur 3 games back. This thing is going down to the wire folks!

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.



Toby
Phil
Gur
CIN @ PHI
CIN
CIN
CIN
CIN
CIN CIN CIN
NYG @ ATL
ATL
NYG ATL NYG NYG ATL NYG
MIN @ STL
MIN
MIN
MIN
MIN
MIN STL MIN
GB @ CHI
GB
GB
GB
GB
GB GB GB
WAS @ CLE
CLE
WAS
WAS
WAS
WAS CLE WAS
DEN @ BAL
DEN
DEN
DEN
DEN
DEN DEN DEN
IND @ HOU
HOU
HOU
IND
HOU
HOU HOU HOU
TB @ NO
TB
TB
TB
TB
NO NO NO
JAX @ MIA
MIA
MIA MIA
MIA
MIA MIA MIA
CAR @ SD
CAR
SD
SD
CAR
SD CAR CAR
SEA @ BUF
SEA
SEA SEA
SEA
SEA SEA SEA
DET @ ARI
DET
DET
DET
DET
DET DET DET
KC @ OAK OAK OAK
KC
OAK
OAK KC OAK
PIT @ DAL
PIT
DAL
DAL
DAL
PIT PIT DAL
SF @ NENE NE SF SF SF SF NE
NYJ @ TEN
NYJ NYJ NYJ NYJ TEN NYJ NYJ
 Last week
10-6
10-6
10-6
11-5
10-6
8-8
11-5
 Total
135-72-1
136-71-1
133-74-1
129-78-1
130-77-1
130-77-1
134-73-1

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