Saturday, November 24, 2012
5 Burning Questions and a Week 12, Prediction
1) Who will start at quarterback? Colin Kaepernick or Alex Smith?
All signs point to Colin Kaepernick getting his second consecutive start. As of Friday when the team left for New Orleans Smith had not yet been cleared. In addition, it has been widely reported that Kaepernick has been taking the lions share of first team reps in practice. A clear indication of who the starter will be.
2) How will Kaepernick do against the Saints? They are a lot more deceptive than the Bears.
If Kaepernick does indeed start, I predict that he will once again light it up. It isn't like the Bears just sat in one coverage the entire game. They tried to mix things up, and he beat them every time. Don't forget, he played just shy of 4 quarters the week before against the Rams, coming off the bench cold with the team trailing by 7, put them in position to win in overtime, and the Rams threw plenty of exotic looks at him.
3) What does this mean for Alex Smith?
That depends on how Kaepernick performs, but as I mentioned above, I fully expect him to light it up on Sunday. I don't expect that we will see Smith back as the starting quarterback of the 49ers. The plan from the time Harbaugh took over as head coach and Trent Baalke as general manager was to have a veteran who could be a bridge to to the young quarterback they were going to take in their first draft together.
The expectation, and even the contract they gave Smith in the offseason, was that Kaepernick would get his shot in 2013. The concussion to Smith opened the door to Kaepernick a little sooner than expected, and he came in and ripped it off it's hinges.
Smith is due a $7.5 million dollar roster bonus if the team keeps him on April 1. My hunch is that the team is going to pick that up and bring him back for another season, as the back up. Even with his large salary, the team would have less than $10 million tied up in it's three quarterbacks. That is a small number compared to most teams around the league.
4) How good are the Saints?
Very good. They struggled the first few weeks to get their footing due to the loss of Sean Payton for the year to Bounty Gate. Starting inside linebacker Jonathan Vilma also started slow after missing much of the preseason and training camp due to his suspension. With Joe Vitt now at the helm for the remainder of the season things appear to have stabilized.
Just like last year, the offense is deadly, and the defense is near the bottom of the league statistically. The team has started to turn the corner and now sits at 5-5, and is now poised to make a legitimate run at a playoff berth.
5) How will the 49ers defense slow down the Saints?
Make them one dimensional and rush the passer. That is the clear goal of the 49ers defense each week, and never more so than this against the Saints.
During their current win streak the Saints have been a much more balanced team. This has allowed them to mask the deficiencies of their defense.
The defense will be looking for another strong performance from their front 4 that continually put pressure in the face of Bears quarterback Jason Campbell all night on Monday. Don't expect Aldon Smith to come away with 5 1/2 sacks for a second week in a row, but he and his mates on the front line need to stay in the face of Drew Brees all came.
The secondary played well last week, but this is a different challenge. While the Bears don't tend to use their slot receivers that effectively, the Saints are very good.
Carlos Rogers has struggled all season against quick slot receivers, and he will be facing that again this week. Rogers' ability to take away the inside receiver will be a major key to the 49ers defense getting off the field on third down.
49ers 27 Saints 23