Saturday, December 29, 2012
5 Burning Questions and a Week 17 Prediction
1) How do the 49ers rebound?
The 49ers have been in a defensive funk since Justin Smith went down early in the second half against the Patriots. The offense also struggled mightily in Seattle. With the division championship and a home playoff game on the line this weekend, how will they respond. Do they come out swinging like Rocky Balboa, or do they continue to take it on the chin like Glass Joe?
2) Can Ricky Jean Francois and the run defense step up?
The loss of Smith on the right side of the defense has created a hole that opponents are going to try to exploit. He needs to step up. As Bill Walsh told his 49ers team in 1981, "In battle, the best troops are sometimes killed early, the people who pick up their rifles and toke over win the battles." It is up to RJF to pick up Smith's rifle.
3) Will Greg Roman regain his balance?
This has been a running theme of the 2012 season. A couple good balanced games that lead to wins, followed by an out of whack pass happy game that leads to a loss or tie. Before you say, "they were down so quickly and had to abandon the pass in Seattle" remember that they threw the ball on all 3 plays during their first possession, and stayed on the passing side even on the ensuing possessions.
The 49ers offense is at it's best when they establish the run. It gets the lineman in rhythm, slows down the pass rush and opens up their play action passing game. With the loss of Mario Manningham last week for the season the time is now for the 49ers to reestablish their offensive identity and pound the ball 30+ times.
4) What will be the role of AJ Jenkins?
So far the first round selection out of Illinois has been outperformed by the 49ers second round selection, LaMichael James. Due to injuries he is now the 3rd receiver. Will he finally be called upon to produce for the team or continue to be asked mainly to just block on run plays? They will need production from him at some point to extend their season.
5) The mystery that is Carlos Rogers
While he may have made the Pro Bowl, there is no doubting that Rogers has struggled this season in coverage from time to time. Much like the offense he has a couple of good games followed by a stinker. He should be fine this week as the Cardinals don't have a strong slot receiver that should really challenge him, but he will need to step his game up for the post season.
Despite their abysmal record, and having won only 1 time in their last 11 games, the Cardinals are not an easy out. They have a decent defense that can stymie the best offenses, just ask New England. Their issues lie mostly on the offensive side of the ball. They are the perfect example of the importance of good quarterback play to success in the NFL.
This will be a low scoring, hard hitting matchup, and at the end of the day the 49ers defense will prove to be too much for the Cardinals.
49ers 23 Cardinals 9