1) Can the 49ers regain their balance on offense?
"Balance is one of the most important aspects of the 49ers offense. For the most part last year you could point directly to this area in their losses, as three of them featured a 33% to 67% run to pass ratio."
No. As has been the case in their previous losses the 49ers did not maintain any offensive balance. Facing a Colts defense that came into the game ranked 25th in the league against the run, having given up 4.5 yards per carry, the 49ers had 53 offensive plays in the game, with the running backs being handed the ball only 16 times.
Making matters worse was the fact that the running backs carried the ball a total of 4 times in the second half, despite being down by only 6 points. This after having run the ball for an average of 6.75 yards in the first half.
2) Can the 49ers slow down Andrew Luck?
Luck managed the game to near perfection, ending the day 18-27 for 164 yards, and running the ball 4 times for 24 yards and a touchdown. The Colts offense repeatedly moved the chains on the 49ers defense in the second half with drives of 10 plays-52 yards and 5:08, 11 plays-59 yards and 5:21, and finally 11 plays-80 yards and 7:01.
3) What impact will the acquisition of Trent Richardson have on Sunday?
Richardson opened the scoring with a 1 yard run on the opening drive of the game. Although 13 carries only went for 35 yards, they were effective in helping wear down the 49ers defense.
4) Can the 49ers Nickle defense stop the run?
"Through the first 2 weeks of the season the 49ers defense has given up an average of only 3.6 yards per carry which would tie them for 12th in the league. The 49ers run defense has shown to have a weakness though, and it is stopping the run in their Nickle defense. In the first 2 weeks, the 49ers have given up an average of 5.3 yards per carry (29th) when they have 5 defensive backs on the field."
Forget just the Nickle defense. The 49ers defense has given up 351 yards on the ground the last two weeks. This has played a role in the 49ers inability to get off the field in the second half of games, leading to multiple 10+ play, 5+ minute drives to open the second half. Despite the time of possession being fairly close after the first half on Sunday, the Colts dominated the clock in the second half, holding the ball for nearly 20 minutes on the first 3 of 5 second half possessions.
5) Aldon Smith arrested for DUI. Does he play? How will Corey Lemonier fill that role?
The 49ers did end up playing Smith, and his impact was minimal. Smith ended the day with 5 tackles, 1 for loss. After the game it was announced that Smith would be taking an indefinite leave to enter rehab.
The 49ers go into a game after a loss or tie for only the 8th time in the Jim Harbaugh era. In those previous 8 games the 49ers have won by an average score of 24-6, but this is not the same team. Following their loss last season in St Louis the 49ers struggled against Miami, leading by only 7 until a late Kaepernick touchdown run put the game away. Then after losing in Seattle in week 16, the 49ers found themselves trailing the Cardinals at home 6-0 before coming alive in the second quarter and going on to a 27-13 victory.
Sunday's game is going to be a battle. I expect the Colts to come out and take shots at the 49ers defense in the running game, and as I said above, without Aldon Smith the 49ers lose their pass rush. Giving Luck time in the pocket is asking to get beat.
With the uncertainty of the Smith situation I will give you my two outcomes:
Smith plays: 49ers 20 Colts 17
Smith out: Colts 24 49ers 20