Last weekend proved to be quite worrying for these two teams. The Bears lost to the Houston Texans last Sunday, and to make matters worse, Jay Cutler was lost to a concussion. According to ESPN, Jason Campbell will take the reigns for the Monday Night Football clash live on BBC. The 49ers divisional game against the St. Louis Rams ended in a tie, the first time in 4 years and only the 18th tie game to have occurred since 1974 when the Over-Time rules were first changed. With the more recent rule change this season, unless the team who receives the kickoff at the beginning of overtime scores a TD, the opposing team get a possession. So if one team scores a field goal on the opening possession, the opposition have a chance to level the game or grab a TD and win. If no team scores, like last week, the game just continues until the end of the Overtime period where it is declared a tie game. It goes down as half a win and half a loss. Alex Smith went out of the game with a concussion (along with Mike Vick and the aforementioned Cutler) but it seems he will be able to start on Monday.
A lot of people questioned whether the Bears record was legitimate prior to the loss last Sunday, I was one of the people who came out in defence of them but was proved wrong as they lost to the Texans on a scoreline of 13-6. Some people have come out and said Jay Cutler was trying to do too much with the football last weekend and at several other points during the season, I would be inclined to agree with some of that, I pointed out last week that Matt Forte was in the top 20 rushes despite getting around 30 or so touches less than the majority of the other leading running backs, with 50 less than some guys. The Bears, need to give Forte a lot more touches, it will help take some of the pressure of Jason Campbell, and the success they would more than likely have in the running game would more than likely mean a safety would have to come into the box, leaving the possibility of good gains over the middle for Tight End Kellen Davis or any of their slot receivers. That strategy will more than lkely work against other teams but will it be of use against the 49ers? Their defence is rather incredible, leading the league with a rather incredible turnover ratio of 14, 10 better than the 49ers. They rank 3rd in Red Zone defence, 5th in overall defence (4th against the run, 7th against the pass) and 2nd in the points given up per game category. Their secondary unit contains some big names such as Lance Briggs and Charles Tillman while, Tim Jennings is having a career year with a league leading 8 Interceptions.
The Niners have one of the best defences in the league, they are a top ten in rushing and passing defence (leaving them 3rd in the overall yards category), while perhaps the biggest plus for them is their ability to stop teams from scoring. They allow a miserly 14.1 points a game. Their Redzone defence is not as good, but if you can keep people from reaching the redzone like the Niners do, then you don’t really have a problem! I like what the Niners are able to do on offense, their offensive line is absolutely phenomenal, I think they could not throw a pass all game and still win, especially with that stable of backs they have in Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter, Brandon Jacobs and LaMichael James. Alex Smith is doing nicely, he is a very good short passer of the ball, and the 49ers have some very good receiving weapons, who can make good yards after the catch. Smith will never be an Aaron Rodgers type but he is more than a game manager in my opinion, he can help keep the team in a game, and make some big plays in the crunch if needed. (remember last year’s playoff game against the Saints?) Colin Kaepernick has help add to the stellar running game the 49ers have, he has been able to come in for certain packages that pundits call the “WildKap” and his ability as a runner and his good passing skills have helped improve the 49ers offense, he tends to get a couple of snaps in most games and if there is any doubt over the ability of Smith to start (at the moment it seems he is likely to play) then Kaepernick will prove to be a capable understudy.
Prediction: The defensive stats alone should tell you that this won’t be an incredibly high scoring affair, but a good game isn’t all about high scoring. Perhaps being a fan of the Buccaneers, who had a reputation for some mean defences in the past, means I may have a greater love for it than others but I love watching a good defence go to work. This game will be touch and go for a lot of it, but I expect the 49ers to win out by around 10 points or so.
Bold Prediction: Alex Smith to throw for 250 yards, a completion rating of above 70% and a pair of TDs