The Fantasy Football Doctors Thanksgiving Weekend Show: Finish off the holiday a winner!

maxresdefault

Your hosts: Dr. Vasu Vaddiparty & Dr. Charlie O

  • Fitzmagic is over. Is Winston a good play this week?

  • Tom Brady is nursing his knee. Should you still start the “O.G.”?

  • How well will Russell Wilson play in Carolina?

  • How will Cam Newton fare vs. the Seahawks at home in Carolina?

  • Can “Big Ben” keep it going in Denver against the Broncos?

  • Is Eli Manning the sleeper QB play of the week?

  • Matt Breida is a must start at RB vs. the Bucs

  • Peyton Barber may be a strong start in the backfield vs. the 49ers

  • The Pats’ Sony Michel could be a big play with Brady having a bum knee

  • Look for Doug Baldwin to be a prime target for Russell Wilson

  • What will Josh Gordon do on Sunday for the Pats vs. the Jets?

  • DJ Moore should see lots of targets from Cam Newton

  • The Steelers’ Vance McDonald will have another productive game at TE in Denver

  • The Broncos’ TE Jeff Heuerman is expected to do well versus the Steelers

Turkey Fantasy

Do you want to win? Of course, you do! Push play and find out who to start and sit to come away with a victory this weekend. The playoffs are coming!

NFL Playoffs Podcast with David Zizmor: A look at eight teams that’s battling it out for the Super Bowl

Photo credit: @NFL

NFL Playoff Podcast with David Zizmor:

Sunday’s game AFC: Jacksonville 10 Buffalo 3

AFC Divisional Round

Saturday: Tennessee Titans @ New England Patriots

Sunday: Jacksonville Jaguars @ Pittsburgh Steelers

Sunday’s game NFC: New Orleans 31 vs. Carolina 26

NFC: Divisional Round

Saturday: Atlanta Falcons @ Philadelphia Eagles

Sunday: New Orleans Saints @ Minnesota Vikings

David goes through the NFL Playoff schedule for this weekend at http://www.sportsradioservice.com

 

 

Raiders welcome Cam Newton, Panthers to the Coliseum Sunday

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon
Sports Radio Service Writer

OAKLAND, Calif — Winners of four straight games for the first time since 2002, the Raiders look to continue their winning ways at home Sunday when the Silver and Black welcome the Cam Newton and the Carolina Panthers to the Oakland Coliseum.

Raiders quarterback Derek Carr threw two of his three touchdowns in the final frame to lift Oakland to a 27-20 “home” victory over the Houston Texans (6-4) on ESPN’s Monday Night Football to close out Week 11.

The game was played at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City, which last hosted an NFL game in 2005 when the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers 31-14 in a game that aired on ESPN’s Monday Night Football too.

Carr is continuing to have an outstanding 2016 season, throwing for 2,800 yards with 20 touchdowns with just four interceptions. The third-year signal caller is one of the best young quarterbacks in the league and is being touted as an MVP candidate.

At 8-2, Oakland is tied with the New England Patriots for the best record in the AFC and holds a one-game lead in the AFC West over the Kansas City Chiefs and the Denver Broncos who are both 7-3.

Denver hosts Kansas City on Sunday night in a highly anticipated matchup on NBC’s Sunday Night Football.

The Raiders appear to be jelling at the right time on both sides of the ball.

Despite losing the time of possession 36:27 to 23:33, allowing 104 rushing yards to running back Lamar Miller, and 22 first downs to Houston, Oakland’s defense made life difficult to the Texans’ offense by forcing two turnovers.

Linebackers Bruce Irvin and Malcolm Smith, along with rookie safety Karl Joseph were all over the field racking up 10 tackles a piece. Smith also intercepted a Brock Osweiler pass in the second quarter.

Carolina (4-6) is having a tough season following the franchise’s second trip to the Super Bowl.

The reigning NFC Champions are dealing with a slew of injuries to key players following a 23-20 victory in Week 11 over division rival New Orleans at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte.

Middle linebacker Luke Kuechly (concussion), defensive end Mario Addison (foot), and center Ryan Khalil (shoulder) are all out for Sunday’s game.

Kuechly, a former NFL Defensive Player of the Year winner, leads Carolina in tackles (71) while Addison, the team’s most disruptive pass rusher, leads the Panthers with 6.5 sacks.

Khalil, a two-time All-Pro at center, is Carolina’s best offensive lineman and the main protector for franchise quarterback Cam Newton.

Newton threw for 192 yards and one touchdown as Carolina nearly blew another 17-point lead the way they did in their Week 10 home lost to Kansas City, holding off a Saints team that scored 17 unanswered points in the final frame after trailing 23-3 entering the fourth quarter.

Oakland will have its hands full dealing with a Carolina offense that includes running back Jonathan Stewart, tight end Greg Olsen, and wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin.

Olsen is by far Newton’s favorite weapon and one of the premier tight ends in the league.

Not only does the 10-year tight end from Miami leads all NFL tight ends in receptions (54) and yards (745), but leads the Panthers in those categories while tied with wide receiver Devin Funchess for second on the team with three touchdown grabs behind Benjamin’s four scores.

Kickoff is set for 1:25 p.m. PT.

 

 

 

NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview: Patriots, Cards, Panthers, and Broncos move on

By Joe Hawkes-Beamon

After a 4-0 record last weekend in the wild card round, I can pat myself on the back for accurately picking that Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Seattle and Green Bay would win, but the divisional round is a whole different animal.

Oh yeah, it was the first time in NFL history that all four road teams won in the wild card round.

With three of the four games rematches from the regular season, there is a chance that all four games are going to come down to the wire. The teams that can execute in crunch time, limit the bone-head mistakes, and penalties will have the greatest chances of playing in next week’s conference championship games.

In the divisional round this weekend, it will be the home teams that will protect their turf with impressive victories and move one step closer to Santa Clara and Super Bowl 50.

Kansas City Chiefs (11-5); 5th seed at New England (12-4); 2nd seed –  Saturday 4:35 p.m. ET/1:35 p.m. PT – CBS

The divisional round is kicked off with Kansas City again, but this time the Chiefs are flying to Foxborough to take on a Patriots team fresh off a bye week.

Kansas City has been the hottest team in football, winners of 11 straight after destroying the Texans 30-0 in Houston last Saturday’s AFC wild card game. It was Kansas City’s first playoff victory in 22 years.

Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce was a difficult cover for the Texans, finishing the game with eight catches for 128 and provided quarterback Alex Smith with a reliable receiver.

Smith’s top playmaker, wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, is dealing with a high-ankle sprain and is a game time decision. Should Maclin play, he will draw the attention of Patriots cornerback Malcolm Butler, who was voted to his first Pro Bowl team this season.

Kansas City does have a solid running game with Charcandrick West and Spencer Ware, who racked up 67 rushing yards. Those two will be heavily involved in the game plan as the weather in Foxborough calls for rain, which makes Kansas City’s running game that much vital if they have a chance to knockoff New England. Ware is dealing with an ankle injury as well, but should be ready to go.

The last time Kansas City played New England, the Chiefs thumped the Patriots 41-14 at Arrowhead last season, prompting talks that Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was old and it was time for him to retire.

Brady, who finished the regular season with 36 touchdowns and a 102.2 passer rating (his best numbers in four seasons), should have his full compliment of targets in tight end Rob Gronkowski, and wide receivers Danny Amendola, and Julian Edelman at his disposal.

All three players missed time during the regular season, but New England continued to find ways to win games, but are entering the playoffs with a 2-4 record, the worst six-game record under head coach Bill Belichick to end the season.

Brady was sacked 38 times in the regular season, third-worst in his career. Kansas City has one of the best pass rushes in the league, finishing with 47 sacks, which was two behind New England’s defensive unit.

Kansas will have to provide pressure on Brady and force him to be uncomfortable in the pocket. If you allow Brady to have time to survey the field, he will find the open man and will hurt you.

“Any time you can get to the quarterback and put pressure on him, or make him uncomfortable in the pocket, you can create turnovers,” said Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston this week. “Every week that’s our plan, that’s our goal: Dominate every snap.”

Kansas City forced 29 turnovers this season after just mustering 13 last season. Rookie cornerback Marcus Peters finished tied in the NFL with Bengals safety Reggie Nelson with eight interceptions.

The player to watch for New England is defensive end Chandler Jones, who was hospitalized last Sunday for a “medical emergency.” Jones did apologize to his teammates and coaches Thursday for what he termed as a “stupid mistake” on his part.

Jones recorded 12.5 sacks this season, which was fifth in the league.

The Chiefs look to snap a five-game losing streak in New England, but it’s really tough to pick against Belichick and the Patriots when they’ve had two weeks to prepare.

Chiefs 21 – Patriots 30

Green Bay (10-6); 5th seed at Arizona Cardinals (13-3); 2nd seed –  Saturday 8:15 p.m. ET/5:15 p.m. PT – NBC

In Week 16, Arizona hammered Green Bay 38-8, in which the Cardinals registered nine sacks. The game got out of hand very quickly as the Cardinals held the Packers to just 178 yards of total offense, which was their second-worst offensive output this season.

In addition to the nine sacks, Arizona’s defense scored two touchdowns as Green Bay’s offensive line had no chance at protecting quarterback Aaron Rodgers.

Green Bay found themselves down 11-0 in a NFC wild card game last week to Washington, before waking up and pulling away from the Redskins 35-18.

One player who really wanted to get another shot at the Cardinals is Rodgers, who was sacked eight times on Dec. 27.

“We kind of felt like this was a possibility to be able to go back after that loss,” said Rodgers per the Packers’ official website. “We’re coming off, obviously, a big win, and in (the Cardinals’) last game they got beat by a lot. So it’s going to be a more competitive game, I bet.”

Arizona got ran out of its own building by NFC West rival Seattle 36-6 in Week 17 to close out the regular season.

Carson Palmer, Arizona’s 36-year-old signal-caller, will attempt to win his first career playoff game for the third time. Palmer set franchise records for a quarterback in passing yards (4,671) and touchdown passes (35). The 13-year veteran leads a Cardinals’ offense that finished first in the league in total yards per game (408.3) and second in points per game (30.6).

In the Dec. 27 meeting, Palmer finished 18 of 27 for 265 yards, two touchdowns, one interception and was sacked twice.

Green Bay’s defense harassed Washington’s quarterback Kirk Cousins, sacking him six times.

Cousins is definitely not Palmer, but Green Bay’s defensive coordinator Dom Capers will need to neutralize Palmer and prevent him from getting the ball to wide receivers Larry Fitzgerald (109 catches, 1,215 yards, 9 TDs), John Brown (65 catches, 1,003 yards, 7 TDs), and Michael Floyd (52 catches, 849 yards, 6 TDs).

Rookie running back David Johnson, who has stepped in nicely for injured starting running back Chris Johnson (no relation), combined for 127 yards receiving and rushing and a touchdown against the Packers this season. Johnson finished the season with 13 total touchdowns and could prove to be the difference maker for Arizona.

The game will be closer than it was in Week 16, but the Cardinals are tough at the University of Phoenix Stadium this season (7-1) in what could be a Saturday night spectacular.

In their previous playoff meeting in 2009, Rodgers threw for 423 yards, four touchdowns, and one interception, but it was the forced fumble and recovery by then-Cardinals linebacker Karlos Dansby for the game winning score that prove to be the difference in Arizona’s 51-45 overtime victory.

That was Rodgers’ first playoff start.

Packers 27 – Cardinals 33

Seattle (10-6); 6th seed at Carolina Panthers (15-1); 1st seed –  Sunday 1:05 p.m. ET/10:05 a.m. PT – FOX

This is the marquee game of the weekend in my eyes. Two teams that are so evenly matched with two outstanding quarterbacks and defenses that will hit you in the mouth.

In all honesty, Seattle has no business even playing this weekend.

The Seahawks’ season were brought back from the dead after Minnesota’s kicker Blair Walsh missed a 27-yard field goal that would’ve won the game, but held on to a 10-9 victory on the road in Minnesota in last Sunday’s NFC wild card game. Seattle is looking to advance to the NFC Championship game for the third straight year, but will need to put up a herculean effort if they are going to get passed Carolina.

Let’s not forget it was Carolina who went to Seattle last year in the divisional round and lost to the Seahawks 31-17, en route to Seattle’s second straight Super Bowl appearance.

This season, Carolina enacted a bit of revenge when they traveled to Seattle again in Week 6 and beat the Seahawks in a gritty, 27-23, come-from-behind victory. Panthers quarterback Cam Newton threw two first-half interceptions before leading Carolina back from a 13-point deficit in the second half, and hitting his favorite target in tight end Greg Olsen for a 26-yard touchdown catch down the middle of the field with 32 seconds remaining in the game.

Newton, who is one of the favorites to win the league’s MVP award, especially with being the only quarterback in NFL history to throw for 30 touchdowns and rushing for 10 touchdowns, completed 20 of 36 passes for 269 yards. Newton also racked up 30 yards rushing and a touchdown.

After the game, Panthers head coach Ron Rivera said that game was “one of the bigger victories we’ve had since I’ve been here.”

Panthers safety Roman Harper recently said that Carolina is “the better team.” “We need to go out and show confidence in who we are and the things we have done all year – and don’t shy away from the pressure.”

“After we played them, (in Week 6), we said “We’ll see you again in the playoffs,” Josh Norman, the Panthers’ Pro Bowl cornerback told Carolina’s official website.

Boy, I can’t wait for this game!

Carolina would make a huge statement in knocking off Seattle. Carolina hasn’t been to the NFC Championship game since 2005, where they lost at Seattle 34-14.  Many believe Seattle are peaking at the right time.

Dealing in the frigid conditions of Minnesota where the temperature was below-zero, Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson completed 13 of 26 passes for 142, one touchdown and one interception.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin caught five passes for 52 yards and a touchdown. Baldwin had a breakout season, finishing with 78 catches for 1,069 yards and 14 touchdowns. Seattle’s top receiver should see a lot of Norman, who can get under a wide receiver’s skin with his trash talking and suffocating-like cover skills.

Running back Marshawn Lynch is expected to play this week after not making the trip to Minnesota last week. Lynch should provide Seattle with a much needed running game to take a little of the pressure off of Wilson.

Seattle’s top-ranked run defense (81.5 yards per game)was on full display last week, holding NFL rushing champion Adrian Peterson to 45 yards on 23 carries.

One thing is for certain, there will be a streak that will come to an end Sunday, either Carolina’s 11 game home winning streak, or Seattle’s franchise record six game road playoff win streak – which includes last week’s victory in Minnesota.

Its a toss up, but Carolina looks like the time is now for them to take the next step.

Seahawks 17 – Panthers 20

Pittsburgh (10-6); 6th seed at Denver (12-4); 1st seed –  Sunday 4:40 p.m. ET/1:40 p.m. PT – CBS

With quarterback Ben Roethlisberger hampered by a shoulder injury and will be limited Sunday and wide receiver Antonio Brown out with a concussion, there is no way that Pittsburgh is going to travel to Denver and take out the Broncos Sunday to close out the divisional round.

Denver’s secondary is much healthier now than it was on Dec. 20 where Roethlisberger completed 40 of 55 passes for 380 yards and three touchdowns, and Brown caught 16 passes for 189 yards and two touchdowns, all season-highs for any opponent against Denver’s tough defense.

Denver did record two interceptions and three sacks off of Roethlisberger in the Week 15 encounter.

Roethlisberger is the only quarterback to throw over 300 yards against Denver this season.

“We got lucky the first time,” said Roethlisberger via the Pittsburgh Post Gazette. “We made plays, they had guys injured, we were at home. It’s not going to be that easy (again).”

Pittsburgh slipped by AFC North rival Cincinnati 18-16 last Saturday in an AFC wild card match up. The Steelers were aided by back-to-back Cincinnati penalties in the fourth quarter that setup kicker Chris Boswell’s 35-yard game winning field goal in the closing seconds of the game.

Denver will start quarterback Peyton Manning in Sunday’s contest. Backup quarterback Brock Osweiler completed 21 of 44 passes for 296 yards and three touchdowns, but this will be Manning’s show.

Wide receivers Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders combined for 15 catches, 242 yards and three touchdowns on Dec. 20, gives Manning the necessary targets to exploit a Steelers’ defense that ranks 30th in the NFL in passing defense yielding 271.9 yards per game this season.

Denver has won eight of their last 11 meetings against Pittsburgh at Mile High, including a 29-23 overtime thriller in a AFC wild card game on Jan 8, 2012 behind a Tim Tebow 80-yard touchdown pass to Thomas.

Steelers 21 – Broncos 35

Stats provided by Elias Sports Bureau, NFL.com,  and STATS LLC.

 

49ers travel to Carolina for Divisional Round

By Gabe Schapiro

One down, three to go. After last weeks win over the Green Packers, the San Francisco 49ers advanced to the Divisional Round of the NFL playoffs. This Sunday they travel to Carolina, where they will be taking on the Panthers. The second seeded Panthers won the NFC South title with a 12-4 record. They had a first round bye.

Carolina started the season 1-3, before going on a tear and finishing the year on a 11-1 run. They are led by quarterback Cam Newton, who is one of the most athletic QB’s in the league. He struggled at times, but overall the third year rising star had his best season yet. However, he doesn’t have great weapons at his disposal. His favorite targets are tight end Greg Olsen, who leads the team in receiving and touchdown catches, and wideouts Steve Smith and Brandon LaFell. None of the group are real game breakers. As a whole they scored the 18th most points per game in the regular season. They lean significantly on their running game, which ranked 11th. They finished an abysmal 29th in passing yards per game.

The reason the Panthers are still a team to fear, is because of their stout defense. Linebacker Luke Kuechly is the captain of the unit, and is seemingly in on every play. Defensive end Greg Hardy is a great pass rusher, and finished with 15 sacks this season. They allowed the second fewest points in the league.

This matchup isn’t quite a unstoppable force hitting an unmovable object, but it’s close. The 49ers feature the third best rushing attack in the NFL, and they’ll need some solid production against the Carolina, which counter with the leagues second best run defense.

These two foes faced off in Week 10 at Candlestick Park, and the Panthers came away with a hard fought 10-9 victory. In the contest the 49ers failed to reach the endzone, but thanks to three field goals held a lead for much of the game. A late field goal by Carolina sealed the comeback win.

As the saying goes, it’s tough to beat the same team twice in one season. However, the 49ers are fresh off of accomplishing just that last week. This weekend the conditions will be nicer, but the opponent is tougher. Colin Kaepernick will need to be a game manager. He needs to limit his mistakes and grab the few opportunities he’ll get. Michael Crabtree appears to be getting better every week, which is a great sign. Frank Gore wasn’t busy, but did well when given the carries in their previous matchup. He rushed for 82 yards on 16 carries, good for 5.1 yards per carry.

Expect another hard-nosed, low scoring affair. It’s certainly a winnable game, but it could come down to which side blinks first.

49ers in for another tough matchup in New Orleans

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:25pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-3) will be taking on the New Orleans Saints (7-2) at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. The 49ers sit in second place in the NFC West, two games behind the Seattle Seahawks. The Saints are in first place in the NFC South, one game up on the Carolina Panthers.

Last weekend San Francisco lost in a tough low-scoring affair against the Panthers, to a final score of 10-9, snapping their five-game winning streak. In many regards it lived up to the billing heading into the game, as it was truly a battle of the defenses. Three first half field goals was enough to give the 49ers the lead for much of the game, but it wasn’t enough to hold up. Carolina got a late field goal of their own with three minutes remaining in the game to give them the one point lead. San Francisco had another possession to try and retake the lead, but their offense simply couldn’t get anything going against the stingy Panthers defense.

The 49ers finished last weekends game with just 151 total net yards, a respectable 105 on the ground, but just a measly 46 through the air. As expected they tried to lean more heavily on Frank Gore and their rushing attack, but when forced to pass Colin Kaepernick couldn’t gain any traction. He completed 11-of-22 passes for 91 yards and an interception. He was also sacked six times. Gore finished with 82 yards rushing on 16 carries.

San Francisco will look to bounce back this week, but they will once again have their hands full with possibly an even tougher matchup against New Orleans. The Saints are tied for the fourth best record in the NFL, and feature a high-flying offense led by one of the best quarterbacks in the game, Drew Brees. Brees currently ranks second in the league in passing yards, touchdowns, and passer rating. He spreads the ball around a lot, but his primary target is Jimmy Graham, possibly the league’s best tight end in his own right, and the all-purpose weapon of Darren Sproles. As a unit they are the second highest scoring offense in football, behind only the record-breaking Denver Broncos.

It’s no surprise that the Saints once again have a high-powered offense, but what has been a bit of a new and unexpected development this season is how well their defense has performed. In both points and yards allowed they rank just one slot behind the 49ers, at fifth in the league in both categories. They don’t contain the stout personnel that Carolina does, but they are no longer a defense that can be scoffed at by any means.

The bright side for the 49ers is that the Saints primary weakness on the defensive side of the ball is stopping the run, where they tank 23rd. With Kaepernick still struggling, once again you can expect a heavy dose of Gore, Kendall Hunter, and the run game as they try to exploit New Orleans’ biggest weakness. Regardless, to keep pace with the Saints they will need a better more complete game from Kaepernick.

On the other side of the ball San Francisco will have their hands full containing the Saints offense. The 49ers have the defensive talent to do it, but they’ll need to be on top of their game. With Brees it is often just about containing him, rather hoping you will be able to stop him.  

This week San Francisco got great news when it was reported that Vernon Davis and Eric Reid both avoided a major injury, and are expected to suit up and be fine for this Sunday. Each player had to be removed from last weeks game with concussion-like symptoms. Reid will be a big plus in trying to slow down Brees, and Davis has been Kaepernick’s favorite red-zone target so far this season.  

49ers faced a tough defense in Carolina

Photo Courtesy 49ers.com

by David Zizmor

SANTA CLARA– It was a tough Carolina Panthers team that the 49ers had to face there at Candlestick last Sunday. Carolina is a surging team they’re on a long winning streak. Someone had to win, someone had to lose and you look at these two teams they both have excellent defenses and that’s what really dominated and dictated this game which is two great defenses.

The bottom line was that Carolina got the last score that’s what gave them the win 10-9 and the 49ers just couldn’t get anything going on offense but it’s not like the Panthers dominated either. There’s a lot of hand wringing going on in San Francisco about the Niners offensive game plan and there’s something to be said about that. The 49ers just ran into a defense that was really, really good and it’s tough to move the ball against a team like that.

Once you lose Vernon Davis and the passing game is still coming around it makes it tough to go up and down the field. It was not like the 49ers weren’t in this one it unfortunate because the 49ers played a great defensive game. They were just as strong as the Panthers were but the simple fact is the Niners offense couldn’t solve Carolina’s defense.

10-9 is not like anyone dominated but Carolina sent a message and said “We’re here you have to deal with us” the rest of the league had to be aware of this game and Carolina is a team that is aiming for the playoffs  and the 49ers really wanted that win but they got to brush it off and look ahead to next week’s game against New Orleans.

One of the strengths of the Carolina defense was the rush, they have a great front seven their linebackers and defensive lineman were all fantastic, you talk about a team that’s going to send multiple guys to the Pro Bowl they’re that good and the 49ers offensive line have been really solid as well. When quarterback Colin Kaepernick is under pressure he’s like any other quarterback it just becomes difficult to make a play.

Some teams Kaepernick’s been able to break out and get yards with his legs but Carolina has really quick linebackers just like the Niners do and it’s really tough too for a running quarterback to gain any yards. Kaepernick had that problem even when he was able to escape the pass rush there and there was really no field for him to rush.

Kaepernick couldn’t get any yards running and frankly when your being chased all over the place unless your receivers can come back and give you options it’s tough to make a play that way either. Kaepernick he has to work on a few things to be sure but also he’s not going to face a defense as good as that outside of Seattle the rest of the season.

David Zizmor covers the NFL for Sportstalk Radio

49ers to be tested against the tough Carolina Panthers

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday at 1:05pm the San Francisco 49ers (6-2) will be taking on the Carolina Panthers (5-3) at the friendly confines of Candlestick Park. This matchup features two teams who have been on a roll over the past few weeks. The 49ers have won five straight, and are in second place in the NFC West, just one game back of the Seattle Seahawks. The Panthers had a shaky start, but have hit their stride, rattling off four wins in a row, putting themselves in second place in the NFC South, one game behind the New Orleans Saints.

San Francisco is coming off of their bye week, but two weeks ago they easily dismantled the Jacksonville Jaguars, coasting to a 42-10 victory. The 49ers quickly put the game out of reach, mounting a 28-3 lead by half time. San Francisco stuck with what has got them here, and did most of their damage on the ground, rushing for 221 yards as a team. Frank Gore ran for 71 yards and two scores on 19 carries. Colin Kaepernick had two rushing touchdowns of his own to along with 54 yards on seven carries. For good measure, Kendall Hunter also got in on the action, compiling a team-high 84 yards on the ground on just nine attempts. On the defensive side the 49ers suffocated the Jaguars offense, not letting them ever get much of anything going. The highlight was a Patrick Willis forced fumble that Dan Skuta returned for a touchdown.

The Panthers should present a much more formidable opponent. On offense they have their own electric duel threat at quarterback in Cam Newton. His primary weapons are running back DeAngelo Williams, who is having a solid but not great season, tight end Greg Olson, who is leading the team in receiving yards, and old reliable Steve Smith, who isn’t the dominant player he once was, but still poses a threat. Their defense is easily their biggest strength, however. Young linebacker Luke Kuechly has been fantastic, lead the team in tackles and tied for the team lead in interceptions. Pass rushers Charles Johnson and Greg Hardy have consistently been giving opposing quarterbacks a hard time. As a unit they have allowed the second fewest yards and second fewest points per game in the NFL.

Sunday’s contest is a classic case of strength meeting strength. The 49ers have the fourth best rushing offense in the league, and they will be going up against the league’s best rush defense. Expect San Francisco to stick to their game plan, however, and go with a ground and pound approach. Depending on their success, however, they may need Kaepernick to air it out more than he has in recent weeks. Carolina’s defense hasn’t been as strong against the pass.

Mario Manningham and Aldon Smith are both expected to be active. It remains to be seen how limited they will be initially, but they could provide a big boost in what could be a tough week.

49ers at Seahawks, week 2 preview

By Gabe Schapiro

This Sunday, September 15 at 5:30 PM, the San Francisco 49ers (1-0) will be taking on their division rivals, the Seattle Seahawks (1-0) at CenturyLink Field in Seattle. Last season the Seahawks surprised many by finishing the season 11-5 just behind the 49ers in the NFC West, and clinched a Wild Card birth. In the playoffs they were eliminated by the Atlanta Falcons in a tightly contest divisional playoff matchup, losing by a final score of 30-28. The upstart Seattle squad, led by QB Russell Wilson, brings an extremely talented team back this season who most expect to once again challenge San Francisco for the NFC West division crown.

Last weekend the 49ers came away with a victory over the Green Bay Packers in what turned into another high scoring affair, 34-28. These two NFL powerhouses traded scores four times before San Francisco managed to grab onto the lead for good with just under six minutes remaining in the game. Colin Kaepernick and new wide receiver Anquan Boldin were the unquestioned stars from this one. Kaepernick, who is perhaps known best for his running ability, showed that he can beat you with his arm as well, throwing for a career high 412 yards and three touchdowns. Boldin, who was acquired via trade this past offseason from the Baltimore Ravens for a sixth round draft pick, clearly wanted to make a good first impression in his debut. He hauled in 13 receptions for an incredible 208 yards and a touchdown. That total was just nine yards shy of his career high.

The 49ers hope to carry their momentum from the big win in their season opener into week 2, which presents another tough matchup. Kaepernick already appears to be living up to the hype and then some in his sophomore season. In addition, their offense seemed to barely miss a beat despite the loss of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham. Their defense didn’t perform like most have gotten used to seeing, but Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense isn’t one that any time will have an easy time totally keeping in check. They limited their run game, managed to get to Rodgers for a couple of sacks, and rookie safety Eric Reid had seven tackles and an interception in an impressive debut.

Despite Wilson’s talents, the Seattle offense isn’t as explosive as Green Bay’s, but their defense is stronger. So they will prove to be a very different puzzle for coach John Harbaugh and company to solve. Last weekend the Seahawks struggled more than most expected they would against the Carolina Panthers, losing for much of the game before squeaking out a victory with a late come back. It remains to be seen whether it was more of a statement about Seattle or Carolina, but regardless a hard fought game should be expected this weekend.

For these two teams who had almost identical records last season and split the season series, expect more fireworks to fly when they renew this budding rivalry, even if they are more of the gritty hardnosed variety rather than the highflying action seen last week.