The San Francisco 49ers have started off the 2013 season in a rather intriguing way. The win against the Green Bay Packers carried on hopes of a Super Bowl season but the very next week in Seattle caused many to wonder if this was the year for the 49ers. A loss to the Indianapolis Colts at Candlestick kicked a lot of people into panic mode.
Fortunately, the 49ers were able to get back on track with a convincing win on the road against a nemesis from last year, the St. Louis Rams. The running game was the ticket to this victory and should be the big part of this offense going forward. Make no mistake about it, the 49ers are a team that is built to run the football.
Another huge part of the formula for success for the 49ers is being able to dominate the line of scrimmage especially on defense. They got back to their old ways when they limited the Rams to 18 yards rushing. The fact that this was done without Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith is even more remarkable. Navorro Bowman took his game to another level.
Now that they seem to be back on track, should the 49ers be expected to win their next four games?
The first game up is the showdown on Sunday Night Football when they host the Houston Texans. Matt Schaub is coming into this game having thrown a pick six in three consecutive games. Arian Foster is only averaging 3.8 yards per carry and has only scored one touchdown this season.
The main threat to the 49ers will be the receiving tandemn of Andre Johnson and DeAndre Hopkins. Both of these receivers are able to get vertical and make plays after the catch. It will be important for the 49ers to not fall victim to the play action passing game that the Texans employ.
Defensively, the Texans are tops in the NFL against the pass. They only allow 141 yards per game. Brian Cushing will be a key player in neutralizing Colin Kaepernick. J.J. Watt is always be a force to be reckoned with. I think the 49ers can win this game. They are 8-1 in games coming off of an extended rest.
The Arizona Cardinals come to town after the Texans. This is a game that the 49ers can surely win. They have dominated the Cardinals in their recent match ups. Carson Palmer will surely look to get the ball to Larry Fitzgerald but that is the only offense that they have. Michael Floyd has struggled and their running game is obsolete. They still have Patrick Peterson and Darnell Dockett on that defense. Darryl Washington is returning from a four game suspension. They are second in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game so it will be a challenge for the 49ers running game.
The Cardinals will be just what the 49ers need to get back to being considered a contender. It is a divisional game at home. Unfortunately, Michael Crabtree won’t be there to torment Peterson as he has done in past match ups with the Cardinals. The 49ers have been able to run the ball against them in the past and Frank Gore will look to continue his success against their divisional rival. The 49ers should be expected to win this game as well.
The Tennessee Titans will present the 49ers with a tough game, especially on the road. The Titans are a physical football team that may be able to give the 49ers some problems. Delanie Walker will get to face his former team for the first time. Chris Johnson is struggling as shown by his 3.3 yards per carry average. He is still a player that can really make things happen if he can make it to the second level of a defense. It will be important for the defense to be disciplined and used their angles when they are trying to tackle Johnson.
One thing that will be of assistance to the 49ers in this game is the absence of Jake Locker. Locker suffered a hip injury and is likely to be out in this game. Justin Hunter is an extreme vertical threat that the 49ers will have to watch out for. He only has two catches but he is averaging 25 yards on them.
The Titans have collected five interceptions and four fumbles on defense without turning over the ball on offense. They completed their fourth consecutive game last Sunday without committing a turnover, becoming only the second NFL team in the Super Bowl era (1966-present) to have zero interceptions and zero lost fumbles through the first four games.
This game could mark the return of Mario Manningham. That would be a very important addition for the 49ers offense. Manningham does not put up huge numbers but he stretches the field. He is able to beat single coverage and make big plays on the outside. That will open things up for Anquan Boldin, Vernon Davis and the rest of the receivers. This is another game that the 49ers should win.
The final game going into the bye week is a game in London against the hopeless Jacksonville Jaguars. This team is struggling badly. They are only scoring 7.8 points per game and averaging 224 total yards per game. They have one of the worst starting quarterbacks in the NFL in Blaine Gabbert. Ironically, many so called experts had him ranked ahead of Colin Kaepnernick and second to Cam Newton entering the 2011 NFL draft. Gabbert has struggled mightily over his brief NFL career.
Justin Blackmon and Cecil Shorts are two play makers that can make some things happen when given the chance. Maurice Jone-Drew is only gaining 2.4 yards per carry. There really is no hope for this team this year.
Teams are averaging 5.2 yards per carry and gaining 165 rushing yards per game against the Jaguars defense. Gus Bradley is the head coach and has done a good job of slowing down the 49ers while he was the defensive coordinator of the Seattle Seahawks. He doesn’t have the same caliber of players on the Jaguars roster to be successful this go around.
It is very conceivable for the 49ers to go into their bye week with a 6-2 record. The next four games are all very winnable. The 49ers can kick start the next quarter of their schedule with a home win against the Texans. That would put them back on the map as a championship contender.