The San Francisco 49ers will get the second half of the season underway when they host the red hot Carolina Panthers. This will be the start of a rather difficult three-game stretch. At this point, the 49ers are 6-2 and considered to be one of the better teams in the NFL once again. This upcoming stretch will be a pretty good test. After that, the schedule will soften up a bit with the exception of a showdown at home against the Seattle Seahawks.
This team is rounding into shape at just the right time. Mario Manningham has been activated and will give them a viable option in the passing game to compliment Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. More help will be on it’s way soon as Michael Crabtree is set to return in a few weeks. Tank Carradine is a rookie that has been activated as well. He will help out when it comes to getting to the quarterback. Speaking of which, Aldon Smith is returning. He is one of the best pass rushers in the league. Lastly, Eric Wright will be available to the 49ers. They are getting healthy and will be primed for a second half run.
First up is the Carolina Panthers. This team has one of the better defenses in the NFL. They are very strong against the run. The 49ers like to run the ball, it is the strong suit of their offense. Colin Kaepernick, Frank Gore and the gang will have to deal with one of the better front sevens they’ll face all year. Luke Kuechly is an elite talent at linebacker and Star Lotulelei is having a strong rookie season. Mike Mitchell is also playing well at safety.
On offense, the Panthers will try to keep the pocket clean for Cam Newton but if it breaks down, much like Colin Kaepernick, Newton can make things happen on the fly. Newton likes to go to Steve Smith and Greg Olsen when he throws the ball. The Panthers also like to run the ball with Deangelo Williams. Their offense is dynamic but the 49ers defense is bottling up opposing offenses. This will be a great matchup.
Next is the New Orleans Saints. Recent history hasn’t been kind to the Saints in their games against the 49ers. They lost in an NFC Divisional Playoff in 2011 and they lost last year at home in Kaepernick’s first road start. The 49ers will return to the Mercedes Benz Dome to face a Saints team that is back on track now that they’ve gotten Sean Payton back. Rob Ryan also has the defense playing well. Their defense is 10th in the NFL in total yards allowed, giving up 333.1 yards per game. The New York Jets were able to run the ball well against them, which is a good thing for the 49ers as they will want to run the ball to make the game go at their pace. The 49ers also want to run the ball because that is their strength.
The 49ers will bring their physical style of play to New Orleans and look to take the crowd out of their game right away. The major task will be slowing down Drew Brees and the Saints high powered offense. They are rolling up 317.6 yards passing per game. Jimmy Graham is having one of the best years ever by a tight end. Darren Sproles remains a weapon for them as well, but he suffered from a concussion last week against the Jets. This will possibly be the hardest game to win in the second half of the season.
After the Saints comes another road trip. This time they will face the Washington Redskins. The Redskins are a hot and cold team that likes to run the ball with Alfred Morris and Robert Griffin III. They have some weapons in the passing game. Jordan Reed and Pierre Garcon are the two that standout. Griffin is not the same player that he was last year but the Redskins are scoring 25.4 points per game. Stopping Morris will be the primary task for the 49ers defense.
The Redskins defense is giving up almost 400 yards per game. Teams are able to pass the ball against them pretty well as shown by their allowing 282.1 yards per game. That ranks them 28th in the NFL. The better news for the 49ers is that the Redskins are giving up 116.6 yards per game on the ground. As we have established, it is a priority for the 49ers to be able to run the ball. It is always difficult going from West to East but this 49ers team travels well.
The next group of games includes: the St. Louis Rams at home, the Seattle Seahawks at home, at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Atlanta Falcons at home and lastly the Arizona Cardinals at home. The Rams, Bucs, Falcons and Cardinals don’t pose a large threat as the 49ers matchup very well with these teams. All four of these teams are struggling.
The Seahawks game will be at Candlestick Park and it will have some major playoff implications. Noone wants to go into Seattle and play against the Seahawks at home. That is what makes this game so important. Home field advantage will posibly be at stake. Seattle hasn’t been playing as well as normal but that you can always expect the team’s best effort when they’re going against the 49ers. These games are always very physical and full of trash talking. Both of these teams play the same style of football. They like to run the ball and rely on their running back
The 49ers are getting some players back from injury which will help out. They also can rely on the continued development of Eric Reid. Aldon Smith is returning as well. Things are coming together for the 49ers in time to make a stretch run to the playoffs. The second half of the season does have some challenges but a healthy 49ers team is capable of making it back to the Super Bowl.