Alternate Thoughts Heading Into 49ers Week

Despite the 49ers road win on Monday night, this game appears to be the most winnable of the five remaining on the schedule. Lots of factors working against Frisco. First, they catch the Packers coming off a close loss on the road against an elite NFL team. The Pack is ready to get back on the field and taste victory.

The 49ers face the double whammy of playing a road game on Monday night and having to turn around and go back on the road and play in the central time zone. The noon kickoff will feel like 10am to them--never a good formula for West Coast teams. Throw in the snow flurries and gametime temps in the upper 20s and the Pack will have a serious mental edge. If Green Bay can strike early and force SF to go into passing mode, this one could be over early.

That said, the Packers do need to show up, which they'll do in their '30s era uniforms. I love these. I wish they would have saved them for the Bears game. These should be worn against our oldest rivals. With the Jan. 2nd season finale looking bigger by the week, I'd love to see these old school uniforms in play on that frigid day (or night, if they flex it).

The 49ers have talent, particularly on defense. They were most people's pick to win their division and some had them reaching the Super Bowl (Mike Greenberg). But their offense never got untracked, leading to an early season firing of the offensive coordinator. The biggest problem has been at QB, where Alex Smith couldn't grab the job and keep it (An aside, the Packers and their fans will forever be grateful to Mike McCarthy and the 49ers for choosing Smith rather than Aaron Rodgers. It's the gift that keeps on giving). Former Ohio State star Troy Smith is 3-1 as a starter, but he is in for a rude awakening against the different looks and pressures to be applied by Dom Capers and his crew on Sunday.

The loss of Frank Gore is devastating to this team, which has a hard time moving the ball anyway. Two weeks ago, they were shutout at home by Tampa Bay. The interesting dynamic here is Brian Westbrook, the veteran RB whom Ted Thompson passed on in free agency, no doubt worried about the extensive injury history (concussions and knees) and his 31 year old body. Westbrook shined on Monday night with 136 yards on 23 carries. He'll get plenty of action on Sunday and Packer fans might wish he was wearing the navy blue with the gold circle.

With two more Packers placed on injured reserve this week, the season total is now 13, which has obviously inpacted this team on the field, perhaps nowhere more visibly than on special teams, where the units are changing more often than Randy Moss's home address. Tom Silverstein wrote a good blog on the subject at JS Online.

The 49ers will have a new kicker on Sunday. Ancient Joe Nedney takes over and will try to help out a team that ranks 31st in the league in points scored, at 17 per game.

The Niners, like Atlanta, have a sound defense that is much better against the run than the pass. Expect the Pack to continue to be much more effective through the air, though they won't abandon the run as quickly as they did in Atlanta. With Dimitri Nance not yet cleared to play with a concussion, we may get our first glimpse of rookie James Starks in the backfield.

A full preview of this game will be up on Friday.


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