Well we've been discussing our QB/Coach soap opera so much that it's easy to forget we've got a game this weekend. Furthermore, it's on Saturday in primetime. It's on the NFL Network, but for Bay Area residents, you should also be able to see it on NBC.
In the meantime, I thought I'd roll out what the scouts are saying about this game. Anytime they say, "well there are no other games on, so that makes it worth watching," you really have to get excited, right? Also, sometime on Friday I'll be posting a discussion I had with Josh over at Cincy Jungle.
San Francisco CB Nate Clements vs. Cincinnati WR T.J. Houshmandzadeh
Even though WR Chad Johnson leads the team in receiving yards, it has been Houshmandzadeh who has been the more consistent receiving threat. He is a more polished route runner and more consistent catching the football. Clements has been average, but the 49ers had to of expect more after the big money contract they signed him to this offseason.
The Bengals will move Houshmandzadeh all over the field in an attempt to create mismatches. Clements does not gamble very often, but he has struggled to read routes in this new system and has often found himself out of position. Look for QB Carson Palmer to go after Clements on short to intermediate routes before testing him vertically on the outside.
I really was looking forward to this game at the beginning of the season. Now that both teams have gone in the crapper (us more than them), I still see some things worth getting excited about. Clements and Harris vs. Housh and Ocho-Cinco certainly make for interesting matchups. Of course without a pass rush, Carson Palmer will eat the secondary alive.
Look for the 49ers to play a lot of combo zone and man coverages this week. They have done a solid job at times with their zone-blitz package, which is something that has given Palmer problems this season. Palmer played poorly versus Pittsburgh and Arizona this season and those are two teams that use the zone blitz effectively. San Francisco must be aggressive this week or Palmer will pick them apart from inside the pocket.
Hill came off the bench last week and played a better game than Dilfer or Smith has all season. He completed 22 of 27 passes for 181 yards and one touchdown. Hill did not really show the ability to stretch the field, but no QB in the 49ers offense has been able to do that all season because of poor QB play and lack of speed at the WR position. Hill is a smart QB who made solid decisions last week. He did a nice job of taking what the defense gave him and hit the proper read. This week the game plan will be structured for him to do the same. One area the 49ers' coaches will look to exploit this week is trying to get RB Frank Gore matched up against the out-manned Bengals' linebackers. Gore catches the ball out of the backfield well and should be able to make some plays after the catch.
I certainly agree with the majority who figure much of last week's success for Hill came against a prevent-style defense. I'm curious to see how he comes out of the gate. While it'd be nice to get points on that first drive, I think for now, success would be just getting a couple of first downs through the air. I don't expect some revelation from Hill, but I'd like to think he's got the skills to do SOMETHING.