NFC West Preview, Week 3

49ers/Chiefs

I'm feeling pretty confident about this game, but it could be  trap game just like the Seattle game was. I think we match up well with the Chiefs and should be able to move the ball well. The Kansas City defensive line is weak--they were unable to get any pressure on Seneca Wallace last week. If the Browns were starting a good QB they would've been in trouble. They also let the Browns go on a 95 yard scoring drive in the second quarter that include a 45 yard scamper by the TE Ben Watson who was open down the middle on a seam route.

That's good news for the 49ers because that's the magic carpet ride for Vernon Davis and Alex Smith. 

If Alex Smith gets as much time as Seneca Wallace had the offense will have a great day. The linebackers and secondary do a good job in run support for the Chiefs--particularly Eric Berry who does an incredible job in run support, often coming in from 10 or more yards deep to hit runners for very little gain or loss. (Although he was responsible for giving up a TD on a play-action pass to Josh Cribs in which he bit hard on the play action.) Our linemen will have to be diligent in blocking on plays to the outside, but I see no reason why we shouldn't be able to run up the middle. 

The news for the 49ers defense is a mixed bag. Matt Cassel isn't a good scrambler, nor does he throw well if there's pressure. In those situations his throws tend to be "just off". In fact, he looks remarkably like the Alex Smith of the 2nd half of the Seattle game.

If he has time he's a competent, even good quarterback but he doesn't have much in the way of targets to throw too.

This brings us to the bad news for the 49ers, which is the running game of the Chiefs. Thomas Jones is the Thunder and Jamaal Charles is the Lightning of that duo. I feel pretty good in our ability to stop Jones up the middle, but Charles to the outside scares me--the possibility is there of a big game a la the Titans and Chris Johnson last year. 

The Chiefs have tried to get Dexter McCluster more involved, particularly on the quick sideline pass and bubble screen. Those could be dangerous given how quick he is and the propensity the 49ers have to miss tackles.

Kansas City also has the edge on special teams, especially their return game. Javier Arenas is an exciting returner, as is McCluster. The Chiefs would be smart to put both of them back at the same time, forcing us to pick our poison or kick out of bounds.

If I'm the Chiefs I give the ball to Charles a bunch of times. Let him run to the outside as much as he wants--all he needs to do is get to the edge and it's big gains. I'd also throw lots of quick sideline passes as well as screen passes. 

If I'm the 49ers on offense I run the ball as much as I can. Keep the Chiefs offense off the field and beat up on the front 7. When they start creeping up the DBs and safeties send VD down the middle or throw play action t them. 

I think this is a very winnable game for the 49ers, but I think the difference is going to be the special teams play of the Chiefs. I expect at least one TD on punt return or kick return and consistently excellent field position for the Chiefs offense. 

Despite that i still have to think the 49ers win this, given how well the offense played against the New Orleans Saints

Rams/Redskins

So the Rams are 0-2 when I thought they had every chance to be 2-0 right now. They barely lost to the Cardinals and the Raiders game was closer than the final score indicates (they were in it up until the last quarter when the Raiders started pulling ahead).

As of now the Rams still need a number one WR. Mark Clayton has been getting lots of love since he's been there. Amendola has been decent and the rookie Gilyard has been  dynamic on returns but none of them are true #1's. The biggest struggle for the Rams is still their offensive pass blocking which has been mediocre (against Arizona) to atrocious (against the Raiders).

The matchup against the Redskins will be very interesting because almost across the board it matches strength against weakness.

The Redskins are horribly vulnerable to the pass, especially the short one (they allowed Matt Schaub to throw for 497 yards last week). Sam Bradfor'ds strength is his accuracy and touch, so you'd think that matchup should favor the Rams.

However the Rams offensive line is bad at pass protection, especially in picking up blitzing linebackers and safeties (the Raiders had almost uncontested access to Bradford last week by blitzing). The Redskins love to send blitzes--Brian Orakpo leads the team in QB pressures, hits and sacks. The rest of the linebackers aren't far behind in pressures and hits, so this will be a good test for the offensive line.

The Redskins struggle against the run too. Even though Arian Foster only had 63 yards rushing it wasn't because they couldn't run the ball--it was because passing was so easy. 

My keys for the game? Exploit the weakness of the Redskins defensive line by running the ball. This does several things for you. It lets you control the tempo of the game. It gives the ball into the hands of your best playmaker, and it keeps the Redskins from pressuring you with blitzes and the like. 

Defensively it's going to be tough for the Rams. McNabb has played excellent, smart football. He doesn't particularly favor any one area of the field over another, though he has more incompletions passing to the short middle of the field than passing left or right. 

The Redskins offense is unbalanced. Out of 114 I  offensive plays thus far into the season, only 40 have been run plays. Unfortunately pass protection is a concern for the Rams (they're fifth worst in the league against the pass). Defensively I think the Rams need to come out in their nickel defense or bring in a 3rd safety to take away the passing game for McNabb. They've got to get pressure on McNabb--if they don't they'll get picked apart all game.

The McNabb led Redksins have had a bit of a resurgence this year and although the Rams have fought hard i don't think they'll be able to stop the Redskins. Victory for the Redskins.


Seahawks/Chargers

The Chargers are an interesting team right now. Their record is 1-1, but that doesn't tell the whole story. Last week they won despite an awful first half performance vs the Jaguars (2 interceptions and one fumble). However the Jaguars had 6 turnovers (4 INTs, and 2 fumbles), so the Chargers won that battle.

The Chargers are heading to Qwest field where it's always difficult to predict what will happen. If the Seahawk team that played week 1 comes out, the Chargers will lose. If the team that played against Denver shows up it'll be another massacre.

Here are the key matchups. Turnover battle will be important for both teams. Hasselbeck has already thrown 4 INTs on the year (1 vs the 49ers, 3 vs the Broncos). I think the Chargers will pick apart Hasselbeck if he throws anything longer than 10 yards downfield. I'm not impressed with the Chargers front 7, especially their pass rush which has been mostly non-existent thus far, so Seattle should have plenty of time to throw. Offensively the Hawks should try to establish the run (I think the Chargers D-line and O-line are equally matched in that regard) and use lots of medium passes that require accuracy and timing (playing to Hasselbeck's strengths). 

The Seahawks defensive line has to step up big for them to have a chance in this game. They absolutely have to bring pressure on Rivers, otherwise they'll be destroyed through the air. Kyle Orton had one of the best games of his life last week and Rivers is a much better QB. If he has any sort of time like Orton did the Chargers will decimate the Seahawks. 

I think that the Seahawks are going to need every bit of luck they can muster to beat the Chargers who should win easily.


Cardinals/Raiders

The one matchup I'm really looking forward to in this game is Kamerion Wimbley vs RT Brandon Keith. Keith has only played 4 games previous to this season. He earned the start, but he's raw. This gives the potential for Wimbley to have a big game--those in IDP leagues might want to consider picking Wimbley up for this game. 

The Jason Campbell experiment didn't last long for the Raiders. I like Campbell but I think that Gradkowski brings something special for the Raiders--not necessarily that he's a better QB, but he provides a spark for that team that Campbell doesn't.  

On the other side I think that the Cardinals defensive line matches up well against the Raider's offensive line. The Raiders are starting a rookie at LT (Veldheer who has also played center for the Raiders). I think the Cardinals should be able to bring fairly consistent pressure against the Raiders. The Raiders are going to try to get McFadden going, but it will be tough going for them. 

The Cardinals are also going to try to get their run game going but with Beanie Wells making his first start of the season you can expect that it'll be tough going for awhile. 

Last week the Falcons romped all over the Cardinals, but even with a new QB the Raiders aren't the Falcons. 

So here is my blueprint for the game: The Raiders need to send pressure against Derek Anderson who doesn't deal with pressure well. The Raiders defensive line is ok, but not good enough to bring it consistently, so that means sending Wimbley on the outside and Trevor Scott on the other side. Get D.A. off his game and rely on Beanie Wells being rusty. 

Offensively I think the Raiders are overmatched against the Cardinals defense. The Cardinals have a pretty good defense that should be able to handle the Raiders offense, though I expect that McFadden will have a good day.

I expect this one to be pretty close, but the Cardinals will win. 

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