DETROIT, MI - OCTOBER 18: Alex Smith #11 of the San Francisco 49ers drops back for a pass during a NFL game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 16, 2011 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Dave Reginek/Getty Images)
From the outside looking in, this game seems a little lopsided in favor of the resurgent San Francisco 49er team. To add some fanfare to the mismatch, I thought it would be fun to make some bold predictions or milestones that could be in reach for some 49ers come Sunday. So, without further adieu:
Offensive - Alex Smith Breaks 350+ Passing Yards
While I am excited for Frank Gore to make 49er history on Sunday, I think it could be a big day for the quarterback. Alex Smith has looked more and more comfortable taking his shots downfield in recent weeks and I believe that confidence carries into the week 8 contest against the Browns. The probable addition of Braylon Edwards could also help Smith break the 350-yard mark.
It may not seem all that remarkable because Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Ben Roethlisberger do it on almost a weekly basis, but it means something when that statistic is attached to Smith's name. In fact, Alex Smith has not yet broken 300-yards passing in a single game in 2011. But with some playmakers returning to full participation, home field advantage and a weak opponent, Smith can get it done in week 8.
Defensive - Donte Whitner Has a Big Game/Leads Day in Tackles
I think there could be a big game in store of safety Donte Whitner when he welcomes his home states football team to Candlestick. Whitner, from Ohio and a former Ohio State Buckeye, reminisced this week to the press about growing up and playing football with Ted Ginn Jr. It is safe to say Whitner is looking forward to this game and could find himself making a lot of tackles up front.
I also wouldn't rule out a forced or recovered fumble, or even an interception off Colt McCoy. Look for Whitner to be moving around a lot as an active contributor against the Browns Sunday. Mind you, this may be the boldest prediction considering he will have to out-tackle Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman for this to come true.
Special Teams - Ted Ginn Jr. Returns a Punt or Kick for a Touchdown
Right now, Ted Ginn Jr. is one of the most dangerous return men in the league, alongside the likes of Devin Hester and Joshua Cribbs. Ginn has been providing the 49ers offense with pretty decent field position in 2011 and even returned both a kick and punt for touchdowns already this season. Unfortunately, they both came in week 1 and he hasn't broken loose since.
The story of Whitner and Ginn leads me to believe they will be putting it on the line this weekend against Cleveland. Also coming off the bye week, Ginn should have fresh legs and be quite eager to take one to the house at Candlestick before the Niners go on the road to face the Washington Redskins. I like how our special teams matches up against theirs and don't believe it is out of the question for Ginn to return either a punt or kickoff for a touchdown.
Bonus - Aldon Smith Extends Sack Streak to 4 Straight Games
Aldon Smith has been heating up these past 3 games, recording 5 ½ sacks - I think that streak continues at Candlestick Park against the visiting Cleveland Browns. While the Brown's Joe Thomas is one of the best offensive linemen in the league today, I think the coaches will put Smith in position to disrupt what the Browns want to do offensively.
While these predictions are pretty bold, they are also all within reason. I could see one of these predictions coming to fruition, if not all of them. This could be a repeat of another game this season, when Tampa Bay came to visit San Francisco and got manhandled. If the 49ers win Sunday, it will make for a 5-game win streak - their first in a decade.
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