Golden Nuggets: 49ers at Patriots; most talked about game of the year?

USA TODAY Sports

Sunday, December 16, 2012 edition of the Golden Nuggets, a daily compilation of 49ers links from around the web.

Tonight is one of the biggest games of the year. 49ers at Patriots is one of the most talked about games in a while. There's a whole slate of meaningful games on. Giants at Falcons, Packers at Bears, Colts at Texans, Broncos at Ravens, Steelers at Cowboys, and even Vikings at Rams (lose gets booted off the Survivor Island). Which one of the other games is most exciting to you? Giants, Falcons, Packers and the Seahawks are all team we have to keep an eye on and I wouldn't be surprised to see Seattle lose at Buffalo.

What about the 49ers' chances? The experts on the web are about 20-2 in favor of New England. It's not going to be easy, but these are the kind of victories that make teams' years and the kind of defeats that make teams stronger. I think we play well, but it's going to take a perfect game to walk out of there with a win. Not impossible, just extremely difficult. We've won bigger games (division round vs Saints) so it's clearly possible. Whatever happens here, we have to win one out these next two or we likely lose the division. As important a two-game stretch a team can have, really.

Sorry this is running late. It's been a big day here in Australia...too many details to bore you with, so I'll dive into the links. Get some more links in the comments or start talking about something. There's a lot of time to fill until 5:20.

Week 15: 49ers at Patriots

Here's my preview on the 49ers - Patriots game. The Pats' D gives up a lot of yards on defense but leads the league in turnover differential with +24. Colin Kaepernick needs to protect the ball and the 49ers' D needs to continue getting to the quarterback and continue tackling well in the secondary to prevent yards after catch. | Protecting the ball will be key if Colin Kaepernick, 49ers expect to keep up with Patriots (Malone)

Matt Barrows has notes on the game. A.J. Jenkins might see his first targets if Mario Manningham sits out. And where is Vernon Davis? Can he open things up for Delanie Walker? | Patriot killer Manningham unlikely to play, Jenkins to see first pass? (Barrows)

And it's official... | Mario Manningham will miss Sunday's game with Patriots (Inman)

49ers key matchup No. 2: Aldon Smith vs Nate Solder (Maiocco)

49ers undaunted by challenge of facing mighty New England Patriots (Mercury News)

It's power vs power as 49ers & Pats collide (Scout.com)

Deion Branch helps Patriots prepare for Colin Kaepernick (NFL.com)

Assorted 49ers News

Mike Sando compares Alex Smith and Colin Kaepernick statistically in their starts. Their very similar in many respects, at least statistically. | 49ers' Smith and Kaepernick in starts only (Sando)

You know who's name is popping up all over with the 'insider' types: Chris Culliver. He's getting a lot of recognition for his high level of play, and teams are frequently opting to throw at Carlos Rogers instead. Some people are calling for Culliver to play in the slot on Wes Welker. | Culliver a Niners starting CB in the making (ProFootballWeekly)

KNBR conversation: LaMichael James (SF Gate)

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