Kickoff is a little over 12 hours away and I thought I'd get one more preview out. Scouts Inc. usually hits on a lot of the obvious, but their preview of the game is always a plus.
49ers Keys to Success (with my own thoughts)
1. Straighten out the problems on the offensive line - According to Maiocco and Stats, LLC, Joe Staley has given up a team-high 5 sacks. His move to left tackle has not exactly been smooth sailing, but hopefully as the season goes on we'll see some improvements.
2. Get Gore the ball early and often - Certainly not a shocking suggestion. Gore has proven his ability to contribute in both the running and passing game. I know forcing a specific ratio can create problems but it seems foolish if he's not touching the ball 25 times a game.
3. Keep Cassel running in the pocket - Cassel has completed 2/3 of his pass and while his YPA is relatively low, it should only improve as he grows more comfortable. Accordingly, the pass rush simply has to be there. Eventually, Cassel is going to gain some comfort with the deep game and I'd prefer it not happen today.
Matchup to Watch
They agree with us on the Moss-Clements being the best matchup of the week. They say that:
This week Moss gets to test out his speed and big-play ability on one of the league's better cover men. It has the potential of an exciting matchup, and both players are sure to be up for the challenge. Clements prides himself on his ability to shut down opposing teams' best receivers, and he should get opportunities to prove himself against New England. The key factor in Moss versus Clements will be Cassel's ability and willingness to get the ball deep with the timing and accuracy to allow this matchup to play out.
Let's hope for a repeat of Clements' performances against Larry Fitzgerald and Calvin Johnson. Walt Harris will have to hold up his own end of the bargain against Wes Welker, but Moss is the biggest threat out there.
Overall, Scouts Inc. slightly favors the Patriots. They give the Patriots the edge in wide receivers, on the o-line and d-line, in special teams and at head coach. The 49ers get the edge at quarterback, running back, linebacker and defensive back. They predict a 23-17 Patriots win stating that:
San Francisco appeared to lose some confidence last week in New Orleans, and the 49ers are now on pace to set a new league record for sacks allowed in a season. New England isn't without its own question marks -- and shaky quarterback play is just one of them. But the Patriots get a narrow edge in this game, if for no other reason than Belichick has had an extra week to prepare for it.