The 49ers and Jets don't kick off until 1pm on the Coast, so I thought I'd use the morning to take a look at what may be the key to today's game. And, of course, feel free to use this as the AM thread until the game thread opens up later this morning.
Given all the talk about Brett Favre and Shaun Hill this season by their respective fan bases, the game could very well come down to the two stellar running backs that will be facing off, Frank Gore and Thomas Jones.
In his look at the various matchups for today's game, Maiocco pointed out the dramatic difference between Frank Gore's home and away rushing yards per game (96.8 vs. 57.5). Although Florida Danny would probably be able to provide more specific and more useful stats, I'll keep it simple. The 49ers have played six home games and six road games. At home Frank Gore has 108 rushing attempts and on the road he has 107 rushing attempts. The difference comes in that 5.4 yards per carry at home versus 3.2 yards per carry on the road.
The 49ers are going to want to keep Brett Favre and Thomas Jones off the field for as long as possible. Even given his struggles last week in Buffalo, the 49ers offense dominated the time of possession early on thanks to long drives and a few key runs. If Frank Gore can get his average at or above 4 yards a carry chances of winning would seem to improve. I'd much rather see the 49ers offense performing at second and 5 or 6 and at third and short than long to go.
Thomas Jones and his accompanying offensive line have been a big reason for the Jets resurgence this season. Jones sees himself averaging over a yard more per carry compared to last year. Brett Favre certainly has had an impact, but the running game can do a lot to keep Favre out of situations where he can often make some momentum killing mistakes.
While the soft underbelly that is the 49ers defensive line would seem to indicate problems, I came across an interesting statistic. According to Mike Sando and ESPN Stats, the 49ers have allowed 3.01 yards per rush up the middle this season, second best in the league. The duo of Patrick Willis and Takeo Spikes has to have a lot to do with that. Aubrayo Franklin was solid last week and will need another big game, but even if he struggles, he's got two great linebackers backing him up.