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Jim Harbaugh, Bill Belichick and undertones in Week 15

In Week 15, the San Francisco 49ers and New England Patriots will face off on Sunday Night Football. We discuss the match-up in depth, including the coaches and team philosophies.

Win McNamee

The San Francisco 49ers have had a very interesting regular season schedule, filled with entertaining match-ups. But Sunday’s game versus the New England Patriots in Week 15 could top them all. It will be unstoppable offense versus impenetrable defense when Patrick Willis and the Niners take on Tom Brady and the Pats.

And despite the personnel suiting up for this one, the most interesting match-up may be on the sidelines. Jim Harbaugh and Bill Belichick are two of the most successful and respected coaches – Belichick over a long period of time and Harbaugh via the last two seasons.

In his first year in the league, Harbaugh won NFL Coach of the Year, turning around the 49ers in remarkable fashion and leading the team to the NFC Championship. Belichick has been to five Super Bowls, and has walked away with 3 rings. He too managed to establish a winning environment almost immediately.

And even though they are alike in a lot of ways, they have completely contradicting on-the-field philosophies. Belichick’s Pats are about finesse and a pass-heavy approach, while Harbaugh’s Niners preach physicality and balance.

Between the personnel and the fact that these are two of the better coaches in professional sports, it’s quite easy to label this as a potential Super Bowl preview.

From another perspective, this game could be viewed as the passing of the torch, as it were. By no means are the Patriots done, but when it comes to powers in the NFL, its clear to see that San Francisco is on the rise, while New England has already had a phenomenal run.

Moreover, if the 49ers topple the Patriots on Sunday, they would have beaten Green Bay, New Orleans and New England – the top-3 offenses from 2011 – all on the road this season. This would be a tremendous statement and an incredible in-season feat to add to their list of accolades under Harbaugh.

It would also help prove that Harbaugh’s philosophy is that antidote to the high-powered offenses in the league. Instead of neglecting other areas in search of that one special QB, which is rare and hard to find, the philosophy of a balanced attack and strong team defense could become more popular.

The 49ers are one of the few teams that really emphasize the full back anymore. Meanwhile, the Patriots need to rent a storage locker for all the tight ends they’ve been stockpiling.

This game should have a very special aura about it. In today’s NFL, this is as good as a match-up as anyone could ask for.

Follow @DeSimone80