Once More, With Gusto

Aldon Smith did not return early from his nine game suspension this week, as many surmised he would. But, who cares? We don’t need him this week. After all, we’re playing the Rams! Again!

Next week, however, either Aldon is re-instated one game early or Pro Football Talk gossip hack Mike Florio has a big wad of coast-to-coast egg on his face. As much as I’d like to titter over Florio’s embarrassment, getting Aldon back next week, in time to face the Saints in New Orleans, would be a far more preferable enjoyment.

Every other wounded player is back at practice and ready to go, though, which bodes well for the second half playoff run. The biggest question for Sunday’s game is how well rookie center Marcus Martin will hold up while stepping in for the IRed Daniel Kilgore, who I don’t consider wounded so much as broken. Martin is only 20, but is reported to be quite mature. Let’s hope he can play good, too.

The Rams are in no such healthy state. Half their team is wounded or broken. They traded this week with Tampa Bay for safety Mark Barron, just so they’d have somebody to line up and get burned by Colin Kaepernick. Barron is a run-stopper safety who doesn’t cover that well (see, strong safety) and he’ll be playing free safety for the Rams. Bad for Frank Gore, probably, but good for Kaepernick.

For the past couple of years, the 49er O-line has been viewed as one of the best in the league. That view must be skewered by its pedigree. Three first round draft picks among the five starters. In truth, this group has perhaps been the weak link on the team this year. Injuries have no doubt played a part, as well as the missed training camp of Alex Boone. But these guys don’t pass block well and they don’t open holes for Gore and Carlos Hyde the way the Cowboys line does for Demarco Murray. They’ll need to improve down the stretch for the team to win it all.

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Posted in Game Previews

Lay of the Land

The 2014 season has produced its share of weird, up-and-down performances, but the playoff picture is beginning to blur into focus. In the NFC, seven teams are in the hunt (Cowboys, Eagles, Lions, Packers, Cardinals, 49ers, and Seahawks) and one other team will represent the NFC South, probably the Saints. The AFC is quite a bit messier. Everybody is in the race except the Jets, Titans, Jaguars, and Raiders.

So, 20 teams are still viable and 12 are toast. I’m considering the entire NFC South as one viability and three schmoes.

I’ve had a hard time taking the Cardinals seriously as a dominant team, but maybe they are. Their defense allows them to play with anybody, and each week they manage to find a way to score just enough points to win. They escaped the Eagles Sunday and go on the road against Dallas next week. If they win that one, too, only a game left with the 49ers and two with the Seahawks will be standing in the way of their winning the NFC West.

The Colts are as unpredictable as the Cardinals are not. One week they shut out the Bengals, then the next week Pittsburgh lays 51 points on them. At the same time, the Bengals turn around and beat Baltimore. These are not reliable teams. But, like with the 2012 Ravens, any of them can get smoking hot during the playoffs and, with a generous dose of luck, run the table. Maybe not the Bengals. After all, Andy Dalton is their QB. The playoffs are too big for him. It’s the red hair. No red headed QB has ever won a Super Bowl.

Last week’s blockbuster Seattle trade of Percy Harvin to the Jets for a bag of peanuts was an admission of a monumental front office blunder. One that, if Trent Baalke had perpetrated it, would have brought howls from many of us, and one or two in particular. Not having to cover Harvin in our two games this year is a real blessing and so is not having to prepare for covering him. I imagine with the weakened state of the Seahawk’s defense, those northern fellows are wringing their hands at the offseason loss of D-line guys that occurred mainly to accommodate Harvin’s bloated salary. All is not well in that locker room, either. Tsk, tsk.

Jets General Manager John Idzik admitted Monday his performance was unsatisfactory. Ha ha ha ha. Wheeeeeeeeeeeeew, Baby! Welcome to the real world, John. You’re inching up on it. How about atrocious? Laughable? Absurd? Pathetic?

This afternoon is the NFL deadline for making trades, so there will be rumors flying today. There’s never much action attached to the rumors, but it spices up the news for a day or two. There’s speculation that the Niners are shopping a D-line guy and maybe an OLB, but Jim Harbaugh assures us the Niners aren’t trading anyone, and he never fibs to us.

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Posted in FOS Speculation

Halfway House

How nice of the NFL to give the Niners a BYE week so the Bay Area can concentrate on rooting for the Giants to win the World Series.

It’s been a strange beginning to the 2014 season. The new stadium opened with great fan fare, then came the rumors of a locker room revolt against HC Jim Harbaugh to the arrest of Ray McDonald for domestic violence to the shabby, penalty assisted losses to the Bears and the Cardinals.

It was expected that the defense would struggle without arguably its two best players — Aldon Smith and Navorro Bowman. But, with the exception of the second half of the Bronco game and the rash of penalties in games two and three, the defense has played respectably well. Not great, but okay enough for an explosive offense to win games.

Unfortunately, the offense has been just good enough or just not good enough, which is a bit of a disappointment. We anticipated “prolific” attached to this unit, given the new four deep WR group. That has not been the case, so far. Perhaps injuries to the O-line and the TEs have something to do with the under-performance of the offense. Perhaps the “it’s new, we’re working on it” explanation has some value. Whatever. It hasn’t been championship caliber by any means.

The biggest surprise this year might be Jim Harbaugh’s mostly rational behavior on the sidelines. He hasn’t been screaming at the refs like a roided out maniac, so either he’s learned this behavior might be counter-productive, or he’s ingesting beta blockers in the locker room.

The biggest disappointment has easily been Tank Carradine. This DT/DE was counted on to be a force this year, at least as a pass rusher. Instead, he’s been inactive every week but one, and didn’t get in the game the one time he was activated. A complete zero this year. Ahmad Brooks has been another underachiever, and we may see rookie Aaron Lynch taking some of Ahmad’s snaps when Aldon returns.

Michael Crabtree has also been disappointing. He’s nominally our number one WR, but both Stevie Johnson and Brandon Lloyd have outplayed him. They have similar numbers to Crabtree in only half as many snaps. And their catches have almost always been crucial plays. This is Crabtree’s contract year, and he was expected to put up big numbers. He has not.

The surprising vulnerability of the Seahawks is the best tonic for the 49ers 4-3 record, the worst seven game mark of the Harbaugh era. With two good teams in the NFC East and two good ones in the NFC North, there might not be room for a wild card entrant from the NFC West. The team will need to get healthy and get on a roll to make it’s fourth straight trip to the playoffs.

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Posted in Mindless Drivel

Broncos 42, 49ers 17

Posted on October 20, 2014Skeebers 63 Comments ↓

I haven’t turned off a 49er game in the third quarter since probably as far back as the Mike Nolan era, but this puppy was going nowhere fast and when Colin Kaepernick tossed an interception and the Broncos immediately cashed in for a 28-10 lead, the remote went click. I’d already gagged enough over the endless Peyton Manning adulation by that time, anyway.

Not much to say here. The Broncos were healthy and pumped. The 49ers were wounded and flat. When Vernon Davis drops an easy first down pass that hits him right in the breadbasket, it’s not exactly a stunning surprise. But when the glue-handed Anquan Boldin drops an easy TD, you know it’s not going to be your night.

What’s truly amazing about Manning eclipsing Brett Favre’s career TD record is that in the 37 combined years these two greats have played the game, they have accounted for only two Super Bowls victories — one per each.

49er center Daniel Kilgore apparently fractured his ankle in the game and his season is over. Probably his time as a starter, too. Third round rookie center Marcus Martin has recovered from a Training Camp injury and is probably ready to step in as the 49er center for now and likely the future.

As banged up as the team is, the Bye week comes at a great time. When the next game arrives, we might have a relatively healthy team. Players on the PUP/NFI lists are eligible to begin practicing, and Aldon Smith has only two games left on his suspension (or one or none, if Pro Football Talk shit disturber and gossip columnist Mike Florio can be believed).

Getting beat by Denver in this particular game was mostly anticipated by the members of this site, but the stunning defeat of the Seahawks by the Rams yesterday goes a long way towards making this a reasonably pleasant Monday. And it’s nice to see Percy Harvin subtracted from that squad, too. The 49ers never had to face Harvin, and I can’t say I was looking forward to it, either. It’s debatable whether Seattle will be a better team without Harvin, but they certainly won’t be as dangerous.

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Posted in Post Game Spread

Bronc Skinner Blues

Posted on October 17, 2014Skeebers

The 49ers have given the Eagles their only defeat this year, as well as the Cowboys their sole blemish. If this Sunday night’s opponent, the Broncos, hadn’t already lost a game, I’d feel confident the Niners would whip them. But they have, and I don’t.

The team will be starting three backup linebackers in this game, which might not be relevant to Austin Davis of the recently deposed Rams, but it will surely not go unnoticed by Peyton Manning. In an additional tilt to the game, the evil Eastern schedule makers have our lads playing back to back road games on a short week.

Also, it’s mid-October and Manning’s arm has not yet shrunk down to a wounded noodle like it will be in December and January. Which means he would still be competitive in the punt-pass-and-kick contest if it were held during half time this week. It also means the Broncos are going to put up some serious yardage and point totals.

Denver also has the number one ranked NFL team by yardage allowed, which would be scary if not for the fact that two of the teams in the top ten of this particular stat are the Rams and the Raiders, who’ve won ONE game between them. OTOH, Denver also has a bit better offense than the aforementioned losers.

Further complicating things, the Broncos have only played five games and others (like the 49ers) have played six, which makes the whole paragraph above pretty much meaningless without employing some division, multiplication, and perhaps even fractions — all of which are above my pay grade. Sorry for the wasted eyeball strain, folks.

Regardless, we’re looking at a very balanced Broncos team. Good defense, good offense. The same could be said of the 49ers. The difference between the two can be explained by the weather. The Broncos’ offense is like a hurricane — steady, straight, relentless, awesome. The Niners’ offense is like a tornado — terrifying yet whimsical. They can turn you into sawdust, or whiff entirely.

There’s another difference, also. When the Broncos enter the Red Zone, they rarely end up kicking field goals.

So, once again, it’s most likely going to be up to the 49ers’ defense to play a superb, almost flawless game if we want to come away victorious in Denver. Which brings us back to the original point. We’ve got Dan Skuta, Chris Borland, and Michael Wilhoite playing linebacker and not Aldon Smith, Navorro Bowman, and Patrick Willis. This is one game where that is going to matter quite a bit.

And if the Niner defense somehow pulls this one out of their hat, I’m giving a game ball to DC Vic Fangio and casting my vote for him as Coach of the Year.

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Posted in Game Previews
2014 Schedule
1. 9/7 @ DAL: W 28-17
2. 9-14 vs CHI: L 20-28
3. 9/21 @ ARI: L 14-23
4. 9-28 vs PHI: W 26-21
5. 10/5 vs KC: W 22-17
6. 10/13 @ STL: W 31-17
7. 10/19 @ DEN: L 17-42
8. BYE
9. 11/2 vs STL
10. 11/9 @ NO
11. 11/16 @ NYG
12. 11/23 vs WAS
13. 11/27 vs SEA (Thanksgiving)
14. 12/7 @ OAK
15. 12/14 @ SEA
16. 12/20 vs SD
17. 12/28 vs ARI
2014 Prognostications
NJ49er: 11-5
Berger: 11-5
Grumpy: 10-5-1
Rob: 13-3
Skeebers: 12-4
Winder: 10-6
Earl: 12-4
Mr Fletch: 12-4
Phil Fan: 11-5
Chuck: 11-3-2
Bullit: 11-5
Bigjon: 13-3
Tony: 14-2
RTFirefly: 11-4-1
Dennis: 9-7

2014 Draft Class
1 Jimmie Ward, S/CB
2 Carlos Hyde, RB
3 Marcus Martin, C
3 Chris Borland, ILB
3 Brandon Thomas, OG
4 Bruce Ellington, WR
4 Dontae Johnson, CB
5 Aaron Lynch, LB
5 Keith Reaser, CB
6 Kenneth Acker, CB
7 Kaleb Ramsey, DE
7 Trey Millard, FB