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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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WEEK 15
2012
CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
CAR at SD IND at HOU *NYG at ATL TB at NO
DEN at BAL *JAC at MIA *PIT at DAL *WAS at CLE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

Prediction: SF 17, NE 27 (Line: NE by 3)

Players Updated: Mario Manningham

Players to Watch: Colin Kaepernick, Brandon Lloyd

This is the Sunday night game and should be a very good one. The 9-3-1 49ers come in with a 4-2 road record and face the 10-3 Patriots who are 5-1 at home having lost to the Cardinals there which is more shocking with every passing week. The Patriots are tied with the Broncos for the #2 seed and just beat the #1 seed Texans. They need this win to qualify for homefield and a first round bye. The 49ers have a half game lead on the Packers for the #2 seed in the NFC with a road game in Seattle left to play. The loser here will probably drop to a #3 seed which is a huge difference. It helps the Patriots significantly to be playing at home with the 49ers forced to travel across the country and play in far colder weather than they are used to. Just like the Texans last Monday night.

San Francisco 49ers
Homefield: Monster Park
Grass
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @GB 30-22 10 STL 24-24
2 DET 27-19 11 CHI 32-7
3 @MIN 13-24 12 @NO 31-21
4 @NYJ 34-0 13 @STL 13-16
5 BUF 45-3 14 MIA 27-13
6 NYG 3-26 15 @NE -----
7 SEA 13-6 16 @SEA -----
8 @ARI 24-3 17 ARI -----
9 BYE ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
SF @ NE Rush Catch Pass
QB Colin Kaepernick 40 240,1
RB Frank Gore 70,1 3-20
WR Anquan Boldin 4-50
WR Michael Crabtree 6-80,1
WR Steve Johnson 6-80,1
WR Brandon Lloyd 5-60
TE Vernon Davis 2-30
PK Phil Dawson 2 FG 2 XP

Pregame Notes: The 49ers redeemed themselves after losing to the Rams in week 13 by taking down the Dolphins with relative ease but that was at home and this week will be just the third time the 49ers have needed to travel to the northeast. The Seattle game following this is every bit as big and maybe more important, especially if the 49ers lose this week.

Colin Kaepernick has declined as a passer during his four starts and while that partially relates to the quality of opponents, it is somewhat troubling that defenses are catching onto him more now. Against the Dolphins he only passed for 185 yards but scored as a runner for the fifth time this year. So far Kaepernick threw for only three touchdowns. He's making an equally big impact as a runner. This week pits him against a very weak secondary but it is a road game and the Pats are better now. It is a great test to see just where Kaepernick is as a starter. In New Orleans, he only passed for 231 yards and one score but added a second one as a runner for comparison.

Frank Gore is not taking over any games and has been over 20 carries only three times this year. But he scored in each of the last three games which helps his 60 yard or so game he seems stuck at lately. Now that the Brandon Jacobs experiment is very much over, LaMichael James was given his first action of the year and gained 30 yards on eight runs while playing in a role just like Kendall Hunter would have. He is one to watch in this offense that could use a spark.

Mario Manningham was scratched last week because of his shoulder but may return. A.J. Jenkins was active for the first time but the rookie wideout never saw a pass. This week has Michael Crabtree as the standout receiver but he could be shadowed by Aqib Talib who is tentatively expected to play this week after suffering a hip pointer in the Texans matchup. Talib has made a huge difference to the secondary and no doubt will be tasked with Crabtree if possible. This is also the reunion of Randy Moss with his more recent employer. While that often prompts a bigger effort, Moss still likes the Patriots and has been little more than a minor player each week anyway.

The production in this game is dependent on how well the 49ers can slow down the Patriots pass attack. If they cannot, then the run goes away and Kaepernick is forced into a must-throw mode that should be more successful for him than the last several games.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points SF 13 12 24 9 11 17
Preventing Fantasy Points NE 29 12 27 31 8 1

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Colin Kaepernick, SF CHI 30100023011 ***
Kaep did just enough last week in Dallas, containing himself to 201 and 2 while his defense and ground game did the rest. He may have to work a bit harder this week to keep pace with the Bears' offense, but he certainly doesn't come to the table empty handed--or footed, as it were.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Carlos Hyde, SF CHI 401000000 ***
Hyde certainly flashed in the season opener, offering a taste of what's to come once Frank Gore finally calls it a career. He'll be the junior partner in this committee, but considering that the Bills had three backs top 60 combo yards last week there should be more than enough for two Niners to get their fantasy fill.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Frank Gore, SF CHI 700000000 ***
Chicago still has issues stopping the run, which bodes well for Gore as the lead dog in San Francisco's backfield tag team. Gore should get the early looks; whether or not that also yields goal line opportunities marks the difference between a solid fantasy outing and a really good one.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Anquan Boldin, SF CHI 004701000 ***
That Bolden carved out 8-99 against a porous Dallas secondary isn't surprising; that it came at the expense of Michael Crabtree's numbers is. Maybe it's injury related; maybe it's Colin Kaepernick's comfort level. Whatever the case, at this juncture Boldin deserves the same fantasy consideration Crabtree gets; plan your lineup accordingly.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Michael Crabtree, SF CHI 004400000 ***
Crabtree was less WR1 and more third wheel in the San Francisco passing game last week, taking a back seat to both Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis. That should be the exception rather than the rule; we'll give him another opportunity to prove that theory before relegating him.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Steve Johnson, SF CHI 002300000 ***
With Michael Crabtree, Vernon Davis, and Anquan Boldin all fighting for whatever targets exist in this run-first offense there's hardly enough to make Johnson worthy of fantasy consideration.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Vernon Davis, SF CHI 005600000 ***
Shutting out Scott Chandler, like the Bears did last week, is one thing; limiting Davis is another thing entirely. Not saying he'll put up 130-plus yards on the Bears like Jimmy Graham and Jordan Reed did last season, but another solid fantasy outing is definitely on the radar.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Phil Dawson, SF CHI 1133 ***
Dawson is still looking for his first field goal of the 2014 season; odds are he'll get it--and then some--this week, as he booted multiple treys in seven of eight by The Bay last year.

New England Patriots
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
FieldTurf
  Opp Score   Opp Score
1 @TEN 34-13 10 BUF 37-31
2 ARI 18-20 11 IND 59-24
3 @BAL 30-31 12 @NYJ 49-19
4 @BUF 52-28 13 @MIA 23-16
5 DEN 31-21 14 HOU 42-14
6 @SEA 23-24 15 SF -----
7 NYJ 29-26 16 @JAC -----
8 @STL 45-7 17 MIA -----
9 BYE ----- ----- ----- -----
News | Statistics | Roster
NE vs SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Tom Brady 280,2
RB Stevan Ridley 70,1 2-10
RB Shane Vereen 20
WR Danny Amendola 7-80,1
PK Stephen Gostkowski 2 FG 3 XP

Pregame Notes: The Patriots were so thoroughly dominant over the visiting Texans that it makes it hard not to just assume they'll manhandle the 49ers just as bad. The schedule makers were incredibly kind when they opted to give the Pats home venues for the matchups against the Houston and San Francisco defenses. After this week, all that is left is to smack down the Jaguars and then take down the visiting Dolphins who are somewhat spry when they play but always beatable.

Tom Brady had not problems with the Houston secondary as he shredded it for 296 yards and four touchdowns before finally leaving later in the game to go make some more commercials. He scores every week and at home has been less productive in most games because the rushing effort usually takes care of the win as well.

The Patriots are back to a full complement in the backfield with Brandon Bolden back and mixing in with Danny Woodhead, Shane Vereen and of course Stevan Ridley. The only consistency here is Ridley who has scored in six straight games and almost always gets 18+ carries in the game. The other three have been active and get some work, but this remains primarily Ridley's backfield and he is the preferred goal line back as well.

Donte Stallworth showed up on Monday night, caught one pass for 63 yards and a score and then suffered a high ankle sprain. He is now on inured reserve with a 63 yard average for the Patriots this year. Deion Branch was re-signed to take his place which was to replace Julian Edelman. What was forgotten was that Brandon Lloyd is still the starter and he finally showed up with seven receptions for 89 yards on the Texans last week. The defense took away Wes Welker (3-52) for most of the game and Lloyd was able to get involved.

This will be even more interesting than the Houston win because the Texans already had experienced problems in their secondary while the 49ers are a top unit across all positions. It does help to play at night on the other side of the country from what the 49ers are used to but this will be equally a good test for the Patriots and a scary thing if they in any way manhandle this defense as they did the Texans.

RANKS (1-32, 1 = BEST) TEAM QB RB WR TE PK DEF
Gaining Fantasy Points NE 4 2 17 1 2 2
Preventing Fantasy Points SF 2 2 2 2 1 10

  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
QB Tom Brady, NE @MIN 0000029020 ***
After shutting out Austin Davis and Shaun Hill last week, the Vikings step up in class to face Brady; it's akin to jumping right from Glass Joe to Mike Tyson in "Punch-Out!!". Don't get overly giddy, as Mike Zimmer's Bengals held Brady to 197 yards and no TDs last year--but that was with Cincy's personnel, not Minnesota's.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Shane Vereen, NE @MIN 7015400000 ***
The Vikings have historically struggled with pass-catching backs, and despite the changes in personnel and scheme they gave up 5-38 to the Rams last week. Vereen didn't see Mike Zimmer's defense when the Patriots played the Bengals last season, but lesser pass catcher Brandon Bolden caught six balls for 40 yards. Mix in Vereen's newfound work as a sometimes-goal line guy and there's more than enough for him to be a solid fantasy play this week regardless of scoring format.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
RB Stevan Ridley, NE @MIN 300000000 ***
Tough to gauge the Vikings' revamped defense after one game against the Rams' backup QBs, but the fact they held Zac Stacy under four yards a carry doesn't bode well for Ridley's fantasy prospects. Neither does Shane Vereen swiping goal line carries, previously a Ridley milieu.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Julian Edelman, NE @MIN 007801000 ***
The Patriots' receiving corps is a mess, but Edelman is the one guy who seems to return consistent fantasy value. He paced the group in catches and yardage last week and would seem to be the safest fantasy bet once again, against a Vikings secondary that may be down a cornerback to begin with.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
WR Kenbrell Thompkins, NE @MIN 004500000 ***
We have yet to see the Patriots' receiving corps settle into anything resembling predictability. That means you can't bank on any of the secondary personnel getting in on the fantasy fun, which in turn makes Thompkins an unreliable fantasy start at best.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Rob Gronkowski, NE @MIN 008901000 ****
The Vikings have historically struggled to defend tight ends, so it's unlikely they'll have an answer for Gronk.
  Opp RuYDRuTDRecReYDReTDPaYDPaTDInt ConFac
TE Timothy Wright, NE @MIN 004500000 ***
The switch in schemes and coordinators seems to have only slightly impacted the Vikings inability to defend the tight end position, as last week Jared Cook, Lance Kendricks and Cory Harkey combined for 7-72. Unless and until we see Wright in a more defined role in New England, however, he can't be banked on for fantasy assistance even if the matchup is favorable.
  Opp fgaFGMxpaXPM ConFac
K Stephen Gostkowski, NE @MIN 2233 ***
Last week's double makes it 17 straight games with multiple field goals for Gostkowski. Don't see that streak coming to an end in Minnesota.

WEEK 15
2012
CIN at PHI (THU) *GB at CHI *MIN at STL *SF at NE
CAR at SD IND at HOU *NYG at ATL TB at NO
DEN at BAL *JAC at MIA *PIT at DAL *WAS at CLE
*Updated *DET at ARI KC at OAK *SEA at BUF *NYJ at TEN (MON)

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