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Predictions & Projections
David Dorey
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The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Bye Week

Prediction: NE 17, SF 20

For many years this game would have been a slaughter but the 49ers are getting a little better each year and the Patriots are battling against a leap from the high board. If the Pats lose this one it is a very bad sign for the rest of the year. It should be close.

New England Patriots (2-1)
Homefield: Gillette Stadium
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 KC 17-10 -16.5 45
2 @NYJ 19-10 +1.5 39
3 MIA 13-38 -13 34.5
4 BYE - - -
5 @SF - -3 41.5
6 @SD - - -
7 DEN - - -
8 STL - - -
9 @IND - - -
10 BUF - - -
11 NYJ - - -
12 @MIA - - -
13 PIT - - -
14 @SEA - - -
15 @OAK - - -
16 ARZ - - -
17 @BUF - - -
NEP at SF Rush Catch Pass
QB Matt Cassell     190,1
RB Laurence Maroney 50 10  
RB Sammy Morris 50,1 10  
TE Ben Watson   20  
WR Randy Moss   50,1  
WR Jabar Gaffney   20  
WR Wes Welker   70  
PK Stephen Gostkowski 1 FG 2 XP  
Pregame Notes: The bye week came at an opportune time since it would take a couple of weeks to digest how the rebuilding Miami Dolphins could visit and so thoroughly dominant a team that won the AFC last year. The Fins were able to stuff the run, stop the pass and then rush all over, through and beyond the Patriots defense. Matt Cassell is looking very much like a guy who has been on the sideline for four years for a reason. The week after Brady was injured was emotional for the Pats who had to re-establish their superiority against the Jets in week two. Job done. But the emotional letdown from losing Brady came home in week three. That is not surprising but how utterly dominated the Pats were by what was the worst team in the NFL last year was almost without precedent.

Quarterback: After two weeks as the starter, Matt Cassell's combined performance doesn't equal what Brady was producing per game last year. Cassell had passed for only one score in two weeks as the starter and not thrown for more than 165 yards. Against the visiting Dolphins in a game that the Pats were throttled, Cassell could only managed to complete 19 of 31 passes for a mere 131 yards and one score to Jabar Gaffney.

There is some speculation that the Pats may opt for the rookie Kevin O'Connell since Cassell hasn't done much to secure the job but that may take a few weeks of poor play to happen.

Running Backs: Nothing like having five running backs on the roster and yet none that are showing enough to be a primary back. Sammy Morris has the most fantasy value since he is the preferred goal line back but in games like week three when the Pats are never near it, then Morris only has 27 yards in the game. Laurence Maroney is yet again nursing an injury (shoulder) and is a nightmare for any owner wanting to rely on starting him. Lamont Jordan gave ever so brief hope when he ran for 62 yards on 11 carries against the Jets but he only managed 22 yards on six carries against the Dolphins and has not made any inroads to more playing time.

This unit remains as mixed and and unreliable as ever. And not particularly productive yet this year despite the Patriots really needing a bigger rushing effort to take the pressure off of Cassell to win the game. Maroney looks to be healthy again but what transpires on game day remains to be seen. Morris had taken over the starting role but had such a bad time against the Fins that Maroney will get playing time if healthy.

Wide Receivers: As Randy Moss owners can attest, Tom Brady made a difference. In the two games post-Brady, Moss has only had a total of six catches for 47 yards. Last week he was passed to eight times but only three throws went to him in week two. Wes Welker has fared much better with seven receptions for 72 yards in New York and then six catches for 55 yards against the Dolphins. About half the rate he had in 2007 but still about twice what any other Patriots wide receiver is doing. Jabar Gaffney benefited in the most recent game with the lone passing touchdown and nine passes with six catches and 55 yards. Either the Patriots have to get better fast, find another answer at quarterback or accept that the receivers are only going to offer a fraction of the expected production this season.

Tight Ends: Ben Watson has only played in one game this year and had one catch for six yards against the Dolphins but he is healthy now and expected to see a sharp increase in workload to help out Cassell.

Match Against the Defense: The main weakness of the 49ers is against the run with two runners already topping 100 yards and five different runners scoring including via the pass. I'll split up some yardage and a score here but as always there is little confidence with the Patriots backfield. With Cassell struggling, expect more rushing.

Cassell faces a secondary that has allowed five scores this year but only once more than 200 passing yards. Figure on Cassell remaining under the 200 yard mark with no more than one passing score. That should favor Moss but the confidence level on that has nose-dived as well. They have had two weeks to figure this out though.

Gaining Fantasy Points NE 26 24 18 31 13 28
Preventing Fantasy Points    SF 14 19 21 7 24 28

San Francisco 49ers (2-2)
Homefield: Monster Park
  Opp Score Spread Over/Under
1 ARZ 13-23 +2.5 41.5
2 @SEA 33-30 +8 38.5
3 DET 31-13 -4 46
4 @NO 17-31 +6 48.5
5 NE - +3 41.5
6 PHI - - -
7 @NYG - - -
8 SEA - - -
9 BYE - - -
10 @ARZ - - -
11 STL - - -
12 @DAL - - -
13 @BUF - - -
14 NYJ - - -
15 @MIA - - -
16 @STL - - -
17 WAS - - -
SF vs NE Rush Catch Pass
QB J. T. O'Sullivan     210,1
RB Frank Gore 90,1 40  
TE Vernon Davis   30  
WR Isaac Bruce   60  
WR Bryant Johnson   20  
WR Arnaz Battle   50,1  
PK Joe Nedney 2 FG 2 XP  

Pregame Notes: The big win over the Lions didn't last long since the 49ers went down by 14 points to the Saints last week. The opening schedule had them 2-2 but that was the easiest stretch of the year and it gets tougher from here on out. While Frank Gore has remained a solid part of the offense, J. T. O'Sullivan has picked up the pace in the new Martz-inspired scheme. The 49ers could not be catching the Patriots at a better time either.

Quarterback: So far J. T. O'Sullivan has fit right into the mold of a Martz quarterback. He has passed for much better yardage than the 49ers are used to having but he only has four scores over four games and has already been sacked 19 times and thrown three interceptions. He is lagging a bit on the normal ratio of interceptions but has time to correct that. In fairness, O'Sullivan has scored in each of the last three games and has two games over 250 passing yards. He is moving the offense better than anytime in the last several years and also helping to free up Frank Gore by giving the defense something more to worry about.

Running Backs: Frank Gore has been a stud this year and last week was the first time that he failed to score a touchdown. Even then he had 113 total yards in New Orleans. Gore has been good for at least 30 receiving yards every week and is averaging around 90 rushing yards as well. He hasn't had a really big game this year but so far there has not been any small ones either. He's averaged 4.9 yards per carry.

Wide Receivers: Bryant Johnson had a hamstring strain and missed practice last week but still tried to play. He had four passes but never caught any. I will assume that he plays this week but continues to be limited. Isaac Bruce has scored twice this year but his weekly yardage varies wildly - from no catches to 153 yards on four receptions. None of these wideouts have offered consistency yet though each had one good game this year.

Arnaz Battle comes off a season high seven catches for 120 yards but he's been under 45 yards in every other game this year. The passing game is always diverse with Martz and that has played out here where rarely does any wideout even have two decent games in a row.

Tight Ends: As was feared, Vernon Davis just has not been cut out for this offense that has never used tight ends successfully in the past let alone one that is a physical freak that runs poor routes and drops passes. Davis was seen yelling on the sidelines last week about not getting any passes (he had one for 19 yards) after working extra with O'Sullivan in practice. But Davis only has five receptions for the season on just ten throws.

Match Against the Defense: What to think about this defense after last week? The Patriots were playing against the run pretty well and had not allowed a rushing score before Ronnie Brown violated them for four scores and the Fins ran for 211 rushing yards. Look for at least a decent game here by Gore who will also add yards as a receiver. He could have a big game depending on the 49ers defense controlling the Patriots.

O'Sullivan faces a secondary that has only allowed two passing scores and never more than 226 passing yards. Even Favre only had one score and 181 yards. Look for a lower effort from O'Sullivan who should settle for one touchdown and decent yardage. No wideout has had more than 72 yards against them this year.

Gaining Fantasy Points SF 13 20 12 18 5 13
Preventing Fantasy Points    NE 4 26 8 25 5 12

The Huddle
~ 2008 ~
Season Ticket
Sunday Late
Bye Week
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