The San Francisco 49ers (3-1) will return home to the West Coast in Week 5 to host the Buffalo Bills (2-2) in an intriguing afternoon matchup of two 2012 playoff hopefuls.
Jim Harbaugh's Niners trounced the New York Jets on the road last Sunday, topping them 34-0 at MetLife Stadium. They'll be heavy favorites over Buffalo playing at home this weekend.
The Bills, meanwhile, are coming off a second-half collapse against the New England Patriots last weekend, being outscored 45-7 over the game's final 20 minutes.
Will Buffalo right the ship on the road, or will the Niners continue to dominate at home?
Here we get you set for Sunday's kickoff with everything you need to know for this Week 5 matchup.
Where: Candlestick Park, San Francisco, Calif.
When: Sunday, October 7 at 4:25 p.m. ET
Listen: WGR 550 AM (Buffalo), KNBR 690 AM (San Francisco)
Live Streaming: NFL Sunday Ticket
Betting Line: 49ers (-9.5), according to Covers.com
What's At Stake?
With the Bills set to visit Arizona to play the undefeated Cardinals in Week 6, a win this weekend is vital. Otherwise, Buffalo will be on the road next week looking to avoid a 2-4 start.
The 49ers will host the Giants and Seahawks in Weeks 6 and 7, so a loss on Sunday wouldn't be nearly as crippling for them.
Bills Injury Report (according to ESPN.com)
OL Cordy Glenn (Ankle), doubtful
OG Kraig Urbik (Ankle), questionable
WR Ruvell Martin, questionable
TE Scott Chandler (Head), probable
S Jairus Byrd (Hip), probable
49ers Injury Report (according to ESPN.com)
RB Brandon Jacobs (Knee), questionable
DT Isaac Sopoaga, questionable
Fantasy Start 'Em, Sit 'Em and Sleeper
Start 'Em: Michael Crabtree, WR
After a game in which he flew under the radar against the Jets, San Francisco wideout Michael Crabtree will be a must-start against the Bills.
Buffalo ranks 23rd against the pass this season and has allowed nine touchdowns through the air in just four games. If there is ever a game for the Niners' leading receiver to break out this season, it's this weekend.
Sit 'Em: C.J. Spiller, RB
Sure, it sounds insane to suggest sitting a player who was leading the NFL in rushing a few days ago, but trust me on this one. The Bills will be on the road in hostile territory on Sunday, taking on a top-five NFL run defense.
San Francisco is allowing less than 80 rushing yards per game this season and has surrendered just one touchdown on the ground in four games.
Sleeper: Alex Smith, QB
I've already mentioned that the Bills secondary is weak this season, and that could mean a big day from overlooked 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Though Smith has been a game manager this season, he did throw for two touchdowns each in Weeks 1 and 2.
What They're Saying
Buffalo Bills head coach Chan Gailey is well aware of his club's turnovers issues heading into Week 5's matchup with the Niners (via The Buffalo News' Jay Skurski):
The turnovers have been the thing that have been the most inconsistent – by far the most inconsistent, anything else has been kind of on par; it’s just been the inconsistency factor of turning the ball over so much, which we don’t want to do. We don’t like to do it; we talk about not doing it. But we’ve had way too many.
The Bills are minus-3 in turnover differential and have given the ball up 11 times in four games this season.
San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick is excited for the future after breaking out for 50 yards and a touchdown on five carries against the Jets last weekend. He said, via MercuryNews.com's Cam Inman:
I’m hoping they will use me more and more as the season goes on.
Kaepernick adds another dimension to the Niners offense and gives it some versatility at quarterback as the season moves on.
Bills Player to Watch
Bills wide receiver Steve Johnson is the team's leading wideout in 2012 and has been targeted 36 times by quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick. The 26-year-old is Buffalo's No. 1 big-play threat in the passing game and will need to step up on the road Sunday.
Johnson has surpassed 1,000 yards receiving in each of the past two seasons but is struggling to get on pace to do it again this season. Watch for him to break out this weekend.
49ers Player to Watch
San Francisco backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick may or may not see the field on Sunday versus the Bills, but if he does, be sure to check him out. The speedster out of Nevada scored the opening touchdown of last week's win over the Jets and is averaging 11.2 yards per carry this season.
At 6'4", 230 pounds, Kaepernick has a long stride and has the ability to keep the Bills defense guessing because of his arm and accuracy.
The key matchup to watch in Sunday's game will be on the ground.
Both the Bills and 49ers boast superb rushing attacks and will lean on C.J. Spiller (341 yards) and Frank Gore (326 yards), respectively, this weekend. San Francisco ranks third in the league in rushing yards through four weeks, while Buffalo is close behind in fourth.
Defensively, the Niners will have a huge edge in terms of slowing the run. San Francisco ranks fifth in the NFL in least rushing yards allowed this season, while Buffalo is at the bottom of the pack, ranking 28th among 32 teams against the run.
The edge in Sunday's key matchup goes to the home team without question.
On the Hot Seat
After signing a $59 million extension with the Buffalo Bills last October, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has struggled to become the consistent passer the Bills thought he could be.
After throwing 24 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 2011, Fitzpatrick is back on pace to throw a boatload of picks. He has 12 touchdowns through four games, but he also has seven interceptions and two fumbles.
If the 29-year-old continues to turn the ball over on Sunday, he will be feeling plenty of heat from the coaching staff and Bills ownership.
The Bills are allowing more than twice as many points per game this season (32.8 PPG) than the 49ers (16.3 PPG), and that is a truly telling statistic. San Francisco will make life miserable for the Buffalo offense on Sunday afternoon and have its way offensively.
The edge goes to the better and more complete team in this matchup. I like the 49ers to win big at home in Week 5.
49ers 31, Bills 14
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