After a demoralizing overtime loss to the St. Louis Rams, the San Francisco 49ers (8-3-1) look to rebound against the Miami Dolphins (5-7) on Sunday.
Still mathematically around in the playoff hunt, the Dolphins have their hands full with the 49ers, who are clearly upset with giving a game away against the Rams they expected to win even late in the fourth quarter. Despite the QB accounting for 10 of St. Louis' 13 points with a turnover and a safety, the Niners are sticking with Colin Kaepernick under center.
Miami has its own youngster at QB with Ryan Tannehill, who, despite a lack of big numbers, has exceeded expectations in every way during his rookie season with over 2,500 yards and seven touchdowns. The Dolphins were never supposed to even have a shot at the playoffs, even if they don't win this weekend.
With home-field advantage through the NFC Divisional Round still up for grabs, San Francisco can't afford to have another letdown against an inferior opponent. We've got everything you need to know about this matchup, including spread information, a fantasy primer and which team will take home the "W."
When: Sunday, Dec. 9 at 4:05 p.m. ET
Where: Candlestick Park; San Francisco, Calif.
Watch: CBS, NFL Sunday Ticket (live stream)
Spread: San Francisco -10 (according to Bovada)
This is a huge spread for the Niners, even at home against an inferior opponent. Still, they've got a great chance to cover.
San Francisco has performed quite well spread-wise at home, with the exception of the loss to the New York Giants and the unfortunate tie to the St. Louis Rams. Still, Miami's biggest road loss was a Week 1 drop to the Houston Texans. They've kept every game within five since then, including two wins.
The odds lie with Miami, but the Niners will come out firing after their loss to St. Louis. Take the Niners, even though it's a big number to cover.
Over/Under: 39 (according to Bovada)
If you do the math on this one, Bovada expects the final score to be 24-14. With Kaepernick at QB and this defense player better than ever, I expect it to be a wider gap on both sides.
People are still clamoring for Alex Smith in San Francisco, but many who watch the games see that the downfield passing and extra dynamic of the running game is ten-fold when Kaepernick is in the game.
That being said, I like the over. The 49ers are due for a big game, and Miami has big-play weapons on offense which can go off at any time (Reggie Bush).
Injury Report via CBS Sports (as of 12/6/12)
|LB||Tavares Gooden||Knee, elbow||Probable|
Fantasy Big Plays
Kaepernick hasn't been a huge-play guy so far at the QB position, and you shouldn't bench an elite, to-five guy for him. However, if you're treading water with a guy like Russell Wilson, Ryan Fitzpatrick or even Eli Manning, Kaepernick might be a more attractive play.
Frank Gore is hurting a little bit, and Miami has a solid fantasy run defense. The biggest-play guy is Kaepernick, who is an automatic dual threat to run and pass.
For Miami, Reggie Bush is close to capping off a comeback season with four good weeks. However, he's facing the No. 1 fantasy defense. Get him on your bench. There aren't many big-play guys that are automatic for Miami, but Brian Hartline might be the only shot. He's a flex play at best, though.
Key to Miami Win: Control the Trenches
If Miami can shut down the running game, they have a real shot to win. That's highly unlikely, yes, but Miami is at a clear disadvantage and needs to control a part of this game no one expects them to to have a shot.
On the other side of the ball, Bush and the running game must be effective enough to give Tannehill time in the pocket. Play-action must be in order to get big plays against this defense, and the running game is the only way to open that up.
Key to San Francisco Win: Avoid Big Turnovers
By now, most have seen the backward pass and intentional grounding that led to St. Louis' first points last week. Since Kaepernick has become the starter, some of his inexperience has shown with his penchant for turning the ball over in Week 13.
San Francisco is on the right path for victory by playing good defense and running the ball, but turnovers could once again derail what's been a promising start to the new QB era.
Miami might make it interesting early on, but San Francisco has too much to lose and too much motivation to drop this game at home to a team that Super Bowl contenders beat.
San Francisco 31, Miami 10
Ethan Grant is a featured columnist for B/R's Breaking News Team. Follow @DowntownEG