5 Bold Predictions for 49ers' Week 7 Matchup
We're beginning to see a sound and steady football team emerge, because talent was never an issue with the 49ers. Complacent? Yes, but a lack of talent is a bit of a stretch.
We should take a poll and ask how many general managers would switch with 49ers GM Trent Baalke. How lopsided would those results be?
Big picture, the 49ers are back—though, personally, I never thought they left. The real question is can they keep this up with the injuries mounting?
The 2013 Titans resemble nothing of the team many witnessed last year. They play defense with an edginess and ferocity, and they have formed a smashmouth identity in the trenches.
Almost NFC West-like.
With that said, I still believe the 49ers will make a statement in this interconference matchup. Here are five bold predictions that will swing the favor toward the 49ers this Sunday.
Colin Kaepernick Will Rush for 150-Plus Yards
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
What do I mean by that?
Well, Kaepernick is a true dual threat, but we have yet to see No. 7 take over a game on the ground. Yes, with Kaepernick's skill set, he can win games with his legs.
I understand the need to develop Kaepernick in the pocket, but at what cost? What excited many fans and analysts was Kaepernick's potential as both a passer and runner.
With that cannon of an arm and the velocity to make any throw, Kaepernick will become a better passer through time. Is that time now?
Of course, the 49ers could be doing all of this on purpose. While many understood that Kaepernick was a threat on the ground, it wasn't until the playoffs that we truly grasped how special this kid is in space.
Maybe Jim Harbaugh is trying to protect his young signal-caller. Who knows?
Whatever the reason is, the 49ers need to get Kaepernick going on the ground. It starts in Tennessee this Sunday.
Mark it down, Kaepernick will run for 150-plus yards on the ground. We may even see a rushing touchdown or two.
49ers Safety Eric Reid and OLB Corey Lemonier Will Get a Defensive 'Hat Trick'
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
The 49ers absolutely found a gem in safety Eric Reid. In a sense, Reid has added an entirely new dimension to a 49ers secondary lacking playmakers at the backend.
Dashon Goldson's departure was supposed to leave a big, gaping hole in the middle of this 49ers defense, but Reid ended those talks rather quickly.
While Reid can at times struggle with wrapping up ball-carriers, he still has played at a Pro Bowl level through the first six weeks. Like Goldson, Reid brings a menacing and intimidating attitude to the middle of this defense, while also excelling in deep coverage.
In addition, Reid has shown to be quite the playmaker. Through six weeks, Reid leads the 49ers with three interceptions.
Against the turnover-prone Ryan Fitzpatrick, Reid will double his season total against the Titans this Sunday. Fitzpatrick, who is filling in for Jake Locker at quarterback, has four interceptions in just three starts.
I'll take this prediction even further and say fellow rookie outside linebacker Corey Lemonier will have a "hat trick" of his own against Fitzpatrick and the Titans.
As Aldon Smith showed in his rookie season, you don't' have to be a full-time starter to make a difference. Dan Skuta starts at outside linebacker in the 49ers' base packages, while Lemonier devours lineman in sub-packages and passing downs.
Lemonier was fantastic last week, simultaneously recording his first career sack and safety. It's not surprising, considering he has uncanny speed and agility for a linebacker.
Like Reid, Lemonier has a chance to be a great player. For now, Lemonier should flourish as a nickel pass-rusher while Smith recovers.
Frank Gore Will Have 80-Plus Receiving Yards
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images
Now, I can understand how some might not view this as a bold prediction. Through six weeks, however, Gore hasn't done much as a receiver in this 49ers offense.
In reality, Gore has never been much of a receiver in offensive coordinator Greg Roman's offense. All that will change this week against the Titans.
While the Titans are a mediocre 19th against the run, they seem to play better in this area at home. I predict Gore will struggle on the ground this Sunday, but will pick up the slack as a receiver.
The Titans will gang up on Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis, Kaepernick's top two targets in the passing game, which should leave Gore open to expose them underneath.
If so, we could see a big day from No. 21.
Chris Johnson Will Have 100-Plus Yards Rushing
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
The loss of nose tackle Ian Williams really hurt the interior of this 49ers defense. Now, Glenn Dorsey, who was asked to fill the void, is battling a hamstring injury.
There is some good news on that front, however. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio doesn't know Dorsey's status for this Sunday, but tells radio station KNBR (h/t ESPN.com), "We don't think it's as bad as initially feared."
Injuries and poor play have hurt this 49ers defense up front. Ray McDonald is dealing with a partially torn triceps, Aldon Smith is in recovery and rookies Quinton Dial and Cornellius "Tank" Carradine are just returning from the NFI list.
This all adds up to one of their worst rankings against the run since Jim Harbaugh arrived. Since 2011, the 49ers have finished no worse than fourth against the run.
The 49ers are 20th against the run. As the 49ers become healthier up front, this stat should change for the better, but until then, my doubts will remain.
The last time Chris Johnson faced the 49ers, he rushed for 135 yards and two touchdowns. Of course, a lot of things have changed since 2009; however, I still see Johnson having some success against a 49ers defensive line in transition.
In all honesty, my fantasy opponent has Chris Johnson, so this prediction is truly coming from the heart. This is one that I don't mind being wrong.
Kyle Williams Will Score the 49ers' First Special Teams Touchdown This Season
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
The 49ers special teams unit has looked fantastic through the first six weeks. After a forgettable year last season, this unit has returned to elite status.
49ers punter Andy Lee is have a great year, and the kick/punt return coverage unit, led by C.J. Spillman and Ray Ventrone, can't play any better.
However, the 49ers do miss the big-play ability that LaMichael James brought to this unit last season. For whatever reason, the 49ers are using Kyle Williams as a full-time return man.
James was a healthy inactive in Week 6.
Regardless, I think the drought ends this week. Williams will have a punt return touchdown for the 49ers against the Titans on Sunday
How great would that be for Williams' confidence? While I expected much more from him as a receiver this year, he has looked solid thus far in return duties.