October 29, 2010
San Francisco 49ers Vs Denver Broncos in London
Sunday October 31st, 2010
Line: San Francisco -1
The 49ers were expected to run away with the NFC West this year, but instead find themselves with a pathetic 1-5 record after losing to the Panthers last week (who until then had not won a single game).
The Broncos don’t have a lot to be proud of either, winning only one more game than the 49ers and being blown out by the Raiders last week 59-14. Unfortunately, this was the game that was picked by the NFL to be extended overseas. Hopefully these two teams can put out a strong showing to gain fans in Europe, as both are losing their fan base in the United States.
Keys to the Game:
- Alex Smith is out with a shoulder sprain, but I wouldn’t necessarily call third string quarterback a downgrade. David Carr was bypassed for the starting job this week after looking horrendous last week. Troy Smith has leadership qualities and may be exactly what the 49ers need on offense. I liken Troy Smith to Shaun Hill. While neither has the skill set Alex Smith has, they both have the ability to rally a team. Troy Smith won’t be expected to come in and make a ton of throws in tight windows, because the ball is most valuable in the hands of the play makers on the 49ers.
- Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree and Frank Gore are dangerous with the football in open space. All of them have a nose for the end zone and a desire to win. If Troy Smith can set up long enough to find the open man, the 49ers can be effective on offense. The big time plays are going to be made on screens and short routes that have massive YAC opportunities. It is difficult to have the weapons the 49ers have and not succeed, but Alex Smith has found a way to do so. If Troy Smith can come away with a victory in London, it shouldn’t come as a surprise if he retains his job as the starting quarterback coming out of the bye week, Week 10 against St. Louis, regardless of how Alex Smith’s shoulder feels.
- The Denver Broncos are hit or miss, and they usually miss. They have the third most passing yards per game in the entire NFL. Brandon Lloyd has 709 receiving yards already and Kyle Orton has the leagues second most passing yards. All of those figures are nice, but they haven’t resulted in many wins for a couple of reasons. One is that the Broncos can’t run the ball to save their lives. Their first round running back Knowshon Moreno hasn’t been the super star they thought he could be. The offense is pass happy, but they would certainly like to balance it at some point. The other reason the Broncos are struggling to win despite their production in the passing game is their lack of defense. Denver allows 28.4 points a game. The Broncos can get involved in as many shootouts as they want. When they have to score 30 to win, they aren’t going to come up with many victories.
- The 49ers aren’t playing up to their potential on defense, a unit that's loaded with talent. Defensive coordinator Greg Manusky is playing too conservatively against teams that don’t have good offenses. The 49ers have been playing catch up, which makes it more difficult to run blitzes without the pressure of giving up a big gain and allowing the game to get out of control. The 49ers struggle on offense, which puts their defense in a position to frequently defend a short field. They are constantly being tossed back onto the field after Alex Smith leads the offense on an ineffective three and out. Regardless, the defense is the heart and soul of the 49ers organization. Patrick Willis might miss the Pro Bowl, as he has regressed from his play in his first years in the league. If the 49ers want to be a playoff team, their defense needs to be elite, not middle of the pack. The offense already struggles. There is no reason the defense should put on any added pressure by giving up 23 points a game.
- The Broncos are just as bad at defending the run as the are at running the ball. They face an uphill battle this week as Frank Gore comes into town. Despite having only one win, Frank Gore has already posted three games with over 100 yards. Gore is the prototypical hard nosed, one cut runner who has surprising top end speed. The Broncos have been soft against the run all year long, but to their credit they have had to face Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Chris Johnson, Ladanian Tomlinson and Darren McFadden this season. While this looks like a Pro Bowl running back depth chart, the Broncos have not shown any indication that they have gained experience in dealing with an elite back in the NFL. Despite seeing great backs throughout the year, the Broncos look like they are going to allow another 100 plus yard day on the ground. Gore knows the challenges presented to him this week with a third string quarterback commanding the offense, but No. 21 has been in San Francisco long enough to know that sometimes you have to do everything by yourself.
- Who has the coaching edge, Josh McDaniels or Mike Singletary? Let’s take a look at their resumes shall we? Josh McDaniels came to Denver from the Bill Belichick coaching tree. When he evaluated his talent, he decided to drive the big names out of town and did everything in his power to get rid of his Pro Bowl wide receiver and quarterback. Typical Belichick move, but McDaniels isn’t half as smart as Belichick is. Fast forward to draft day 2010. McDaniels spends a first round pick on Tim Tebow, who received a third round grade. The Broncos now have two wins, holes all over their roster, and McDaniels is on the hot seat. Mike Singletary was a phenomenal linebacker coach before he took on the interim head coach job when Mike Nolan was let go. Despite being inexperienced, the 49ers saw promise in his leadership abilities and the way players responded to him. A few tirades and a dropping of the pants later, the 49ers showed improvement and Singletary was made the permanent head coach. The 49ers stole Michael Crabtree at the 10 spot, and despite his holdout, they managed to go 8-8. After firing the GM weeks before the draft, the 49ers still managed to come away with an impressive one, including two starting offensive lineman, a starting safety, and a middle linebacker that is being groomed to take over a starting job next year. After overloading the roster with talent, Singletary was in a position to snag Donovan McNabb, but decided against it and went with Alex Smith as a starter. He then proceeded to drive away Shaun Hill to take away the competition factor at quarterback and brought in David Carr, who posed no threat to Alex Smith. Smith struggled, and here the Niners are: 1-6, in Europe, with Troy Smith starting at quarterback. It’s close, but I have to give the edge to McDaniels.
- While it is unclear who will win this game of the week, it is clear that coaching changes need to be made by both teams. Perhaps they will be able to trade a first and second round pick to the Colts to acquire Peyton Manning as a player/coach.
The 49ers were humiliated by the Panthers, but the Broncos were devastated by the Raiders. It’s hard to really say there will be a winner in this game, as both teams will almost certainly perform at a low level. While I would go with Denver because they have two victories over winning teams, I simply can’t say that they are going to come away with a victory after their performance last week. I think the 49ers will win, simply because they will run Frank Gore absolutely ragged going into the bye week.
Free NFL Pick: San Francisco -2