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Patrick Willis vs. Andy Dalton
When thinking about the most dominating linebackers in the game, Ray Lewis, Brian Urlacher and Clay Matthews all come to mind, but one of the most dominating/underrated linebackers in the game is Patrick Willis. Willis suffers from the fact that he has not been on many good 49ers teams, while Lewis, Urlacher and Matthews have all had their chances at a Super Bowl.
Willis plays the similar role that Lewis does in the 3-4 Defense. He changes calls at the line of scrimmage, he blitzes, he drops back in coverage and he is a monster against the run. Any opportunity he has against a rookie quarterback is like a shark smelling blood in the water.
Andy Dalton, who was the Bengals' second-round pick this past offseason, has been given the opportunity to start for the team after Carson Palmer's unwillingness to play for the organization. Dalton, who has already been battling a wrist injury, is probable to start this Sunday's game.
In his first start against the Browns, he went a modest 10-15, while only passing for 81 yards and one touchdown. Last week against the Broncos, he threw for over 300 yards, while also tossing two touchdown throws. Dalton still has a long ways to go in this league to become a solid NFL starter, but if his poise in the pocket and accuracy continue to improve, he has a chance to play for many years.
Despite Dalton's solid play in the first two games, he has faced two average-at-best defenses in the Browns and Broncos. Look for Patrick Willis and the 49ers to try and exploit the young quarterback and put him in more pressured situations.
Advantage: Patrick Willis