Colin Kaepernick faces the Pats on Monday (AEDT). Image courtesy of bleacherreport.com/Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images
Quarterbacks who take over a team mid-season in their sophomore year and go on to win the Superbowl are few and far between. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick has a golden opportunity to do so. His opposite number on Monday morning (AEDT), New England’s Tom Brady, has already done so.
The 49ers have won three of four with Kaepernick in charge, and have the chance to wrap up the NFC West with a win, providing Seattle loses. That will be easier said than done against a Patriots team which is coming good at the right end of the season. A 42-14 win over the Houston Texans – who had only lost one prior game this campaign – is an indicator of the mood Brady and his offence are in, despite an injury list featuring tight end Rob Gronkowski and wide receiver Julian Edelman. The Pats’ receiving corps took a further blow at the weekend when short-term replacement wideout Donte Stallworth suffered an ankle injury. Even so, Brady still has a more than handy list of targets with the likes of Wes Welker , Aaron Hernandez and Brandon Lloyd helping him throw for 296 yards and four touchdowns in the rout of the Texans.
New England’s offensive line kept J.J. Watt quiet last weekend, but it will have its hands full again taking on San Fran linebacker Aldon Smith who has an NFL-best 19 ½ sacks to his credit. The battle between the Pats’ offense – which has racked up 42-plus points in four of the past six games – and the Niners’ defence will be fascinating. The latter is giving up just 14.2 points per game and has allowed just three rushing touchdowns all season, so the chances of Patriots running back Stevan Ridley reaching the end zone aren’t great.
Kaepernick’s running game is now well known, but he has also been passing at a high percentage, too. The likes of Michael Crabtree , Mario Manningham and Randy Moss have been the beneficiaries, but star tight end Vernon Davis has caught just three passes in the last three games and needs to get more involved.
The Patriots have won the last three against the Niners, although the teams last met in 2008 with New England recording a 30-21 win. It will also be worth watching the weather in Foxboro, as freezing conditions are predicted for the visit of the West Coast-based outfit.
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