The 2013 football season is finally upon us. After months of dreary baseball to keep us somewhat busy, and the occasional murder or drug/dui/ arrest, or the fun task of opening a beer by using someone else’s head as a bottle opener, the bullets start (figuratively) flying for real tomorrow night. Week 1 is a real burn burner what with the Broncos facing the Baltimores after the Broncos completely blew their shot to advance in the playoffs last year by forgetting how to cover deep. Manning gets his shot at revenge and gets his last gasp at reaching the Super Bowl.
Bengals/Bears looks like fun, as does the hype-fest of the NY Giants facing the re-un-invented Dallas Cowboys. Falcons/Saints looks to be a thriller, as does the Titans/Steelers matchup. But the game of all games for week 1 is the Packers vs the 49ers. The Pack isn’t used to getting beat 2 times in a row by anyone, let alone the resurgent 49ers. They Pack had been something like 18-1 vs the Red and Gold in recent history, and they didn’t expect this type of resistance. Aaron Rodgers had a few daemons involved in his playoff game here last year, as it marked the first time he had stepped onto the Candlestick turf as the starting QB for the Packers, his being snubbed all those years ago by the organization he grew up idolizing, and the fact the Niners had beaten them at home pretty easily to start the season.
Frankly, I’m not that worried about Green Bay. I think we can do what we’ve done these last couple games, and that’s to pressure Rodgers, force mistakes, and get the 3-and-outs. I also think, since we got into their heads so badly in the playoffs last year, we go away from the read-option offense. I think GB will overreact to how we beat them last year. To further this thought, I think we go away from the read-option almost completely this season. Sure, we may use it, but sparingly. That diamond formation I think will also be a thing of the past. Teams will be keying on that, and shadowing Kappy, so it basically takes a player out of the defenses we face. This can be used to our advantage. And, as apparently we were ‘predictable’ in our formations and play calling (per Craig Dahl), Eric Mangini, defensive guru, was brought in to unscheme us from predictability. To this end, I think we’ll look different offensively. This doesn’t mean suddenly we’re the Daryl Lamonica mad-bomber team of the 60s. Just that the trickeration comes out of formations, not read-option. We’ll run a little pistol, and the usual shotgun and Kappy behind center, but I foresee a more straighforward offense of short to mid-range passes, full use of the tight ends, and the usual power running game. As in the past, 3rd down efficiency plays a large part in how this offense moves. Key to this are the wide receivers. If the WRs can get separation, and consistently get open (and Kappy finds them), then this increases the chance of VD being able to exploit the middle of the field. If our WRs are ineffective, then VD can (and has been in the past) neutralized with double coverage. This is especially telling in the red zone, where VD had little success last year.
Defensively, the team to me looks a little bit stronger. Justin Smith is back to full health, and we have a little more depth than before. I think the defensive backfield is a big question heading into the season, but I think Eric Reid already has a leg up on Dashon Goldson. Reid has (yeah, it’s preseason) been in the proper place and made all the plays he’s supposed to make. He’s not the highlight reel hitter that Goldson is, but he’s a solid tackler who covers well. He didn’t get tested too much deep, but the times they tried, he was there step for step with the WR. Glenn Dorsey should provide some needed depth, but the D line is younger, healthier, and stronger with Ian Williams taking Soap’s place, and Dorsey providing back up. . My only caveat in that regard is to the status of the draft picks Tank Carradine and Quintin Dial. Both are on the Reserve/Non-football injury list. This means both are eligible to come off the list in 6 weeks and play. Reading between the lines of Harbaugh’s infrequesnt references to those guys, it looks like Tank stands a pretty good chance of being ready by week 7. He may just get the extra couple games off to take advantage of the bye week in week 9, and hit the field week 10 at home against the Panthers. Dial’s turf toe? No idea, but since they didn’t stash him on the IR I’d think they expect him to play this year.