Criminy, things are starting to get very interesting in the NFL. Seattle, the early shoe-in for the NFC crown is staggering around like a punch-drunk sailor on shore leave. They have squeaked through most of their games this year amid injuries and some impressive comebacks, but how do you fall behind by 17 to the Buccos? Teams on the rise are the Niners and the surprisingly resurgent Carolina Panthers. The Niners didn’t even play last week, but their stock rose considerably due to the fact that Aldon Smith, Mario Manningham, Tank Carradine, and Eric Wright are back with the team and ready to play. And the fact they are still riding a 5 game winning streak. The niners didn’t really do bad without Aldon Smith, but the pass rush definitely suffered. Aldon missed the last 5 games yet remains the leading sacker on the team with 4.5. The hope is he picks up right where he left off. Tank Carradine, the studly injured defensive lineman who has been dying to get in to a game, and Quinton Dial, another defensive lineman who was drafted injured, has recently returned. So, a defense that has been stifling these past 5 weeks, giving up roughly 12 points a game, should now be deeper and healthier.
In that vein, Mario Manningham returns from last year’s knee injury. More promising news is that Michael Crabtree has just returned to practice, and he looks to be back on the field in 3 weeks. So, the offense which has recently thrived under Frank Gore and his fountain of youth 2013 season, has more weapons at their disposal. All this is well and good for the surprising 32nd (yes, last) passing team in the league. To offset that of course, is the fact that the Niners are the #1 rushing offense. Which works out (surprise) to 16th in the league for offense. They are 5th in scoring however. This directly relates to their 16 turnovers caused. The takeaway from this is that in theory the Niners are on the rise.
That being said, the Niners are facing another team on a roll of it’s own. Carolina is on a 4 game win streak of their own, and they are similar to the Niners in that they have a tough defense that doesn’t give up points, and holds on to the ball with a solid running game. They both have young strong QBs who can get large chunks of yards with their legs, and Cam Newton is having a great season so far after a disappointing season last year.
All in all, both teams are playing well and looking to keep their streaks going. The good news fro SF is they are coming off their bye week, and are healthier and stronger than when they last played in London while Carolina is travelling across the country. I think the Niners take this one in a fairly close affair that the Niners win going away. Let’s say 31-21.