With the off season acquisitions of Steven Jackson and Usi Umenyora and the decision of tight end Tony Gonzalez to forgo retirement one more season and return to the Falcons, the team and the organization had legitimate Superbowl aspirations. Then Jackson proceeded to miss over half of the season with an ankle injury while starting star wide receiver Julio Jones was out for the season after only a few games. His counterpart Roddy White has either been extremely limited or has not dressed for all of the games this season. All of this has lead to an incredibly disappointing season in Atlanta and turns this game from what would look like the featured game on the schedule for this week when the season began to the highest point spread of the weekend. On the contrary the San Francisco season has pretty much gone as they would have expected. Running back Frank Gore reached the 1000 rushing yard plateau for the 7th time, putting him into some elite company amongst the game all time rushers. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick has not taken statistical steps forward, however he has been great in clutch situations and does a great job managing the game. He has also continued to befuddle defenses with his ability to make plays out of nothing by using his legs.
The key for San Francisco down the stretch will be the health of the wide receiver core. Antuan Boldin has been overused and is out of place as the teams featured receiver. The health of Michael Crabtree and Mario Manningham will be determining factors in the team’s postseason run. Having that veteran presence will allow the team to have a significantly stronger passing attack while creating running lanes for Gore and Kaepernick. One player who has been performing to his high expectations is tight end Vernon Davis who scored a touchdown in his 5th consecutive game last week, which is the longest streak the franchise since Terrell Owens accomplished the feat in 2001. Coach Jim Harbaugh has the team rolling right along with a 10-4 record headed into this weekend. The team cannot afford to suffer any injuries during these last two weekends and they will be in great shape to make another Superbowl run.
The Falcons are in the midst of one of the worst seasons in franchise history and they are arguably the most disappointing team in the NFL this season. The one shining light in an otherwise miserable season has been the strong overall performance of Harry Douglas who has filled in admired for Jones. In the long term it shows that they will have the strongest receiving core in the league for the next few years. However that can do nothing to help the team over this seasons last two games, especially against a tough San Fran defense this weekend.
Pick: 49ers -13
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