Gridiron Gab Week Four Preview – San Francisco at Atlanta

Week 1 was frustrating. Week 2 brought hope. Week 3 was devastating. So, what will Week 4 bring us?

The answer will be determined.

This week, the 49ers are in Atlanta to face the ever-improving Falcons. Last year, the Falcons dismantled the 49ers in San Francisco, winning 45-10. Will this year be more of the same, or have the Niners learned their lesson?

I do not want to get into details as to how exactly the 49ers season has gone so far. The team has underachieved. Plain and simple. However, they need not throw in the towel because there are still 13 games left, and they play in the weakest division in the NFL this year-by far. The key is to go week-by-week and to focus on the task at hand. They cannot overlook any team. The Falcons, having beaten the New Orleans Saints last week, are as confident a team as there is in the NFL.

Do the 49ers even stand a chance this Sunday? Of course they do. I always believe every team has a chance to win, week in and week out. For a team to have a chance to win, they must play a mistake-free game (no turnovers, minimal penalties), and play fundamentally the rest of the way. That is not always a recipe for winning games, but when you do those things, your chances improve greatly.

The Falcons, 2-1, want to dethrone the Saints as the NFC South champions. They are extremely good on offense. For the 49ers to be successful, they have to bring their A game and be ready to stop the Falcons offense. Last season, Falcons WR Roddy White caught 2 TDs along with his 210 receiving yards. That just cannot happen again. Stopping the Falcons’ running attack will be an even more challenging task. The Falcons currently rank second in the league, averaging 160.3 rushing yards per game. Clearly, the 49ers will have their work cut out for them, but that is no reason to be discouraged. Matt Ryan, while greatly improved, will make mistakes if pressured.

On offense, the 49ers have to be efficient in the running game. The Falcons do both a great job both at containing the run and passing game, but, the Niners will be more successful if they establish the run game early. Alex Smith will be playing a defense that already has six takeaways this season. I agree that Frank Gore really has not been on top of his game this season but things can change against the Falcons. Even though they are allowing just 101.3 yards on rushing defense, they are allowing 5.1 yards per carry. That should bode well for Gore. It will be interesting to see how new OC Mike Johnson calls the plays in this game. Jimmy Raye was rightfully accused of being too conservative in the play-calling and that really did hurt the offense. While I am not suggesting that the 49ers remain conservative-it has been too frustrating and inefficient- I fear that in opening up the playbook, the 49ers become prone to making too many mistakes. Nonetheless, Mike Johnson needs to give Alex Smith freedom in the offense. The 49ers are not short of offensive playmakers and they need to be used. The 49ers should implement the same game plan they had against the Saints and then some.

Why the 49ers will win:

1.       Mike Johnson will open up offense. Unlike Jimmy Raye, Johnson will show that he is not predictable. He will open up the offense and show what Niners fans knew that the team had in them. He will mix things up and make things really interesting.

2.       The team NEEDS a win. Right now, call me stubborn, but I am really faithful in the 49ers. If they lose this Sunday, it will be a test to my character. I don’t know how long I will be able to take it. It will not matter how they lose. If they lose, all hell will break loose I think, especially if it is another horrifying loss. That being said, expect the team to play inspired this weekend and pull out a win.

Why the Falcons will win:

1.       They will play their game. They will rush the ball down the 49ers’ throat. They will do enough to take advantage of the Niners’ passing D and put points on the board.

2.       Been there, done that. The Falcons knows what it takes to beat the 49ers, evidenced by last year’s 45-10 beat down. The Falcons are even better this season, and the 49ers have taken more than a step backwards.

My prediction: Niners 23-21. My head tells me that the Falcons will win. My heart tells me to pick the 49ers.

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