When the 49ers are running: Harbaugh has brought specific formations and plays over from Stanford, and is a firm believer in power running to set up the play-action. The Jets defense is pretty average against the run. The Jets are 27th in rushing yards-per-attempt allowed, but were good against the Dolphins outside of a Reggie Bush 16-yarder and a Lamar Miller 22-yarder. Edge: 49ers, slightly.
When the 49ers are passing: The Jets defense has all been playing together for awhile except the safeties (Yeremiah Bell and LaRon Landry), who are experienced players themselves. Rex Ryan is great at taking away what a quarterback likes most, and Alex Smith likes short throws and hitting Vernon Davis in the intermediate. That said, I expect Harbaugh to attack the depth at Jets CB. Edge: 49ers, slightly.
When the Jets are running: Believe it or not, the Jets have two guys who are running at 4 or more yards-per-carry (Bilal Powell and Tim Tebow). I expect them to get more carries combined today than Shonn Greene, but the 49ers defense will be stingy at the start, daring Sanchez to throw. Edge: Even.
When the Jets are passing: Sanchez is hot, then cold from week to week. That would mean he is in for a hot game. I wonder if Hill being out might help Sparano a bit, seeing how raw Hill is. The Jets added to Sanchez’s comfort level by adding a receiver they’ve had in the past, Patrick Turner. I suspect Sanchez will rise to the occasion, given the quality of the opponent and the heat Tebow is applying. That said, the 49ers have one of the best pass defenses (they allowed a 73.6 rating last season, picked off Brees twice, sacked Eli 6 times in the Championship Game). Edge: 49ers, slightly.
X-Factors: The Jets have home field. The Jets led the NFL in kick return average in 2011, Jets WR Jeremy Kerley had a 68-yard punt return for a TD vs. Bills and the 49ers allowed a 75-yard Randall Cobb punt return TD (both week 1). The 49ers haven’t lost back-to-back games under Jim Harbaugh. In fact, they’ve only lost three non-OT games since he was hired in 2011.
Prediction: The Jets under Rex came out and won big games his first two seasons, self-destructed both offensively and defensively in 2011 in big games. They are still trying to find their identity while the only thing the 49ers are trying to find is a way to get defenders to back off the line and honor the deep passing game. One thing you can count on at home with the Jets is a big effort. I think they come up just a bit short. 49ers 24, Jets 23.
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