The wait is over, IT'S GAME TIME, and the Webzone's resident knuckleheads AJ and Diego are ready to take on another NFL season starting with the Green Bay Packers this Sunday at 1:25pm.
In this installment of UFR, we are putting a different spin on the discussion with a little bit of role play - 49ers style. We will put Colin Kaepernick (played by AJ) and Eric Reid (played by Diego) on the hot seat (sort of, anyway) as we ask some hard-hitting questions about the upcoming game/season.
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Diego: AJ, you are #7 for the San Francisco 49ers. You took the second least snaps among starting quarterbacks this preseason, and that's only because Robert Griffin III didn't play at all. The team obviously wants to keep you away from any "freak" injuries, and you had a front row view of what the team can expect to see at QB should you go down with an injury (it's not pretty). Terrell Suggs and the Ravens took a lot of shots at you in your last meaningful game, and it looks like you will see the same treatment from Clay Matthews in Week 1 as well as the rest of the teams the 49ers play this season. How will you adjust your game this season given all of these components?
AJ: Not at all. Not one bit. Contact doesn't bother me, it's a part of the game. I'm sure coach Harbaugh has a different opinion and nobody wants to get hurt, but I'm not changing my approach to the game.
Some people think that I'm a run first guy. That's fine with me. I can throw the ball too. Our offense is more than just me. If teams want to key on one aspect of what we do, I think that's great. It will allow Frank to pick up yards, Vernon to reel in passes and the rest of our guys to step up and shine.
Anyway, I'm just focused on Week 1. The Packers. I'm sure they've made adjustments to how they will defend us. We just have to do a good job of picking up their keys on defense, then making our own adjustments.
But outside of getting better everyday, and my choice of headgear in the offseason, I'm not planning on changing a thing.
AJ: Your turn, Diego. Put yourself in the shoes of the 49ers rookie Free Safety, Eric Reid. This season, you'll be asked to fill the shoes of departed All-Pro, Dashon Goldson. Some have you pegged as the 49ers impact rookie of 2013. Your first test of the year will be one of the best QBs in the league, Aaron Rodgers. Given the expectations placed on you already, what is your mindset headed into the Week 1, and what do you hope to accomplish in your first NFL season?
Diego: My mindset heading into this week's game is the same it has been ever since I joined the team, and that is to get ready for my next assignment, next game plan, next team up. I can't spend any time thinking about the fact that I'm replacing an All-Pro from last season, and I'm not concerned with the expectations that come from replacing Goldson or being a first round pick because nobody has a higher expectation from me than myself.
As far as preparation for Green Bay we can't just worry about Rodgers because this is a team that wants to be more balanced on offense in order to not be too predictable. They have a very good running back in Eddie Lacy, I played against him a couple times in college and I know he's capable of being a difference maker at any time. Rodgers likes to take his shots down the field so we need to be prepared for that, but at the same time we feel like our pass rush is going to give their pass blocking some problems, so we expect him to throw underneath a lot and try to give his receivers a change to rack up some YAC. One thing that makes this defense one of the best is our ability to tackle so I need to make sure I wrap up the ball carrier in front of me and do my part to help us win.
My hopes for the season are to get better each and every day and to help this team win a championship. I was lucky enough to be drafted by a team that was on the verge of winning the Super Bowl last season, so what I hope to accomplish is to hoist that Lombardi Trophy at the end of the season, because otherwise it won't feel like I made a true impact on this team.
- Some of you have probably been wondering why the 49ers plucked Chris Harper off of the Seahawks' Practice Squad. As I wrote back in March, "Chris Harper - His combination of size, strength and speed is very impressive. He wasn't a terribly productive receiver in college, and his spotty body of work will likely make him a mid round pick. If his physical tools translate to the next level the way I think they will, he could be wind up being a steal a big, strong, pass catching steal". This guy is a little raw, but he has the potential to be a match-up nightmare in the 49er offense.
- If the Packers look to crash their ends in order to contain the read option QB run, look for the 49ers to counter with a healthy dose of Frank Gore.
- Come this Sunday, pay careful attention to the 49ers 3rd down defensive set. It's a good bet that recently drafted pass rusher Corey Lemonier will see most of his time as a rush end on passing downs.
- Its a safe assumption that the Packers will try to exploit rookie Free Safety Eric Reid on deep looks this Sunday. How he fares will go a long way toward telling us how far the 49ers first round draft pick has come since the start of training camp.
- The team's official depth chart lists Kyle Williams as the starting wide receiver opposite Anquan Boldin. However, expect to see rookie Quinton Patton get a good number of looks in this game. San Francisco doesn't really have a true #2 WR, so we will see a lot of action from different guys there.
- Speaking of Williams, he will see action as the team's kick/punt returner as well. He is listed second in both roles to running back LaMichael James, who will miss the first few games with an injured left knee. I'm not sure if this is more trolling from Jim Harbaugh, but at least as far as punt returns are concerned James has no business being the top choice on the depth chart.
- I'm putting the over/under for the number of sacks 49ers will get at 4.5 - you guys can let me know in the comments section which one you are taking.
- If you haven't heard yet, Aldon Smith and former 49er Delanie Walker have been named in a lawsuit filed in Santa Clara yesterday. The plaintiff alleges that he was shot twice by what he believes were rounds fired by Walker or fired directly in response to rounds fired by "the defendants", which include Smith and Walker. It sure looks like Walker should be more concerned about this lawsuit than Smith. Don't expect #99 to miss any games.
Week 1 Picks
By popular demand, AJ and Diego will make their picks this season against the spread. Remember, you asked for it ...
Ravens at Broncos (-7.5)
AJ: Sometimes, playoff rematches are epic struggles between evenly matched teams that end up being games for the ages. And sometimes, one of the teams in the rematch overpays an average QB and has to let go of all their key free agents because they have no cap room. BRONCOS.
Diego: I hope there is no blackout in this game. I really don't want to see any more conspiracy nonsense on my twitter timeline. RAVENS.
Buccaneers (-3) at Jets
AJ: Do you remember when Mark Sanchez was a pretty good QB? Neither do I. BUCCANEERS.
Diego: Hey! He was pretty good in 2008 ... Oh you mean in the NFL? Nevermind ... BUCCANEERS.
Dolphins at Browns (Pick 'em)
AJ: The Dolphins have a stingy defense, and an interesting addition on offense (Lamar Miller). The Browns still have Trent Richardson ... and that's about all. DOLPHINS.
Diego: I don't know man, I do think that Cleveland defense will be pretty good, and Norv can really have a positive effect as an OC ... BROWNS.
Patriots (-10) at Bills
AJ: When losing Kevin Kolb to injury makes your team worse, you are in pretty deep dookie. PATRIOTS.
Diego: I hope you meant that towards Tuel, and not towards EJ Manuel who will actually be starting this week. BILLS.
Seahawks (-3.5) at Panthers:
AJ: This is the first of five 10am road starts for Seattle this season. It will be interesting to see how the travel affects them. If the Panthers were a more complete team, the start might make this intriguing, but player for player Seattle is the better team, hands down. SEAHAWKS.
Diego: I didn't like what I saw from Carolina's offense in the preseason. Love their defense and I think they'll improve there, but ... SEAHAWKS.
Vikings at Lions (-5)
AJ: Christian Ponder will throw for 15 yards, Matt Stafford will throw the ball A LOT, Megatron will have a big day ... but none of that will matter, because Adrian Peterson is the best player in his division. VIKINGS.
Diego: Detroit should be a little bit fired up about winning their first divisional game of the season since, you know, they lost all SIX last season. LIONS.
Bengals at Bears (-3)
AJ: The Bengals have quietly become a viable franchise over the past two seasons, and the Bears are still waiting for Jay Cutler to play up to his potential. The aforementioned noted, Matt Forte will win this one for the home team. BEARS.
Diego: *Hops onto the Cincinnati bandwagon*. BENGALS.
Chiefs (-3.5) at Jaguars
AJ: The Chiefs improved in the offseason, and the Jags have so many holes that they would have a tough time scoring on me, Diego and the homeless guy that asked me for BART fare on my way to work today. CHIEFS.
Diego: I picked up Kansas City's defense in one of my fantasy leagues. CHIEFS.
Falcons at Saints (-3.5)
AJ: The Saints have Coach Payton back. Too bad he doesn't play defense. FALCONS.
Diego: I have also been drafting Mark Ingram with confidence in my fantasy leagues. No, seriously. SAINTS.
Raiders at Colts (-9.5)
AJ: If you have a pulse, odds are that you have a shot at a roster spot in Oakland. That stated this team is getting better. But not enough to win an early start against a better team. COLTS.
Diego: I'm actually looking forward to seeing how Terrelle Pryor does in this game, but c'mon man. COLTS.
Titans at Steelers (-7)
AJ: The Steelers are on the decline, and there's no denying it. But they still have enough juice to beat a one-trick pony like the Titans. STEELERS
Diego: The Steelers quietly had one of the best defenses last season, and they will once again be a dominant unit this season. STEELERS.
Cardinals at Rams (-5)
AJ: I am not sure which will be more fun to watch, Cortland Finnegan getting abused by Larry Fitzgerald, or Carson Palmer running for his life behind what might be the worst offensive line in the NFL. The magic 8-ball says: RAMS.
Diego: Arizona's defense should keep this one close. CARDINALS.
Giants at Cowboys (-3.5)
AJ: Don't tug on Supermans cape, don't piss into the wind and don't bet against Eli Manning in the House that Jerry built. GIANTS.
Diego: Part of me feels like Dallas finally protects their house, but then again these ARE the Cowboys, so ... GIANTS.
Eagles at Redskins (-3.5)
AJ: Until Chip Kelly proves he can get it done in the NFL, I cannot in good conscience pick his team to win a road game...especially with a defense that couldn't buy a stop. REDSKINS.
Diego: Did you guys know I love me some RG3? REDSKINS.
Texans (-4) at Chargers:
AJ: If you were to look up the definition of "unfair" in the dictionary, chances are you'd find this game. It isn't totally out of the question that the Chargers might pull this off ... but I think the Almighty has better things to so than alter the course of human events to give the Bolts a win against a quality opponent this season. TEXANS.
Diego: I just hope JJ Watt doesn't end Philip Rivers' career ... TEXANS.
Packers at 49ers (-4.5)
AJ: Last January, the 49ers shredded the Packers in an absolute beat down at Candlestick. Since then, the 49ers have gotten deeper on defense, and Colin Kaepernick has had an entire offseason to work on his craft. The Packers added a running back ... and have done little to address the holes in their defense. 49ERS.
Diego: Really lost in all the hoopla about what Green Bay has done to prepare for San Francisco's offense is the fact that the Packers' offensive line is going to struggle to keep Aaron Rodgers upright. I expect to see a close and exciting game. PACKERS.
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