Don't look now, but the San Francisco 49ers are on a winning streak. What on paper was supposed to be a tough match-up against a Super Bowl contender on primetime TV turned out to be a laugher that left the Houston Texans wondering whether they have the right guy at quarterback. With the Seattle Seahawks losing their undefeated status, San Francisco is right back in the hunt for the lead in the NFC West, and they will host division opponent Arizona Cardinals this coming Sunday. This week, AJ is joined once again by Diego for some Buy-or-Sell on a couple of hot topics and their expectations of the 49ers defense from now until their bye week.
Buy or Sell: The 49ers should make a trade for Josh Gordon.
Diego: 6'3", 225-pound wide receiver who averages a 16.3 receiving yards/catch for his career catching passes from Brandon Weeden, Thad Lewis, Colt McCoy, and Brian Hoyer with the CLEVELAND BROWNS? I'm buying.
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Look, I understand he's at risk of being suspended for a full season if he violates the NFL's substance abuse policy again, but Gordon would be joining a strong locker room and be under the leadership and guidance of one of the NFL's greatest role models in Anquan Boldin. Vernon Davis would be an excellent mentor as well. Questions about his work ethic wouldn't be a concern once he joins a a team contending for an NFL championship.
Once you get past that, it's really a no-brainer. Even if the cost is the reported second round pick, barring a monumental meltdown the 49ers will get an additional second round pick from the Kansas City Chiefs courtesy of the Alex Smith trade. Not only is Gordon, a proven, difference-making NFL wideout, worth a mid-to-late second round pick, San Francisco is projected to have double digit draft picks once again in next year's draft, including THREE third round picks. That would give the 49ers five top 100 picks EVEN AFTER acquiring Gordon.
As far as Mario Manningham and Michael Crabtree coming back later this season, the 49ers' passing game needs an upgrade right away, and even when Manningham and Crabtree rejoin the team it will take them a few games to get up to a level where they will make a real impact. This team cannot afford to be so patient in the meantime, not with its ongoing struggles in the passing game, and not when they're ready to win now. The positives outweight the negatives, Baalke needs to get on phone right now.
AJ: Sending a second round pick to Cleveland for Josh Gordon? Sell, sell sell. That's right...I do not want Cleveland's explosive deep threat...especially for a 2nd round pick.
I know what you're thinking: Why, AJ? Why on earth wouldn't you want an insanely talented youngster who has a chance to be a difference maker? The answer is short, and simple: off the field issues.
The 49ers already have a talented youngster who's shown the ability to be an all-time type talent. It just so happens that this talented youngster has off the field issues, too. Those issues came to a head this season, and now Aldon Smith is in rehab. When he returns to the team, he'll likely STILL face disciplinary action from the league. And what was the net result of one player's off the field issues coming to a head? A completely distracted, unfocused, altogether pathetic effort against an inferior team...which resulted in an untimely home loss.
The idea behind bringing in a proven wideout is to help win football games, and Gordon's skill set is a perfect fit for the 49ers. His off the field troubles are not. The 49ers do not need another distraction. They need to win football games. While Gordon may help win a few games, his potential to become a distraction could lose a few...or more. Rather than roll the dice on damaged goods, the 49ers need to stick to their formula for winning, wait for Manningham and Crabtree to re-emerge and remain focused. The last thing this team needs to do is swing and miss on a trade for a player with obvious issues.
Buy or Sell: Tramaine Brock has a Bright Future with the 49ers.
AJ: Buy. Big time. To me, Brock has always been the guy that gave up a TD to Mario Manningham in the 2011 NFC Championship. In light of recent events, it appears that I need to re-evaluate that opinion.
Brock was very solid against the Rams, a team that I feared would exploit the 49er secondary. But something happened when Brock stepped in for Nnamdi Asomugha. The secondary got aggressive. More aggressive than I think I've seen them play since the middle of last season. But the Rams are far from elite.
Then, I saw Brock take on Andre Johnson, a matchup that had me concerned...for about 10 seconds. His game opening pick-six aside, Brock played Johnson perfectly for the entire game...and that is quite a feat. He looked comfortable in zone coverage, man coverage, with safety help and by himself. From the looks of it, I think he's improved enough to merit consideration for a larger role in the defense next season.
Diego: I have been rough on Brock, mostly because I too vividly remember how he was picked on by Eli Manning in that NFC Championship game once Tarell Brown went down with an injury in the third quarter. That was the same season Brock lost his spot as the team's nickel CB to Chris Culliver after suffering a left hand injury two weeks into the season. In 2012 his role diminished with the addition of Perrish Cox and I all but assumed he'd soon become a casualty of an every day transaction.
Well, he's about to make a casualty out of Nnamdi Asomugha.
I think the more you look into Brock's road to success, you learn that he's a blue-collar worker who is determined to get better each and every day. A safety in his younger days, he wasn't highly rated coming out of high school ball, so he enrolled at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, where he helped them win a national championship during his sophomore year. He then transferred to Minnesota where he became an immediate starter for the Gophers. However, academic issues resulted in his departure from the program after just one year, yet Brock focused on resuming his college career somewhere where he could play right away and continue to pursue his dream to become an NFL player. That led him to Belhaven University in Jackson, Mississippi, where he collected six interceptions in 2009. His tumultuous road into the NFL Draft saw him go undrafted, but he caught the 49ers' eyes and signed an UDFA contract. Even after making the 2010 53-man roster, the struggles continued as he he was twice waived and signed into the team's practice squad until staying on the roster permanently since late October of 2010.
So what did Brock do since losing his role as a nickel CB in 2011, feeling our wrath for his struggles in that 2011 NFC Championship game, and essentially becoming the team's 5th CB in 2012? He became a reliable part of the special teams unit while continuing to tenaciously work on his game and staying prepared should his name be called again. The result? Back-to-back standout games against the Rams and Texans, the latter earning him NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors. It would seem to me that someone with his character and work ethic would have a bright future with the team, at least until his contract expires at the end of the season.
Buy or Sell: The 49er Defense Will Not Give Up More Than 14 Points in Their Next Three Games (vs Cardinals, at Titans, at Jaguars - in London)
Diego: I'm buying. Carson Palmer has been a disappointment in Arizona thus far and their ground game is once again nearly non-existent (26th in the NFL in yards/attempt). Furthermore, the Cardinals overall haven't scored more than 13 points in San Francisco since 2008. Tennessee would had made this an interesting debate with Jake Locker having an efficient beginning to the year, but he's out with a rib injury for the next few weeks and I don't see Ryan Fitzpatrick or the struggling Chris Johnson getting much against San Francisco's defense. Jacksonville is barely scoring double-digit points/game, and that's all I'll say about that. Buy buy buy.
AJ: I'll buy, too. Outside of the fact that the 49er pass defense is ranked #2 in the NFL right now, neither the Cards, Titans or Jags have anything resembling a potent offensive threat.
The Cardinals have Palmer to Fitzgerald, and that's it. Rashard Mendenhall has fizzled as an every down runner in Arizona, and Carson Palmer has spent so much time on his back since he took the reins at QB that he should be doing Sleep Number commercials. The Cardinal defense is competent...even dangerous at times...but that won't be enough to get them 14 points against a deeper, more talented team.
The Titans have Chris Johnson...and he's falling off. Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't have juice to create offense on his own, and with no bona fide game breaker at any offensive skill position, Tennessee is going to struggle mightily against the 49er defense, especially if Patrick Willis is back in the starting lineup.
I'd get into the matchup game with Jacksonville, but the Jags' marquee player (Justin Blackmon) is hamstrung by what might be the weakest group of QBs in the NFL. The Jags would have a tough time putting up 14 points on the Enochs Eagles (my son's high school football team), let alone one of the top defenses in the NFL.
Buy, all week long and twice on Sunday.
- Am I the only 49er fan that doesn't miss Dashon Goldson? Eric Reid looks better every week, and if early indications are accurate, it looks like the 49ers' decision to trade up for him was a home run.
- I wrote it last week, and I'll reiterate it this week: Frank Gore is an all-timer. I don't think I've ever seen a 49er running back with his combination of vision, shiftiness and power. It's almost like he takes "getting old" personally.
- Is this the week that we'll see a bona fide #2 WR step up to help the passing game? Of all the potential candidates, I think Jon Baldwin has the best shot at bridging the gap until Mario Manningham can take the field again.
- Lost in the shuffle of an OUTSTANDING game by Tramaine Brock on Sunday night was a very nice job by OLB Corey Lemonier. If you get the chance this Sunday, look for him at DE when the 49ers shift to their nickel package. His first step off the line is VERY impressive.
- Let's get this over with: I was wrong on my take on Aldon Smith and the lawsuit filed against him and Delanie Walker back in early September. Although the games he has missed are not in connection with this incident, the latest report about him facing weapon charges makes me think he'll be missing additional games as a result ... but will the suspensions come this season or next? Stay tuned.
- I can't decide whether the lack of production at WR (other than Boldin's) is a result of nobody truly stepping up or Kaepernick's struggles at QB. We'll try to touch on this next week.
- Brock's performance is a continuation of an excellent pre-season. You know who else is backing up his pre-season play? Michael Wilhoite. He's been outstanding filling in for the injured Patrick Willis.
- Yours truly finally reached triple-digit followers on Twitter, so shout-out to @GthaRockstar for becoming my 100th follower back on September 17th.
Week 6 Picks
The struggle is REAL.
Giants at Bears (-7.5)
AJ: You can't spell "elite" without Eli...too bad that has absolutely nothing to do with his ability to play football. BEARS.
Diego: I don't know, I think he's further proof that even some of the best QB in the league can't succeed with a defense that plays as bad as the Giants' do. You can't be put in a situation where you have to force the ball so much. BEARS.
Bengals (-7.5) at Bills
AJ: Last week, I surmised that the Bengals were going to lose the the Wilfork-less Pats. I think their defense took it personally. If the Bengals had the juice to shut down Tommy Terrific and his "consecutive games with a passing TD streak", odds are that they can put the clamps on the Bills. BENGALS.
Diego: Yeah but can Andy Dalton help cover the spread though? I don't think so. BILLS.
Eagles (-1.5) at Bucs
AJ: Chip Kelly's chuck n' duck express has found a game it can win. The Bucs are rapidly falling apart, and if things keep going at this pace, Greg Schiano will be filling out unemployment paperwork by Week 10. EAGLES.
Diego: Even though I wasn't able to make my picks against the spread, I have been making my straight up picks in the 49erswebzone NFL Pick 'em Contest (and I'm currently in 2nd place among the staff after finishing in 1st place last season). Why do I bring this up? Because I picked against the Eagles last week and failed. And because - as that link will show - I'm picking against them this week AGAIN. BUCCANEERS.
Lions (-2.5) at Browns
AJ: Brandon Weeden will be starting this weekend...and so will the Lions' Calvin Johnson and Reggie Bush. LIONS.
Diego: Actually, Megatron will be a game time decision, which makes this call at this time really tough. Either way, I'm gonna roll the dice on Cleveland's defense. BROWNS.
Packers (-3) at Ravens
AJ: The Ravens are at home this week (where they play their best football). The Packers off to a shaky start and are without their best defender for at least a month. That does not bode well for the favorites. RAVENS.
Diego: Way to get paid Joe ... PACKERS.
Panthers at Vikings (-2.5)
AJ: The Panthers have had a few promising moments this season, but none of them have come on the road. Though every instinct I have is screaming that I should NEVER pick a team that will be led by Matt Cassell...VIKINGS.
Diego: I'm a big fan of Carolina's run defense (6th in the NFL giving up just 3.6 yards/attempt), but Adrian Peterson is a completely different challenge. VIKINGS.
Raiders at Chiefs (-9)
AJ: Terelle Pryor looks like the real deal. His performance last Sunday night resulted in the highest rating by a Raider QB since 2002. This weekend he'll be playing at Arrowhead, which means that we shouldn't expect an encore. CHIEFS.
Diego: I agree, but this will be closer than 9 points. RAIDERS.
Rams at Texans (-7.5)
AJ: The Texans looked lost and bewildered against the 49ers last weekend. Fortunately for them, they are at home against a very beatable Rams squad. TEXANS.
Diego: Good news for Matt Schaub - St. Louis gives up 8.3 yards per passing attempt, 28th worst in the league. TEXANS.
Steelers at Jets (-2.5)
AJ: Knock knock. Who's there? Owen. Owen who? Owen Five! Cheesy knock knock jokes aside, I am unsure if the Steelers can muster a win on the road. JETS.
Diego: What I really wonder is if I should start Antonio Brown on my fantasy team if he's going to be facing Antonio Cromartie for most of the game ... Hmmm, let me know what you think in the comments' section . STEELERS.
Jaguars at Broncos (-27.5)
AJ: A 27.5 point spread in the pros? You bet. I find myself wondering if the Jags will be able to muster 100 yards of total offense, let alone a single TD. This one will get very, very ugly. BRONCOS.
Diego: You know what I learned last week? The Jags have some hardcore fans, and this season is taking a toll on them. I feel for them all, it's like the 49ers' circa 2003-2004. BRONCOS.
Titans at Seahawks (-13.5)
AJ: Ryan Fitzpatrick + Starting QB + road game = Loss. SEAHAWKS.
Diego: + Chris Johnson STRUGGLING = Blowout Loss. SEAHAWKS.
Saints at Patriots (-2.5)
AJ: The Patriots lost in uncharacteristic fashion last week. Though the Saints are the more complete team, they are on the road this week, where they have looked beatable, even against inferior opponents. PATRIOTS.
Diego: A field goal win sounds about right. If Rob Gronkowski indeed plays, and Danny Amendola is healthier than last week, and maybe even Stevan Ridley gets in the action, I'm buying. PATRIOTS.
Redskins at Cowboys (-5.5)
AJ: The Redskins defense is awful, with a capital A. Tony Romo might throw for 600 yards this week. COWBOYS.
Diego: Ok I admit I make homer picks for RG3, but I can't shake his performance in Dallas last season out of my head. So while I'm picking Dallas to win, maybe last season's ROY makes it a close one? REDSKINS.
Colts (-1.5) at Chargers
AJ: Phillip Rivers had me fooled there for a moment...but last week he returned to his old, interception tossing self. Though the Chargers are tough at home, the Colts are a more complete team in every phase of the game. COLTS.
Diego: Indianopolis just beat the undefeated Seahawks after spanking us at Candlestick. I'm supposed to pick against them? I don't think so. COLTS.
Cardinals at 49ers (-11)
AJ: The 49ers have begun to fulfill the expectations heaped upon them during the offseason...but they are far from complete. Though they still have growing to do, this team is light years better than a beleaguered Cardinal team that will lean on its defense to keep things close. If the 49ers do what they should (read: run, early and often), expect the Cardinal defense to be gassed by the 4th quarter. 49ERS.
Diego: They say iron sharpens iron, right? So which outstanding unit will be sharpest in this game? San Francisco's run offense or Arizona's run defense? I like the 49ers, but not by double digits. CARDINALS.
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