Well kids, week 9 is upon us, and the 49ers are 6-2, getting healthier and headed into their bye week with more positive momentum than any 49er team in the last 15 years. While last Sunday's blowout was against a team that might not win a game this season, it should be noted that the 49ers did what they were supposed to: lay the wood on an inferior opponent. With the second half behind them, the 49ers will soon witness the return of a few key playmakers...which puts the team in the unique position of getting healthier and stronger as the season progresses.
This week, we'll be looking into who'll be let go to make room for the 49ers pending activations, asking a very serious question about the legacy of Frank Gore, and delve into Colin Kaepernick's performance this season.
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Frank the Tank: Best 49er Runner Ever?
As a guy that has watched the 49ers play football for quite awhile, I have seen some truly great running backs and heard the legends of a few more. John Henry Johnson. Joe "the Jet" Perry. Hugh "the King" McElhenny. Roger Craig. Ricky Watters. To be sure, this franchise has had its share of studs in the offensive backfield. Those of you who frequently read my stuff on the Webzone know full well that I am a HUGE proponent of Roger Craig's induction into the Hall of Fame.
The aforementioned noted, Frank Gore is the best 49er running back ever...and he isn't done yet. He's averaged 4.6 yards per carry for his career. He's scored 69 total TDs (58 of those have been on the ground...59 if you count his fumble recovery TD). He's rushed for 9,457 yards. He's a 4 time Pro Bowl selection. He's been a top 10 runner four times. He's been top 10 in yards from scrimmage four times. He is 4th all time on the 49ers TD list (behind Jerry Rice, Terrell Owens and Joe Perry). And for most of his career, he was one of the sole bright spots on some terrible teams. Simply stated, he's a special player.
But one thing separates him from the great runners of 49er lore...and it's that though he's aging...he's not slowing down. This season, Gore is on pace for over 1200 yards and 14 TDs...and just short of 300 carries. Kids, 30 year old running backs aren't supposed to be able to do that. Frank Gore's combination of strength, patience, agility and football IQ make him great...but it's his durability that makes him the greatest.
Why Did Kap Struggle Early: Injury, Inexperience or Both?
Earlier this season (before the Titans game), I wrote that Kap's struggles this season were due in part to his relative inexperience. And for the season's first 6 weeks, it certainly seemed that way. Sophomore slumps are not uncommon in the NFL. Then, the last two weeks happened...and Kap began running...well.
While Kap has looked healthy, his intermittent appearance on the 49er injury report with a "foot injury" may have been more serious than it seemed...even though the coaching staff went out of its way to say that his injury was no big deal. The numbers would indicate otherwise.
In weeks 2-6, Kap completed 51% of his passes, threw 5 interceptions, rushed for 150 yards (30 yards per game) and accounted for 5 total TDs. In weeks 7 and 8, Kap completed 62% of his passes, threw no interceptions, rushed for 124 yards (62 yards per game) and accounted for 4 total TDs. Kids, that is night and friggin' day.
The numbers bear it out: Kap's inexperience may have played a role in his struggles...but his "foot issue" certainly did...especially with his rushes. But I would take it a step further...because I think that Kap's passing mechanics were affected as well. If you go back and watch each game, you'll note that Kap's deep accuracy suffered, his passes tended to sail high, and as a result, the 49er offense had some very bad weeks...until they adjusted.
The net-net here is that it appears Kap's mini slump is over, and that is very good news for the 49ers.
Help On The Way...But At Who's Expense?
In the next few weeks the 49ers are going to see Mario Manningham, Eric Wright and Michael Crabtree will be added to the active roster (as of this writing, Tank Carradine has been activated). While that is great news, it means that some players will have to be released to make room for them. The question is, who goes? Here is my short list:
*Nnamdi Asomugha: if Wright is activated, Asomugha (who has been a healthy scratch of late) becomes expendable, especially given his lackluster play this season.
*Marlon Moore: Moore has done absolutely nothing of note in a 49er uniform...and with Manningham due back after the bye, his time on the active roster is running out.
*Kyle Williams: Williams gets an "A" for effort. The diminutive WR has managed to stick around on the roster of a very good team for over two seasons...but his run will likely come to an end with the activation of Michael Crabtree. Williams' value as a returner has fallen off of late...and with LaMichael James waiting in the wings...his value as a returner is virtually nil going forward.
* Because I missed it before, here's a shout out to Shane, and an answer to his question: I think that Dallas will win the NFC East because the rest of its teams are terrible...and that Seattle will be playing in a wildcard game come the first round of the playoffs.
* I've heard a few people (who shall remain nameless) complaining that the 49ers use Bruce Miller too much. While it is true that the 49ers use the fullback more than any team in the NFL, they are able to because Miller is an EXCEPTIONAL offensive weapon. He's a very good blocker, a surprisingly solid receiver, and has the ability to get it done in short yardage situations.
* Kyle Williams has resembled a veritable smorgasbord of terrible over the past few weeks. Will LaMichael James finally see some opportunities in the return game against Carolina? I certainly hope so.
Bengals (-3) at Dolphins
Andy Dalton and the Cincinnati defense are ON FIRE. The same cannot be said for anyone in a Dolphins uniform. BENGALS.
Chargers (-1) at Redskins
After watching last week's mile high meltdown, I have come to the conclusion that the Redskins are incapable of playing 4 consecutive quarters of good football. CHARGERS.
Chiefs (-3.5) at Bills
The Bills defense has been surprisingly stout this season...but that won't mean much if their offense can't score any points. As an aside, the 49ers would like to thank Alex Smith & Co. for an additional 2nd round pick in next year's draft. CHIEFS.
Falcons at Panthers (-7.5)
Last week, I actually believed that Matt Ryan had the talent to lead his team to victory against a stout defense with an injury-ridden team. I have since adjusted my thinking. PANTHERS.
Saints (-6) at Jets
Drew Brees & Co. may be vulnerable on the road...and Geno Smith may be the QB of the future in New York...but none of that will matter this weekend. SAINTS.
Titans (-3) at Rams
Next up for Rams' OC Brian Scottenheimer: a refresher course on when to call a running play...especially in the Red Zone against a very tired defensive front. TITANS.
Vikings at Cowboys (-10.5)
For any of you Viking fans out there with dreams of a QB sneak for the game winning TD in the final seconds of regulation...let's not forget that your QB is Christian Ponder. COWBOYS.
Buccaneers at Seahawks (-16)
The Seahawks are slowing down...but that won't mean much against a team with one viable offensive weapon and a coach that will likely be unemployed by year end. SEAHAWKS.
Eagles at Raiders (-2.5)
Hey Eagles fans! I bet you wish you had Donovan McNabb under center now, don't you? RAIDERS.
Ravens (-2.5) at Browns
While I am not bullish on the Ravens at all, they have the juice to beat the Browns...even on the road. RAVENS.
Steelers at Patriots (-6.5)
The Steelers are in the first year of what might be a decade of futility. Even though the Patriot defense is even more awful than usual without Vince Wilfork, this game will not be close. PATRIOTS.
Colts (-2.5) at Texans
Eventhough I think Jim Irsay is a super-sized douche with a side of furmunda cheese, and I will root against him in all things at all times, I can't see the his team losing this game. COLTS.
Bears at Packers (-10.5)
When Jay Cutler's groin popped, so did the Bears' shot at a playoff berth. PACKERS.
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