Upon Further Review: The Smith Question, NFC West Division Outlook, Not So Special Teams and Picks for Week 7

Oct 18, 2012 at 12:58 AM

Welcome to the Week 7 installment of "Upon Further Review". Due to a severe case of "Dude, I get to interview Ronnie Lott!" Mr. Del Barco will not be joining us this week. Never fear, however…he'll be back next week. Honest. But only if Terry B says it's okay. In today's segment, we'll be discussing Alex Smith's ever so sobering performance last Sunday and the question of QB by committee, the outlook of the NFC West, the sudden decline of the 49ers' once dominant Special Teams unit, and picks for Week 7.

The Smith Question: Has he regressed? Is QB by Committee the Answer?
There are no two ways about it: last week's game was painful to watch (I should know…I watched it 3 times). Alex Smith played his worst game of the Harbaugh era…and across the Bay Area, doubters have begun to wonder…is this guy regressing? Is it time to make the "Wild Kaep" a full time thing? Should Smith be replaced altogether?

The answer to the Smith question is simple. The answer is no. It is not time to replace Smith. And it is not time for the "Wild Kaep" to take center stage. Alex Smith is, and should be, the 49ers starting quarterback. Over the 22 regular season games that comprise the Harbaugh era, Smith is 17-5. Considering that he only managed 19 wins over the course of his first 5 seasons in the NFL, the fact that he has improved by leaps and bounds under the watchful eye of Coach Harbaugh is undeniable. While he may not be the best quarterback in the league and may not have the raw athleticism of Colin Kaepernick, he represents the 49ers' best chance to win games right now. The 49ers had a bad day last Sunday. Smith had a bad day last Sunday. But whether you love him or hate him, he is the 49ers' starting quarterback, and will be for the foreseeable future.

NFC West Outlook: Who is the 49ers' Most Likely Challenger for the Division?
The NFC West has more combined victories than any other division in the NFL. Given the fact that as recently as last season, the NFC West was regarded as the laughing stock of the league, that's saying something. Though the Rams' addition of Jeff Fisher has done wonders for a team with limited talent and the Cardinals have surprised everyone with their hot start, the biggest threat to the 49ers' chances of retaining the NFC West crown is the Seattle Seahawks.

As fate would have it, they will be visiting Candlestick Park this evening with the inside track to the division title up for grabs.

The Seahawks are not daunting on paper. A Lilliputian rookie quarterback, marginal talent at wide receiver and a defense that was simply adequate last season hardly makes a juggernaut. But things aren't always as they seem. They have managed to beat some quality teams this season, and thus far, their defense has played lights out. In order to take the division, the 49ers will need to split the regular season series with them. Given the tremendous home field advantage provided by Quest (artificial crowd noise!) Field, that makes this Thursday night match up the closest thing to a must win the 49ers have faced this season.

Not So Special After All?
Last season, a huge part of the 49ers formula for winning was the field position battle. Up to this point in the season, the 49ers have been consistently losing that battle. Punt and kick coverage has been slipping, and week over week, it seems that the 49ers have gotten progressively worse. So what gives?

As silly as it sounds, the 49ers problem is not a unit wide backslide, but rather a one-man issue. The issue is that the man in question is no longer a 49er. Last season, Blake Costanzo was the catalyst for a special teams unit that was historically prolific. The leadership that he provided has yet to be replaced…and without it, the 49er special teams unit is seemingly going through the motions. Until someone steps up to unite these guys, it is likely that their struggles will continue.

Week 7 Picks
After going an awe inspiring 6 for 14 (.428…if this were baseball, I'd be a friggin' All Star) in week 6 let's see how bad I can muck things up this week:

Cardinals at Vikings:
The Cards are coming off a thrashing at the hands of a very average Bills team, and the Vikings are becoming relevant. That should be enough to win, especially at home. Vikings.

Packers at Rams:
The Rams have improved, but barring the entire team using a DeLorean to travel back to 1999, they haven't improved that much. Packers.

Redskins at Giants:
As much as I'd love to see the Giants lose every game for the rest of the season, they are the class of the NFC right now. The Redskins need a season to cook before they can give them a run for their money, especially at home. Giants.

Titans at Bills:
The Titans are coming off of a huge win against a superior team…but that won't be enough to beat a defense that looks like its finally ready to live up to expectations. Bills.

Jets at Patriots:
Tom Brady and the Pats were just humbled by an upstart Seahawks team. Look for them to bounce back at home against a traditional rival. Patriots.

Lions at Bears:
The Bears defense is the best in football right now…and the Lions offense isn't producing at the pace it was last season. Bears.

Browns at Colts:
Despite last week's upset victory in the Ohio Bowl, the Browns are still the worst team in the NFL. The Colts aren't. Colts.

Cowboys at Panthers:
Despite Tony Romo's inherent ability to throw interceptions (at league meetings this offseason, a motion was raised to officially change the term "interception" to "tonyromo") Cam Newton's sophomore slump should be enough to sink the Panthers. Cowboys.

Ravens at Texans:
The Ravens just lost one of the best linebackers the league has ever seen…and that will probably sink them on the road against the league's best running back. Texans.

Saints at Bucs:
No matter how bad the Saints may be without Sean Payton at the helm, Brees is still on pace to throw for roughly a bazillion yards this season. Saints.

Jags at Raiders:
The Raiders are not a good football team. The Jags are REALLY not a good football team. Raiders.

Steelers at Bengals:
The Bengals lost to the worst team in football last week. The Steelers are old, beat up and on the decline. But I still think they have the juice to beat the Bengals, even at home. Steelers.

Seahawks at 49ers:
The 49ers are coming off of their worst loss in the Harbaugh era. Since Harbaugh took the reins in San Francisco, the 49ers have never lost back to back games. Look for that streak to continue. 49ers.
The opinions within this article are those of the writer and, while just as important, are not necessarily those of the site as a whole.


  • ms.sinn
    Terry, you are so special. I mean it. Shortbus and helmet special. You obviously spend enough time on the interwebs, with very little effort you could see that I am, in fact, real. Thanks for making me laugh! Now go back to WOW for 10 days, then you can come back and tell us how much Alex Smith sucks after Arizona.
    Oct 19, 2012 at 8:35 AM
    Response: :) I told you she was awesome.
  • Terry B.
    My God Alex sucks. (And pretending to be your wife so that it looks like you have readers is pretty lame even for you.)
    Oct 19, 2012 at 8:16 AM
    Response: As it pertains to Alex: he did enough for the 49ers to win. Cheer up, Terry. As it pertains to my darling sweetheart, she's very real, very awesome, and as amused by your e-fury as me.
  • ms.sinn, aka mrs.legbreaker
    How could you pick all your least favorite teams?! Raiders? Steelers? Vikes? Pick against the other Harbaugh??!! This is shocking and disturbing.

    Ken/Terry B./JA Molino:
    Wow. Or should I say, WOW. Play a little less Madden and WOW, try getting out more, maybe get a BJ, and spend less time riding AJ's jock. As awesome as it is, I'm not in to sharing. Love and sloppy kisses, ms.sinn
    Oct 18, 2012 at 10:35 PM
    Response: :)
  • Shane
    Well technically less Kap worked. We got the W! Smith still drives me nuts (the deep miss to williams and missing moss when GORE was pointing to him, geeeeez) but we got the win and something we can allllllll agree on, MORE GORE. hopefully the rib is ok. Great win buddy, lets all just grab a beer and enjoy..... that saftey situation did bone me out of 100 bucks tho!
    Oct 18, 2012 at 9:50 PM
    Response: Nail biter of a game, huh? I think Smith was adequate...but that Seattle really forced him out of his comfort zone. Hopefully the 11 day layoff will give the team some much needed rest. These guys need to get their head right for the Arizona game...they need to issue a beat down in order to keep pressure on Seattle. Enjoy that beer amigo! Go Niners, and thank God for Frank the Tank:)
  • Ken
    JA Molino is right; you are immature. Still, it was adult of you to man up and admit that you're completely lacking in any prognostication skills. Now if you would only admit that Alex sucks. Oh, wait, I forgot...he's still growing into the role in his eighth year. That elite QB is just around the corner.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 2:25 PM
    Response: Thanks Ken:) I really work at being immature. It isn't as easy as it looks.
  • Ninerdawg
    Just 1 bad game? He had a bad game at Minnesota. Look, Smith is not an instinctive player, takes too many sacks, because he doesn't know when to run. And how come he has to pat the ball before throwing it, and lose about a tenth of a second, and allow the D to close in on him? Against weak teams, Smith looks strong, against strong teams, Smith looks weak. Defenses are sitting on these short routes, and daring him to throw the ball deep. This year he has been too inconsistent. Right now Russell Wilson is playing better than Smith, alot like the other Rookies this year.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 1:17 PM
    Response: Quick question: who on the 49ers roster gives them the best chance to win? Whether you like him or not, the answer is Smith. Just is what it is.
  • JA Molino
    Ah, still using your column to attack your detractors. So mature. All the more reason that you'll never be more than a third-rate fansite columnist.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 12:52 PM
    Response: Hi again, Terry:) You'd better stop with the flattery...I'm blushing.
  • Terry B.
    Arrow Down: Niners Lose Big at Home
    Oct 18, 2012 at 12:48 PM
    Response: Hi Terry:) Looks like you shot your wad a little early on that one. Just saying.
  • Man with a brain
    How the hell is everyone overreacting after one game? Regressed? Did he not just have his best game ever a week before? People need to stop overreacting and use a little common sense.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 10:34 AM
    Response: I agree, but remember, these are 49er fans. Overreaction to QB play is in the DNA of this fan base. Personally, I think Smith will be fine...but that makes me a minority in the Bay Area right now. In any case, thanks for reading, amigo.
  • AJ Bolino
    Ladale, I accidentally deleted your comment. Sorry! I am updating from a smartphone, and the interface leaves much to be desired. Please feel free to re-send your quote and I'll get it posted.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 9:20 AM
  • Shane
    AJ, dont feel bad buddy i think i hit about 3 games in my pickem league last week, but i love the baseball analogy!! as you know i have been critical of smith and his ability although i dont think im a smith hater. However i think the "wildkap" is hurting smith badly. I said this about the jets to start the year. QB play is about rhythm. when you are rotating your QB in and out youre breaking rhythm, affecting play calling and timing, and putting your starting QB in potential bad situations. example: smith hits a 55 yarder to moss, he has to be feeling good, has confidence, you got the D on their heels, get to the line hurry up and "cut the throat" if you will. instead we sit smith and bring in Kap who eats 11 yards and smith comes back in to face 2nd and 21 (certainly not his strength, not that its Tom Bradys strength either!) I may not think smith is a top 8QB but youre right he is our starter and until he isnt we have to allow him to be in the best possible spot... i think less kap is the answer right now.
    Oct 18, 2012 at 8:37 AM
    Response: Well said, Shane. Smith needs rhythm to be successful. I am curious to see how he responds to last week's performance tonight. Additionally, I'm curious to see what Harbaugh has in store for his least favorite opponent.
  • Reg Brown
    Well thought out article. Believe that there was too much of "WildKap" last Sunday. I especially thought that taking Smith out after the 55 yard completion to Moss was a bad decision. Go Niners!!!
    Oct 18, 2012 at 5:27 AM
    Response: Agreed Reg, and thanks for reading.

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