Colin Kaepernick and the San Francisco 49ers square off against the New York Jets at Levi Stadium in a battle yet again of subpar teams playing for pride. Kaepernick, as we recently discussed on Niners Live, is coming off a negative 21-yard performance, the worst of his career. Will he make amends? Redeem himself? We shall see. For now, let’s focus our attention on Niners Live’s top five match-ups to watch.
Top 5 Match-ups to Watch
1).Head Coach/OC Chip Kelly vs HC Todd Bowles – Now headman of the Jets, Bowles in his first year in Arizona in 2013 had boosted the NFL’s 6th ranked defense, and No. 1 ranked run defense. They allowed the fewest rushing yards in team history for a 16-game season (1,351 yards), had 47.0 sacks (3rd in team history), and 30 takeaways (tied for 6th in the NFL), including 20 INTs (5th in the NFL). Those days seem so far way, but Bowles would love to re-live some of that magic from Week Three of the 2014 season where his Arizona defense completely stymied one of the best power running games under coach Jim Harbaugh, featuring ex-running back of the 49ers’ Frank Gore, who recently passed Tony Dorsett on the NFL all-time rushing list giving him 12,750 yards. Bowles and company will look to do the same this week in desperate need of a win against Chip Kelly and the hapless 49ers.
Interesting to note: The 49ers’ rushing attack currently ranks 4th in yards with 1,532 and 7th in yards per attempt at 4.4. The Jets’ defense, on the other hand, comes in ranked 4th in yards, given up on the ground allowing only 1,084 and 2nd in yards per attempt at 3.5 per.
2).Jimmie Ward/49ers’ secondary vs quarterback Bryce Petty/WR Brandon Marshall – With pretty much all hope lost for the season, Coach Bowles decided to give 6’3” and 230 lbs Bryce Petty the starting nod. Will he be this week’s Matt Barkley? After coming on for an abysmal Ryan Fitzpatrick in their last outing, Petty managed to complete 11 passes for 125 yards, albeit most of it came in garbage time of a blowout loss. This match-up may well favor the 49ers’, even though Petty is highly inexperienced. However, this is only if Jimmie Ward, who was beaten badly a few times last week and has some history against Brandon Marshall dating back to his time with the Chicago Bears, Tremaine Brock, and the rest of this secondary can find a way to slow down the 6’4” and 229 lbs all-pro wide receiver who is listed as questionable for this week, along with his running mate 6’2” and 225 lbs Quincy Enunwa, who has had a breakout season with 44 catches, 653 yards, and four touchdowns.
3).Carlos Hyde/49ers’ O-line vs Jets’ front seven – The Jets’ front seven comes into this contest boasting the 2nd best yards allowed per carry average in the league at 3.5, featuring 6’5” and 302 lbs defense lineman Leonard Williams and 6’3” and 310 lbs Steve Mclendon, who have a combined 79 tackles and three forced fumbles to go along with 10 sacks, wreaking havoc on opposing offensive lines. The 49ers’ offensive line will need to open up holes at the point of attack to allow the bruising Hyde a chance to get downhill and penetrate 2nd and 3rd levels, which will not be easy against 6’2” and 250 lbs middle linebacker David Harris who leads the team in tackles with 67, and also 6’4” and 305 lbs defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson who re-signed at the start of the season after speculation of possibly being picked up by the 49ers and a few other teams. Wilkerson has 25 tackles and 2.5 sacks, and is the Jets’ big run stuffer. The 49ers will need a huge effort from Joe Staley, Trenton Brown, and the rest of the company to open holes for Carlos Hyde and will need to rely on sticking to the running game in the second half to keep their offense balanced, and keep their struggling defense off the field as much as possible.
Interesting to note: Since returning in Week Ten from an injury, Carlos Hyde has averaged over 4.5 yards per carry; however, he hasn’t been able to reach the end zone since with all six of his touchdowns coming prior to his injury.
4).Matt Forte/Jets’ O-line vs 49ers’ front seven – The Jets’ running back Matt Forte, the 6’2” and 218 lbs workhouse running back who was picked up by the Chicago Bears in the offseason, comes into this week’s contest ranking near the middle of the pack at 3.7 yards per carry, already accounting for 211 carries, 784 yards, and seven touchdowns on the season. The Jets’ offensive line and 6’4” and 307 lbs Nick Mangold, who is questionable for the game, will look to impose their will on this 49er front seven who are coming off yet another disappointing performance where they allowed their ninth 100-yard rusher on the season to the tune of 117 yards for running back Jordan Howard of the Chicago Bears last Sunday. The 49ers will need another strong effort from Glenn Dorsey at the point of attack, as well of the rest of the troops swarming to the ball; they can ill afford to give up another 100-yard rusher this week. They will also need to put pressure on the Jets’ offense early and get some early turnovers as they did last week, playing against the second-to-last ranked Jets in a give away, take away differential at -17.
5).Colin Kaepernick/WR Jeremey Kerley vs Darrell Revis/Jets’ secondary – After arguably his worst performance of his career, this past Sunday going 1-5 for 4 yards passing and 5 sacks for a loss of 25 yards, before being benched in favor or Blaine Gabbert, Kaepernick will be looking to redeem himself and raise his stock back up in what could be an audition for his next team. The Jets’ secondary featuring Pro Bowl corner Darrell Revis, who has noticeably dropped off this season, will rely on his counterparts 5’11” and 196 lbs cornerback Marcus Williams who has 30 tackles, one forced fumble, and two interceptions; 5’10” and 198 lbs, safety Marcus Gilchrist who has 50 tackles, one forced fumble, and two interceptions; as well as 5’9” and 185 lbs cornerback Buster Skrine who has 36 tackles and one interception. Will Chip Kelly look to get Jeremy Kerley more touches seeing as though he may be matched up on Skrine most of the time in the slot? How will Kerley fair against his old mates? Will Kaep test the struggling Darrell Revis? The 49ers will surely need Kerley to become the open man again after he has been all but forgotten over the last three weeks accounting for only three receptions for 48 yards.
I leave you with this:
In a game of two teams playing for pride, many men’s heart will be tested. For Todd Bowles, the reality of being the head coach of the New York Jets and the pressure that it brings may all come to a head this week as Bowles currently sits on the hot seat over his team’s regression from last year’s 10-6 record, as well as coming off a bad Monday night loss where they were blown out 41-10 by the Indianapolis Colts. Will Todd Bowles’ experience against the 49ers be a difference maker? It sure was for ex 49ers’ Defense Coordinator Vic Fangio and the Chicago Bears last week who completely shut down the 49ers’ offense forcing them to abandon their passing game in adverse weather conditions. Will Jim O’Neil and Defensive Back Coach Jeff Hafley’s knowledge of their former player Buster Skrine’s weaknesses be valuable to Chip Kelly and the offense? That sure does seem to make a lot of sense; however, for 49er fans the lack of being able to adjust and scheme properly has been a major letdown for this team and coaching staff, once again being stopped in the second half last week and looking like all hope was lost. Let’s see what happens this week as these two clash to salvage some pride and dignity in the battle of the bottom feeders. Always remember #eyeswideopen #GoNiners
All records, statistics, and accolades are courtesy of Pro-Football-Reference.com, Pro Football Focus,49ers.com, ESPN.com, NFL.com unless otherwise indicated. Author/Editor Niners Live. Co-Author Irvin Johnson Staff Writer at Niners Live.