The 7-2 Patriots are heading to the Bay Area to face the 1-8 49ers in what seemingly is a very one-sided match-up. The Patriots are coming off a tough week 10 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football while San Francisco fell to the Cardinals in a surprisingly close-scoring game. The 49ers own the second worst record in the NFL only behind the win-less Cleveland Browns while the Patriots have a commanding lead in the AFC East and are tied with the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs for the best record in the AFC. In Chip Kelly's first year as the head coach for San Francisco, the team has struggled in all three phases and struggled, even below the lowly expectations they probably had coming into this season. We will delve deeper into this and see how the two teams match-up going into this game.
Starting with the Patriots, they currently are tied for eighth in the league with 380.8 offensive yards per game and are also sixth with a 26.8 points per game average. New England is eighth in the NFL with 268.3 passing yards per game, second with 9.0 passing yards per attempt, tied for 11th with 16 passing touchdowns and first with a 115.5 passer rating. They are the only team in the NFL with one interception thrown, which had been zero up until last week before Seattle intercepted Tom Brady. The Patriots as a team have the second best completion percentage in the league with 70.1%. Brady has been on fire since returning, including throwing for 327 yards per game (second to only Drew Brees), first among quarterbacks with a 72.9 completion percentage and a 9.85 yards per attempt. While Rob Gronkowski is out today with a chest injury, Martellus Bennett will step up once again without the Patriots having to skip a beat on offense.
As a team, the Patriots are 12th in the NFL with 112.4 rushing yards per game but are third in rushing touchdowns with 13. As a unit, New England has the eighth worst yards per rushing attempt with 3.8 and are tied for fourth in the league with seven fumbles in the run game. Lead back LeGarrette Blount has had a terrific season overall. He is ninth among running backs with 678 rushing yards, first in the NFL with 12 rushing touchdowns and is fifth with 182 rushing attempts. He does however, have a 3.7 rushing yards per attempt, which is 33rd among running backs. He has proven to be a valuable short-yardage/goal-line back which has sparked the Patriots run attack and made them more than their usual one-dimensional passing offense.
On defense, the Patriots have struggled at times this season. They are 15th in the NFL with 361.4 yards allowed, given up the 14th most passing yards per game with 260.4 and have given up the 14th fewest rushing yards per game with 101.0. In terms of scoring defense, the Patriots are still giving up the sixth fewest points per games with 18.1. For passing, the Patriots are giving up the 10th fewest yards per attempt (7.0) and passing touchdowns (12) while giving up the 15th lowest completion percentage with 63.1%. In their run defense, the Patriots are giving up the 15th fewest rushing yards per attempt (4.1) while being tied for 10th in giving up only six rushing touchdowns and actually being second in the NFL with nine fumbles forced. This defense has undergone some changes this season, including Jamie Collins being traded and Jabaal Sheard being a healthy scratch this weekend as well but luckily have a good match-up this weekend for them.
San Francisco has accumulated the fourth fewest total offensive yards per game this season with 310.8 and are tied for 22nd in the league with 20.8 points scored per game. For their passing offense, the 49ers have the third fewest passing yards per game (191), a league-worst 55.7 completion percentage and the fourth lowest yards per attempt (6.5). San Francisco is tied for 24th in the NFL with 10 passing touchdowns, 12th with eight interceptions and the third worst passer rating as a team (75.5). Colin Kaepernick has struggled as a passer this season but is fourth among quarterbacks with 228 rushing yards. He will likely need to rely on his legs to give San Francisco any shot of being somewhat competitive on offense.
The 49ers rushing game has been much better than their passing attack this season. They are seventh in the NFL with 119.6 rushing yards per game and tied for fourth with 11 rushing touchdowns. Lead back Carlos Hyde is 21st in the NFL with 443 rushing yards and 18th with 63.3 rushing yards per game. His six rushing touchdowns is tied for ninth in the NFL and only has one fumble on the season. Him combined with DuJuan Harris and Kaepernick have formed a solid rushing attack for San Francisco this season, which will need to pick up the slack for their wildly underwhelming passing game that will be without deep threat Torrey Smith,
San Francisco has been historically bad this season defensively. They have given up the second most offensive yards this season (3,867) while allowing the most yards per game (429.7) and the most points per game scored (31.4). In terms of pass defense, the 49ers have given up the 14th fewest passing yards per game (249) but are tied for the fourth most passing touchdowns allowed (19) while tied for 16th with seven interceptions. In their run defense, they are giving up the most rushing yards per game (180.4), which is actually 35 yards more than the closest team (Cleveland, 143.7). The 49ers are only the team in the NFL allowing more than five yards per rushing attempt (5.1) while being tied for second in the league with 13 rushing touchdowns given up. Overall, this is a defense that could be in for a long day against a very stout Patriots offensive attack.
Statistically, the game is a big mismatch as the 49ers have been awful on defense while the Patriots are one of the NFL's leaders in terms of offensive production. The Patriots pass defense has struggled this season, so this should be a nice bounce-back performance against arguably the NFL's worst passing offense in the 49ers. Both teams boast solid rushing attacks, but the 49ers are worst team in the NFL by far at defending against the run. Blount, James White and the returning Dion Lewis could feast against the 49ers non-existent run defense. Chip Kelly beat the Patriots last year when he was the head coach of the Eagles, so that will be a story-line to watch certainly. But going into this game on paper, the Patriots should walk out of Levi Stadium winning this game with no virtually no issues.