For two and half quarters on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers looked like the best team in the NFL. For one quarter they looked like every other defense that Tom Brady has carved up in his illustrious career. And for the final half of the 4th quarter the 49ers did just enough to hang on to defeat the New England Patriots 41-34 in an epic battle to clinch back-to-back playoff appearances for the once storied franchise.
The New England Patriots were arguably the hottest team in the NFL, winning seven straight games, lost for the first time at home in 21 games, and had also won 21 straight in the second half of the season at home. Snapping all of these ridiculous streaks with a second year quarterback that has started only five games in his career, the 49ers made a statement that the NFC goes through San Francisco.
What we saw on Sunday -- in the most entertaining football game of the year -- is that neither of these teams will go quietly into the night. The 49ers came out swinging - the defense was dominant, the offense was explosive, and the 49ers were up 31-3. The Patriots could've packed it in and said good game, but they came storming back with 28 straight points in about a quarter. Resiliency like this is a sign of a great team. After tying it up at 31, the 49ers got a great kick return from rookie LaMichael James and on the next play scored a 38 yard touchdown from Colin Kaepernick to Michael Crabtree, a blooming connection in recent weeks. Both these teams showed that no matter what kind of adversity they will face in the coming weeks and in the playoffs, they are going to be a force to be reckoned with. This was a Super Bowl Preview.
But it won't be easy for either team. New England is now the #3 seed in the AFC and will probably have to face the Denver Broncos in the second round and potentially the Houston Texans in the AFC Championship. New England will have to win both games on the road if everything holds form. The 49ers are currently the second seed in the NFC but the Green Bay Packers are breathing down their neck just 1/2 game behind them thanks to the 49ers tie with the St. Louis Rams. The 49ers also have to travel to Seattle to play a hot Seahawks team in the toughest place to play in the NFL. A showdown with the Packers in the second round of the playoffs is looming ahead and depending how the season plays out it could very well be in Lambeau Field.
Either way the playoffs that being in a few weeks have some incredible match-ups potentially in the 2nd round and beyond.
Week 16 Picks:
Atlanta Falcons @ Detroit Lions - The Lions were just beatdown by the awful Arizona Cardinals and this week they have to take on the team with the best record in the NFC, after coming off a 34-0 shutout of the defending champs. It's pretty simple.
New Orleans Saints @ Dallas Cowboys - We are entering "Tony Romo Destroys His Team in Heartbreaking and Dramatic Fashion" Time, but it is one week too soon. Cowboys pull out a victory at home against the Saints.
Tennessee Titans @ Green Bay Packers- The Titans needed Mark Sanchez to be Mark Sanchez just to escape with a victory over the Jets. I don't think they will be so lucky against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.
Indianapolis Colts @ Kansas City Chiefs - Andrew Luck vs. Brady Quinn. That's all that needs to be said.
Buffalo Bills @ Miami Dolphins -
San Diego Chargers @ New York Jets - I think the whole world -- now that we are still alive -- is thankful that this game was flexed out of primetime. I don't think Chargers and Jets fans can take another primetime embarrassment.
Washington Redskins @ Philadelphia Eagles - The Redskins are fighting to keep control of the NFC East and are eyeing a showdown next week with the Cowboys. This is a classic trap game, but the Eagles mailed it in weeks ago. RGIII and company handle their business.
Cincinnati Bengals @ Pittsburgh Steelers - The Bengals and the "Red Rifle" go into Pittsburgh and defeat the Steelers making all Gingers proud. It really is the end of the world.
St. Louis Rams @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers - Tampa Bay got destroyed last week verse the Saints, but their stout run defense makes Sam Bradford beat them and he can't. Bucs win and stay alive.
Oakland Raiders @ Carolina Panthers - Cam Newton has been dominating the past few weeks and is single handedly saving people's fantasy football teams, but he can't save his own team. Thankfully -- for him -- he's playing the Raiders.
New England Patriots @ Jacksonville Jaguars - I think the Pats are a little angry about last week, Jacksonville I'm sorry.
Minnesotta Vikings @ Houston Texans - The Texans will overload the box to stop the run and dare Christian Ponder to beat them, I like those odds for the Texans. AP will still go off for a big day.
Cleveland Browns @ Denver Broncos - The Broncos got a gift last week as the 49ers beat the Patriots and ascended the Broncos into the #2 seed with their sites set on a 1st round bye. The Browns won't be able to stop Peyton Manning.
Chicago Bears @ Arizona Cardinals - Let's see...Arizona Cardinals have the worst QB position in the NFL (Sorry Jets) and they are facing a defense that is based on turnovers. Bears end their losing streak and remain in the playoff picture.
New York Giants @ Baltimore Ravens - The Giants have been playing awful, they can't rush the passer and Eli Manning isn't helping either. This seems about the time the Giants win every single game for the rest of the season. Ugh.
San Francisco 49ers @ Seattle Seahawks - The 49ers must go into the toughest place to play in the NFL, Seattle, and defeat a team that has scored 50+ points in back-to-back weeks after their defense was on the field for 95 (!) plays last week. Oh yeah, it doesn't look like Justin Smith will play either. The Seahawks might be without their top two corners and need to win to stay alive in the NFC West. This will be a blood bath but I have to go with the team that just beat the Patriots on the road.
- Lance CartelliBack to the San Francisco 49ers Newsfeed