For a cross-country, inter-conference game, there should be plenty of familiarity between the teams as the San Francisco 49ers head east to take on the New England Patriots. The Patriots are a modest 2-point favorite over the 49ers with an over/under of 43.5 points.
An extra week to get over their COVID-19 outbreak and get key players back from the illness didn’t do much to help the Patriots. They lost an ugly game against the Broncos, falling 18-12 despite not giving up a touchdown.
New England is now 2-3 and in uncharted territory during the Bill Belichick era, as the Patriots are not used to having a losing record this late in the season. The schedule ahead isn’t exactly forgiving with a trip to first-place Buffalo scheduled for next week, making this a game the Patriots have to win.
Of course, the 49ers are also in need of a win. Granted, San Francisco was able to silence critics with an impressive win over the Rams last week. However, that win only got the injury-riddled 49ers to 3-3 on the season, putting them at the bottom of a loaded NFC West.
The 49ers now have to hit the road for four of their next five games. San Francisco is also set to fave five straight opponents who currently have a winning record after this week’s trip to New England.
Jimmy Garoppolo will make his first trip to New England since being traded by the Patriots. He appeared to be at a crossroads in his career after being benched two weeks ago. But he responded by throwing for 268 yards and three touchdowns against the Rams last week.
He showed no ill effects of the sprained ankle that sidelined him earlier this year. The 49ers also appear to have their full complement of receivers with Deebo Samuel and George Kittle both back from injuries that caused them to miss time.
Of course, the New England defense is no joke, especially for a team that’s lost two in a row. The Patriots managed to give Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs some trouble a few weeks ago.
As mentioned, they didn’t concede a touchdown last week, forcing the Broncos to settle for six field goals. However, while the New England defense has been able to create turnovers, the Pats are still lacking a consistent pass rush, which could be a problem with Garoppolo taking just seven sacks in four games.
After missing a game due to COVID-19, Cam Newton didn’t quite look like himself last week. In fairness, he’s had trouble getting going this season.
He still has just two touchdown passes, as he’s resorted to using his legs more. With Sony Michel sidelined, the Patriots don’t have much of a rushing attack outside of Newton. They are also struggling to find reliable wide receivers outside of Julian Edelman.
Meanwhile, the 49ers are still trying to figure things out defensively after losing so many key players to injury. One week after an embarrassing performance against the Dolphins, San Francisco was excellent against the Rams, limiting them to just 16 points. However, this isn’t the same defense that carried the 49ers to the Super Bowl last season, so week-to-week consistency is still a question mark.
Don’t look now, but Belichick and the Patriots could be on the verge of a third straight loss. Given the state of the New England offense right now, even a watered-down San Francisco defense should be able to handle the Patriots.
With Garoppolo getting a little more help around him, he should be fine against his former team. Bet on the 49ers to win as road underdogs in New England.