Week 15 Preview: Niners @ Chargers

In an AFC West-NFC West matchup, the San Diego Chargers will host the Niners on Thursday Night Football. This is a pivotal game for both teams. The Chargers need to keep winning to gain ground on the division-leading Chiefs in the AFC West. When it comes to the Niners, if they lose this game, and either the Seattle Seahawks and/or the St. Louis Rams are victorious, the Niners will be two games out of first place in the NFC West, thus ultimately miss the playoffs.

The Chargers are no ordinary 7-6 team. They are 2nd in total offense, and first in total defense. They are a “middle of the pack” team simply because their special teams play has hurt them. Needless to say, the Niners can ill-afford to start slow or make mistakes against this team. Phillip Rivers and Co. Will be ready to fire on all cylinders and put this game away. In recent years, the Chargers have started their season out slow and finished strong in the second half. The Niners don’t want to fall victim to such.

Quarterback Alex Smith will again be under center this Thursday. While I initially hated the move to insert him back into the starting position, Mike Singletary’s move has worked-in one game anyways. Maybe Alex does indeed give us a better chance to win down the road. Tonight’s game will be telling as to whether he really deserved this chance.

If the Niners intend to win, they must be successful in the running game. The Chargers’ pass defense is absolutely lethal, so, the running game will have to carry the load. That, by no means, means that the Niners should be one-dimensional. They will need to go on play-action every now and again and make some plays in the passing game. If Alex Smith stays in the pocket, it will be a long night for the Niners offense.

On defense, the Niners will have a lot of work to put in against one of the league’s best offense. Rivers has proven to be among the league’s top five quarterbacks and it will show. He is extremely confident and nothing could be put past him. The first order of business for the defense will be to stop the run. Now, the D cannot focus solely on stopping the run or Rivers will light it up with the passing game. San Francisco’s secondary has been the defense’s weakness and they need to have one of their best games of the year to be successful against the Chargers.

Why the Chargers will win:

1.       They are on a mission. The Chargers most probably will not make the playoffs as a wild card. To make the playoffs, they have to win the division. They are not looking back and will win their last regular-season home game of 2010. They know that this game should be a “gimme” for them and have no reason to lose.

Why the Niners will win:

1.       They want to prove that they are a good team. They have had an up-and-down season. They came slow out of the gates, starting out 0-5, and have been 5-3 since. However, they have not been consistent in the last 8 games. Should they win this game, it will be a big confidence booster for the team, and folks around the league will give them respect and acknowledge that they are indeed the best team in the NFC West.

Final Score Prediction: 49ers win 27-24. My head tells me the Chargers will win, but my heart tells me the Niners. I am going with my heart. While I do not believe in my prediction with conviction, I still think the Niners will get it done. The rushing game will put up huge numbers and the Alex Smith will do just enough to complement the rushing attack. This game will be much like the Chargers’ game against the Raiders in Week 13.

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