The NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers open their preseason on Thursday night with a home game against the Denver Broncos. Even though this is a preseason contest, many are predicting this matchup to be a preview of Super Bowl XLVIII. This is the second straight preseason that the Broncos and 49ers have squared off. San Francisco defeated Denver 29-24 in the third preseason game last August.
Both teams are entering the 2013 season with lofty goals after heartbreaking losses during the postseason last winter. However, this is a tale of two teams on two very different, diverging paths.
The 49ers represent the next great NFL dynasty, a franchise re-committed to excellence and championship expectations. Meanwhile in Denver, Peyton Manning is on the last legs of a career that could have already been over two years ago with a team built to win now. In San Francisco, Colin Kaepernick embodies the new breed of NFL quarterbacks and has the 49ers positioned as contenders for the next decade.
Since Thursday night’s matchup is preseason game no. 1, we are not likely to see very much of Kaepernick or Manning. Niners fans should expect to see a lot of Colt McCoy, and they will get their first glimpse of him in red and gold. McCoy is the perfect understudy to Kaepernick as he ran the option at the University of Texas.
San Francisco is the perfect place for McCoy to resurrect his career as he’ll get to work with coach Jim Harbaugh after being underwhelming with the Cleveland Browns. Harbaugh did wonders with another underachieving quarterback, former San Francisco starter Alex Smith, so this bodes well for McCoy.
Frank Gore will not play at all against the Broncos on Thursday; in his place, LaMichael James will get the start. Fans should also see Anthony “Boobie” Dixon get a lot of snaps, as he looks to secure a spot with the 49ers for another season. Dixon rushed for 58 yards and a touchdown against Denver last year.
Rookie B.J. Daniels will be another one to watch as he is a utility player capable of playing quarterback, running back or wide receiver. However, Patrick Willis, the heart of San Francisco’s defense, will not be seen at all in the preseason as he recovers from a surgically-repaired right hand.
Since last summer’s preseason battle was decided by less than a touchdown, kicker Phil Dawson must be mentioned as a factor here. This will be the first time he gets to kick in Candlestick Park‘s notorious swirling winds. It should be a good test for the 49ers after David Akers fell apart last season.
It may only be a preseason game, but 49er fans will take whatever they can get until the real season kicks off on September 8 against the Green Bay Packers in a playoff rematch.