Who Has the Edge in 5 Key Positional Battles: San Francisco 49ers vs. Atlanta Falcons
5 Key Positional Battles
The San Francisco 49ers battle the Atlanta Falcons in the last game ever to be played at Candlestick Park, but will the 49ers usher out an era with a win? Candlestick has been one of the sacred realms in all of football and has produced memories for the ages, but all good things must come to an end. San Francisco has gone 5-2 in the last season at the storied venue and a win on Monday Night Football would be a fitting end for the storybook stadium. Will the 49ers inch closer to a playoff berth and win in the finale at Candlestick?
San Francisco comes into the game riding a four-game winning streak and still in the fight for the NFC West crown. The 49ers are playing as well as anyone in football at the moment and will look to keep momentum going with a win over the Falcons. Colin Kaepernick has reverted to his form of last season in recent weeks and Frank Gore has shown why he has been the cornerstone of the 49ers' franchise for years. The defense ranks in the top six in the league against the run and the pass, and Jim Harbaugh has quickly become one of the best coaches in the game. The 49ers are the team to beat in the NFC right now, but do the depleted Falcons have an answer for San Francisco's recent success?
The Falcons have struggled in every facet of the game this season, but can Atlanta spoil San Francisco's farewell to Candlestick? The Falcons are led by veteran quarterback Matt Ryan and a group of role receivers, who have performed nicely in the superstars' absence. The Falcons defense has been horrid this season, but will Atlanta get up for a primetime battle by the bay?
This is a rematch of last season's NFC Championship game, but the teams have since gone in opposite directions. Atlanta was on the cusp of the Super Bowl last season, but has suffered injuries that proved too detrimental to overcome this season. San Francisco still has hopes of returning to the Super Bowl after suffering a heartbreaking defeat last year? Who has the edge at key positional battles that will determine the outcome of this game?
Greg Douglas is an NFL writer for RantSports.com. Follow him on twitter @thegpd93.
5. Quarterback Battle
The quarterback battle features one of the best drop back passers in the game and one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks in the NFL.
Colin Kaepernick has played through the dreaded sophomore slump and is now back to his form of last season. In the four-game winning streak, Kaepernick has thrown for over 875 yards and seven touchdowns. This week, Kaepernick faces a Falcons team that gives up over 254 yards a game through the air.
Matt Ryan has been the lone constant in the Falcons offense this season and looks to deliver another good performance against the vaunted defense of the 49ers. Ryan has 3,887 passing yards and 22 touchdowns this season, and that is with his top receiving threats out the majority of the year. Ryan will look to have continued success this week, but it will not be easy when he goes against the fourth ranked pass defense in the NFL.
Edge: Colin Kaepernick (49ers). Kaepernick has been playing the best football of his career lately and that should not change against a mediocre pass defense.
4. Running Back Battle
The running back battle features two proven backs that have dominated the league for years.
Frank Gore has found his groove after having spotty performances early in the season. In the last two games, Gore has rushed for just under 200 yards and has made the offense truly balanced. Gore will look to continue is upward trend when he faces the 29th ranked rush defense in the NFL.
The Steven Jackson experiment has not been a success in Atlanta, but Jackson has been hampered by injuries this season. Jackson comes into the game with 449 rushing yards and five touchdowns this season and a matchup against a good rush defense will not help Jackson get back on track. The 49ers give up less than a 100 yards a game on the ground and rank sixth in the NFL against the run.
Edge: Frank Gore (49ers). Gore should continue to bring balance to the 49ers offense when he goes against one of the worst rush defenses in the league.
3. Wide Receiver Battle
The wide receiver battle features one of the best receiving corps in the game and a receiving corps that has been decimated by injuries.
The 49ers receivers got a much needed boost when Michael Crabtree returned and have since thrived in the receiving game. Crabtree has brought stability and depth to a team that already had star receivers Anquan Boldin and Vernon Davis catching passes.
The Falcons receiving corps has been depleted due to injuries suffered throughout the season. Julio Jones and Roddy White are one of the best receiving duos in the country, but both have had injury issues all season that have plagued the Falcons offense. Tony Gonzalez will look to have a big outing in primetime to close out his career, but might have trouble doing so against the 49ers pass defense.
Edge: 49ers. The 49ers receiving corps have been in sync since the return of Crabtree and will look to improve the team's chemistry in this game.
2. Defensive Battle
The defensive battle pits one of the best defenses in the league against one of the worst defenses in the game.
The 49ers offense has struggled at times this season, but the defense has remained dominate throughout the season. San Francisco boasts the fourth ranked pass defense and the sixth ranked rush defense.
The Falcons defense has struggled all season to stop teams and commit turnovers. The defense is among the many reasons the Falcons have stumbled this year, but a matchup in primetime could be just what this defense needs.
Edge: 49ers. San Francisco has been the better defense all year and the 49ers defense will be salivating against an injury-plagued offense.
1. Special Teams Battle
The Special teams battle features two of the better kickers in the league and several capable returners.
San Francisco has put their special teams woes of the past behind them this season. Phil Dawson has been a welcomed change in San Francisco and several returners for the 49ers have the speed to break long returns.
Atlanta's special teams features the veteran kicker Matt Bryant. Bryant has been consistent in the league for years, but will he make a difference in this game?
Edge: 49ers. The team is more than capable of breaking big returns and Dawson has been automatic this season.
Predcition: San Francisco 49ers win by 17.
The San Francisco 49ers will come out strong in the last game at Candlestick Park. The offense and the defense of the 49ers will overwhelm the Atlanta Falcons.