The two most successful teams in the NFL over the last three seasons, the San Francisco 49ers and Denver Broncos, clash in what is also an interesting matchup between two quarterbacks, Colin Kaepernick and Peyton Manning, that do their thing in very different ways.
The Broncos are 4-1 so far this season, but it hasn’t come with explosive performances and scorelines like last season. Their last two wins, over the very limited Arizona Cardinals and New York Jets, have been something of a departure from that trend, as Peyton Manning draws nearer to tying and eventually breaking the passing touchdowns record, held by Brett Favre. Manning is at 506, Favre has 508. Manning has 15 this season, so it’s safe to assume he’ll at least tie it in this season.
The Broncos are getting things done through the air. They’re fourth in passing yards per game with 297.8, but are gaining only 91.2 yards on the ground so far this season, 26th in the NFL. The San Francisco 49ers have one of the best rushing defenses in the league, allowing just 79.8 yards per game on the ground. They’re second in the NFL with allowing only 207.8 passing yards per game, making it a very difficult defense for the Broncos to try and figure out.
The Broncos have actually failed to get a first down on 38.7% of their drives this season, third-worst in the NFL. Only the Raiders and Jaguars, the only two teams without a win so far this season, have done worse in that category. But the Broncos also have a defense worth noting thanks to their pass rush, allowing only 318.2 yards per game, ranking fourth in yards per pass attempt at 6.23 and fifth in rushing yards per carry at 3.31.
The differing styles between Kaepernick and Manning will be at the center of this meeting. Kaepernick works well outside the pocket, and maybe the blitzing nature of the Broncos defense will work in his favor Since his first start in 2012, he has thrown for 16 touchdowns from outside the pocket, six more than anyone else. Manning has thrown 84 of his 86 touchdowns since week 11 of the 2012 season from inside the pocket.
The 49ers are playing on the road for the second straight game with only six days of rest, which might make things difficult for them at some point, especially if they’re forced to play from behind. They’re also struggling running the ball on the road, averaging just 99.3 yards per game with 3.6 yards per carry. Frank Gore has also seen less of the ball during road games, which means it might be an issue with the play calling.
The Broncos are slight favorites going into the game although they’ve lost in the last two meetings between the two teams (2010, 2006). But the 49ers seem to be a team fighting adversity and negative opinions each week all over again. One more game on the road with not having too many backers won’t make much of a difference.