Both the San Francisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins suffered losses in Week 13, but the former is in the middle of a division race and just lost to a team everybody felt they should have beat, while the latter simply handed the New England Patriots their sixth-straight win.
San Francisco lost to the St. Louis Rams, and Colin Kaepernick looked rather pedestrian, but he's going to remain the starting quarterback. At 8-3-1 (with the tie coming to the aforementioned Rams in Week 10), the 49ers could do a lot worse. At 5-7, the Dolphins aren't exactly eliminated from playoff contention, but they've got a ways to go.
Miami is guided by a rookie quarterback in Ryan Tannehill, but he ranks only ahead of the Jets' Mark Sanchez with a 72.3 passer rating. Instead, they've relied on their running game, led by Reggie Bush, but the 49ers aren't exactly prone to giving up big yardage on the ground.
Meet the 49ers
San Francisco gave Kaepernick the reigns after Alex Smith went down with a concussion in the first Rams game. He rewarded them with wins over the Chicago Bears and New Orleans Saints, but faltered big time last week against St. Louis.
Head coach Jim Harbaugh is sticking with him though, and Kaepernick can secure the job for awhile longer if he pulls out a win over Miami. He'll likely be getting some fresh talent to work with on Sunday as well, as rookies A.J. Jenkins and LaMichael James are poised to get their first playing time of the season.
Wide receiver Mario Manningham has been dealing with an injury, so Jenkins could get some playing time. He was the 49ers' first-round pick in this past NFL Draft. Kendall Hunter is out for the season and Brandon Jacobs has been ineffective so James, the 49ers' second pick, could get some extended playing time.
Meet the Dolphins
Reggie Bush hasn't been consistently great this season, but he's come out and put on some impressive performances. He's carried the ball 165 times for 726 yards with five touchdowns, and has had some big games. He'll have some problems against the 49ers, who allow just 90.6 yards per game on the ground.
Tannehill, as noted, has not been very good this season. He's got a QB rating of 72.3 and has completed just 57.9 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and 12 interceptions. Against the 49ers' tough defense, he'll have to have a much better game than he's been turning out of late.
Local Takes: 49ers
Wes Hanson from Niners Nation takes a look at both James and Jenkins, and how they'll likely perform if they get their first significant action of their NFL careers against Miami:
Well, first off, I expect both of them to probably struggle. I think they can both be good players at the NFL level, but both of them have that new project smell rather than that complete package spell that some players have the second they come out of college. For both players, the reasons are a bit different: I think Jenkins lacks the size to really impose his will at an NFL level (so far, obviously as he trains more and more that will change) and James will probably have to adjust his running style now that people around him won't just fall over with simple jukes.
Local Takes: Dolphins
Over at The Phinsider, they take a look at what to watch for on Sunday. They ask the question: "Who needs to step up?"
Dansby and Burnett will have a tough test against Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker. Both are athletic tight ends and huge weapons for the 49ers offense. Dansby and Burnett have been questionable in coverage and will face another tough test against these tight ends.
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Even if Kaepernick isn't as good as the 49ers hope he will be, and even if the other two rookies play and don't play well, it's hard to imagine Tannehill keeping up with the 49ers' defense. Add the intangible of that tough loss to St. Louis and the probability that everyone is playing with a chip on their shoulder, and the fact that the 49ers are favored makes a ton of sense. San Francisco has proven they can come out and beat teams like the Dolphins badly, even if they haven't always done so.
The pick: 49ers win, 27-10
The 49ers opened this matchup as 10-point favorites, and you can get them even higher at some sites, according to OddsShark. The over/under for the game is right around 40 points.
The 49ers will take on the New England Patriots on the road in Week 15, while the Dolphins will return home for a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.