This Sunday, the Chiefs travel to the Bay Area for their showdown with the San Francisco 49ers. This will be the Chiefs’ first game in the 49ers new stadium, which opened this past summer. The 49ers are 2-2 this season, and are 1-1 in their new stadium.
This game is important for both teams for several reasons. For San Francisco, there were high expectations coming into the season. A close loss to Seattle in the 2013 NFC championship game had many believing they were primed for a Super Bowl run in 2014. However, they started the season with 2 losses, including losing to Chicago in their first home game in Levi’s Stadium. A victory by San Francisco will help them build confidence playing in their new digs, and will set the table for the next 4 weeks, when they play two games against St. Louis and one each against the Broncos and Saints. The 49ers need all the wins they can get heading into their second half of the season, which includes playing Seattle twice and the Chargers and Cardinals once each.
For Kansas City, this game is a chance for the Chiefs to build on their momentum from two straight wins, including the pounding they gave New England on Monday Night Football. Alex Smith has played against every team in the NFL except the 49ers, and this game marks his return to San Francisco, albeit in a new stadium, and the first chance to face his former team. Emotions may be high for this game, both for Smith to prove his doubters in San Francisco wrong, and for San Francisco to prove that Colin Kaepernnick, once Alex Smith’s backup, is a better choice at QB.
Head Coach Andy Reid has stated that he is not worried about Smith’s emotions affecting his play. Smith is ranked higher in QB Rating this season, sitting at #14 in the NFL by ESPN. Smith has more completions and touchdowns than Kaepernick. In addition, Smith’s completion percentage has been increasing each week as Reid has adjusted the Chiefs’ game plan to play to their strengths better, and Travis Kelce has emerged as a consistent passing threat. In addition, Smith has thrown for 3 touchdowns in each of the past two games. In good news for the Chiefs and Smith, the 49ers have only registered 5 total sacks this season, which ranks near the bottom of the league, which should help since Smith has been sacked 13 times so far this season. In contrast, the Chiefs have 12 sacks (led by Justin Houston’s 5.0) and are tied for second best in the NFL.
Kaepernick has been having a down year, ranking at #19 in the NFL by QB rating. He has more passing yards and fewer sacks than Alex Smith, and has rushed for 187 yards this season (versus Smith’s 103 rush yards). They both have thrown 4 interceptions.
Kansas City has scored 23 more points than their opponents; whereas San Francisco has scored 1 fewer point than their opponents. However, the 49ers are +4 in turnover differential while the Chiefs are -2. For both teams, this game represents the chance to move above .500, and will help immensely if either team hopes to make the playoffs. Both teams are in third place in their division, but there is plenty of football left to play. I am looking forward to a competitive game and seeing Smith get back at his former team.
You can follow me on twitter (@MattfromKC) during the game. Go Chiefs!