By Sam McPherson

After a tough loss against the Arizona Cardinals on the road this past Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers get to host the New England Patriots this upcoming Sunday at Levi’s Stadium. That’s not good news for the 49ers, as the Patriots are in first place despite coming off of a home loss to the Seattle Seahawks that probably has Bill Belichick hopping mad.

This is the second of four matchups this season for San Francisco against the AFC East Division, and the 49ers already lost to the Buffalo Bills. Starting with this contest against New England in Week 11, the team will play three AFC East teams in a four-week stretch as the Miami Dolphins and the New York Jets are still on the schedule.

Patriots Season Record

The Patriots are 7-2 after losing in the final seconds to the Seahawks on Sunday Night Football. New England survived quarterback Tom Brady’s league-mandated suspension for the first four games of the season, but the Patriots really haven’t played a very tough schedule this season.

Seattle is easily the best team the Pats have played in 2016, but this does not mean that New England will take their game against the 49ers for granted.

Patriots On Offense

It all starts and ends with Brady, the San Mateo native, who has won four Super Bowls with New England in his 17-year career. The Pats QB has thrown 12 touchdowns this season and just one interception, and his 72.9-percent completion percentage should absolutely terrify the San Francisco defense.

Despite the fact that New England doesn’t have any dominant wide receivers, they do have the top-scoring running back in the league right now and the NFL’s most feared tight ends. LeGarrette Blount has 12 rushing TDs, while both Martellus Bennett and Rob Gronkowski both have over 500 yards receiving. It’s a tough offense to slow down.

Patriots On Defense

Currently, New England’s defense is in a bend-but-don’t-break mode, allowing the sixth-fewest points in the league while giving up the 17th-most yards. Since the Pats usually can outscore any team they face, the defense doesn’t need to shine all the time. However, it would be folly to ever underestimate a New England defense on Belichick’s watch.

Despite trading one of their top tacklers last month, the Patriots feature a unit that has five players already with more than 40 tackles this season. The front seven isn’t as strong as New England has fielded in the past but, the secondary is excellent at cleaning up any messes it encounters. The mere fact that the top three tacklers on this team are all in the defensive backfield should be proof enough of that.

Patriots Players to Watch

Blount, Brady and Gronk get all the headlines, but it’s Bennett that may be the most dangerous player for the 49ers defense. While the unit focuses on those top three players and the WR corps, the “second” tight end is quite adept at sneaking through coverage and making the big gains. Bennett also leads the Pats with four TD receptions this season.

Defensively, New England doesn’t seem to have a dominant pass rush, with only 16 sacks so far this season. But young defensive linemen Malcom Brown and Trey Flowers have combined for six of those sacks. Both are capable of beating blocks to get to the QB when it matters the most.

Outlook

There isn’t a known universe in which the 1-8 49ers will beat the 7-2 Patriots. That’s not a criticism of the San Francisco team, either; it’s just the NFL’s reality right now. New England has been winning for a long time, and this is not the best 49ers team to face the Pats. Toss in the fact that Belichick rarely loses two consecutive games, and you can expect New England to put on a clinic against San Francisco this Sunday. Look for the Patriots to win by 20-plus points, 42-21.

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