The Denver Broncos (4-1) and San Francisco 49ers (4-2) nearly met in Super Bowl XLVIII, as both teams reached their respective championship games. The matchup never happened when the 49ers were defeated by the eventual champion Seattle Seahawks, but the two teams will finally meet in Week 7 of the 2014 NFL season.
The contest will appear on “Sunday Night Football,” and it could be a preview of the 2015 Super Bowl. Denver is the favorite to win the championship, while San Francisco’s title odds are only exceeded by those of the Broncos and Seahawks.
While the two teams are among the best in the sport, they’ve become perennial winners by using very different styles. The Broncos are led by an elite offense, and the 49ers have sported a top defense for the last four seasons.
Peyton Manning and Co. aren’t on pace to set records like they did in 2013, but Denver is still about as good as any team at getting into the end zone. They rank third in the NFL, scoring 29.4 points per game, and Manning continues to put up MVP-caliber numbers.
With 15 touchdown passes, the quarterback has been a model of consistency, throwing for at least three scores in four of the team’s five contests. Only once has he registered a passer rating of less than 110.2, and that was when he threw for over 300 yards and two touchdowns against the vaunted Seattle defense.
Conversely, the 49ers have won three straight games by stopping the other team’s quarterback. San Francisco ranks second in the NFL, allowing just 207.3 passing yards per game. During their winning streak, the 49ers have held opposing signal callers to a 50.8 completion percentage, two touchdowns and four interceptions.
Not only do the 49ers rank second in total defense and fifth in scoring defense, but they’ve shut down some of the best offenses in football. The Philadelphia Eagles and Dallas Cowboys, who average a combined 58 points per game, only managed to score 38 total points against San Francisco.
The 49ers had a strong defensive effort in their Week 6 win on “Monday Night Football,” but the team didn’t leave the game unscathed. Linebacker Patrick Willis will undergo an MRI because of a toe injury, and wide receiver Stevie Johnson’s status for Sunday is unknown, following a hip injury.
Both teams are favored to make the playoffs, but Sunday’s contest is important for each club’s standing in the division. The Broncos are in second place, trailing the San Diego Chargers by a half-game, and the 49ers have one more loss than the first-place Arizona Cardinals.
Even though Sunday night’s game might be the most highly anticipated on the schedule, it features one of the largest point spreads of Week 7. Las Vegas betting odds have the visiting 49ers getting 6.5 points, with an over/under of 50.5 points. It’s the first time that San Francisco has been named the underdog in 2014.
Prediction: The game could come down to the wire, but Denver has the edge at home. San Francisco’s defense could make it difficult for Manning to find a rhythm, but Colin Kaepernick will also have to deal with a top defense. All but one of Denver’s wins since 2012 have come by at least seven points, and they should take care of business at home.
Predicted Score: Denver over San Francisco, 27-20