The Patriots are coming off of an impressive 42-14  victory against the the Houston Texans, Monday Night at Gillette Stadium. The Pats face a very tough opponent Sunday Night, as they play the San Francisco 49ers at home at Gillette Stadium.

WHERE TO WATCH: The game will be shown live Sunday on WHDH-TV at 8:20 PM EST. You can also listen to the game on 98.5 The Sports Hub in Boston.

GAME NOTES: The 49ers are coming off of a 27-13 home victory against the Miami Dolphins. The visitors are currently 9-3-1, and are one of the best teams in the NFL this season. The Patriots definitely have an opponent that can test them for the full sixty minutes.

On defense, the 49ers have possibly the best in NFL this season. Their rush defense is ranked second, as they are only giving up 90.8 yards per game. Their pass offense is also ranked second giving up only 275.5 yards per game. On top of that statistic, their defense is ranked first in points allowed giving up only 14.2 points per game.

On defense, they have talent at all three levels, but their linebackers are exceptional. The two inside linebackers are among the best in the game with Navarro Bowman and Patrick Willis defending the middle of the field. However, the two outside linebackers offer a great deal as Ahmad Brooks has 5.5 sacks, and Aldon Smith on the other side leads the NFL with 19.5 sacks.

This defense is very aggressive, and will try their best to get after Patriots quarterback Tom Brady. The 49ers defense deserves the respect it gets, and will be a huge challenge for the Patriots offense.

On offense, you have to start with their exceptional running back who is Frank Gore, and he already has 1035 yards this season.  Gore is also a threat in the passing game as he has 23 receptions.

Colin Kaepernick is the quarterback, who is a dual threat, as he is dangerous throwing the ball, and can break off a long run as well. He has two serious threats in the passing game with tight end Vernon Davis and wide receiver Michael Crabtree. These players are offensive weapons not to take lightly.

I think the 49ers will be the toughest test for the Patriots this season. I see this as a game that will be very close for four quarters, and will push the Patriots to the limit.

Here are my “five keys” which I believe could play a role in a potential victory for the Pats.

1. The Patriots defense needs to contain Frank Gore in the running game. Gore is one of the best backs in the game, and if you can stop him, you will force the ball in the hands of the rookie quarterback, to see if he can win the game for the 49ers.

The visitors are going to want to control the clock, and one of the best ways to do that is run. There is no doubt, that stopping Gore is a huge key.

2. The Patriots defense needs to keep Colin Kaepernick in the pocket. Whether Kaepernick is running a standard offense, or “the pistol”, he is dangerous when he has a chance to run. It is very important that the Patriots defense stays disciplined, and each player needs to stay in their lanes, and just does their job.

3. The Patriots defense needs to contain tight end Vernon Davis in the passing game. A weakness at times this season for the defense has been stopping tight ends. Now, Davis only has 38 receptions but is very dangerous, and also has the ability to go deep. Davis is a player to really watch in this game.

4.The left side of the Patriots offensive line needs to protect Tom Brady. San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith, and outside linebacker Aldon Smith have the ability to really get after the quarterback. It is imperative that Nate Solder and Logan Mankins are up for the challenge in containing these players.

5. The Hurry Up Offense should be used early and often against the 49ers. This has been a key several weeks this season, and honestly is a weapon that needs to be used against the 49ers.

The Patriots are playing against an aggressive defense, but it doesn’t substitute that much. The hurry up offense can benefit the Patriots, as it could really tire out this defense over the course of the game. The other benefit is to set the tempo for the offense and get them in rhythm.

The 49ers as stated earlier, I feel are the toughest opponent the Patriots will face in the regular season. This game might not be decided until the final drive, but I think the Patriots can do enough on offense, and play well enough on defense to pull out a tight victory. I am predicting a 21-17 Patriots victory against the 49ers.

What are your predictions? Feel free to post them in the comments section below.

Also, please feel free to listen to a preview of the upcoming game from the radio show Patriots Fourth And Two.

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