The last time the Buffalo Bills entered Candlestick Park, the 2004 San Francisco 49ers started a struggling quarterback (not named Smith!) the day after Christmas on the way to a 2-14 season under then coach, Dennis Erickson.
Drew Bledsoe played conservatively following a running game that pounded the Niners for 226 yards and a 41-7 score.
Oh, how things change! In 2012, if you have yet to notice, these are not last decade’s 49ers. Fortunately, for San Francisco, these are the same Buffalo Bills.
The Bills raised investments during the off-season.
Though the team enters Week 5 with an even record, the returns on their expenditures have been minimal. On defense, the Bills rank 27th in total defense, 30th in points allowed, 27th against the run and 26th on 3rd down.
Only the Tennessee Titans and the Kansas City Chiefs have allowed more points despite Buffalo's first four opponents holding a combined record of 5-11.
To worsen their matters, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick continues to play outside the boundaries of his talent.Intertwined with Fitzpatrick's great play are lapses in judgment. Though he has thrown 12 touchdowns; he has also committed 8 turnovers.
As they did for their opponent last week, San Francisco will help Buffalo define their season after Sunday's loss. Let's face it. The AFC East is a soft division. Winning the division is the only chance to makes the playoffs.
As bad as the Jets are playing, they can go to the pen. The Bills have no such resources and neither will overcome the Patriots. The 49ers will further expose the Bills as an undisciplined team who cannot stop the run, turn the ball over often and go big play or bust to a fault.
The Bills could be a winner (should be a winner), but they have yet to explicitly and sufficiently problem solve. In 2012, this failing strategy will result in a yawning 8-8 season.
Last year, at this point in the season; the San Francisco 49ers established the same record (3-1) and scored two more points than this year's team before a blowout win Week 5. They did not lose again until Week 12.
Barring injury, this year's 49ers will travel a similar path as last year. On the head of the Buffalo Bills, they will win big on Sunday then continue a winning run to enter Week 12 at 9-1. All of the pieces are in place: talent, proper organization, winning attitude, decent health, positive momentum and room for growth.
Last year's NFC Divisional Playoff Game win versus the New Orleans Saints shocked many on several levels. One such area was how the Niners found ways to score blow-for-blow against the Saints. They acknowledged an unexpected fecundity on the offensive end.
While unable to carry that level of play into the NFC Championship, the team quickly made moves to eradicate the offensive weaknesses that plagued them in that game. The expectation is quick dash and smash down the field.
Yet, fans of the Niners team want to watch while they open up the offense when necessary.
The enthusiasts will get what they want Sunday. Randy Moss will get more deep looks. Mario Manningham will continue to be a safety valve and big play guy for Alex Smith, while Vernon Davis, Michael Crabtree, Kendall Hunter and Frank Gore will continue on the same progressive path. The team will set the stage to becoming an unstoppable force as a whole, but more specifically on the offensive end.
The 49ers win, 37-10.