Top 3 Individual Matchups
1. Lee Evans vs. Nate Clements – This one is the headliner with the former teammates squaring off. It's unclear whether Clements will be assigned to shadow Evans all over the field, but with fellow cornerback Walt Harris nicked up (hamstring) it's likely. Clements will be eager to prove himself especially after getting torched for over 200 yards the previous week by Terrell Owens.
- Jason Peters vs. Manny Lawson – Lawson is finally healthy and is getting more and more playing time coming off last season's serious knee injury. Last week he had a sack, pass breakup and fumble recovery against the Cowboys and is an athletic freak much like Peters. This could be an entertaining matchup.
- Bryan Scott vs. Vernon Davis – Davis much like Kellen Winslow Jr. and Antonio Gates is more of a tight receiver. The athletic tight end hasn't been featured much in Mike Martz's passing game, but with a couple of Niners receivers nicked up that could change.
Top 2 Bills Advantages
Good advantage – Pass rush – Yes, the Bills have had their problems generating a consistent pass rush this season, but that could change on Sunday. Through 11 games no other NFL team had given up more sacks than the 49ers offensive front. With 40 sacks allowed San Francisco is giving up more than 3.5 sacks per game.
Best advantage – Takeaways – Again an area of Buffalo's game that languished for a while, but after forcing five turnovers last week, the Bills might be starting another hot streak and against the NFL leader is giveaways in San Francisco (27), the odds are good they can win the turnover battle and ultimately the game.
Bills number one must
Contain Gore – Completely shutting down Frank Gore is unrealistic, but holding him to short gains on the ground and closing down space for him to work in the open field when making receptions on the edges will go a long way to keeping San Francisco's points to a minimum. Jumping out to an early lead will also help in forcing the 49ers attack to throw more.
Hill making plays: Since taking over the starting quarterback job for J.T. O'Sullivan, Shaun Hill has fared relatively well in terms of moving the football for the 49ers on offense. He's coming off a career-high 303-yard passing day against Dallas with two touchdowns and an interception as well as a passer rating of 100.9. It's his fifth career game with a passer rating over 100.
In four appearances, including three starts, this season Hill has completed more than 60 percent of his passes with a better than 2:1 touchdown to interception ratio (7 TDs, 3 INTs) and a passer rating of 94.3. Hill manages the game well and spreads the ball around in the passing game.
Recent red zone success: San Francisco's offense has seen a benefit from Hill in the lineup in the red zone. In their last two games the 49ers have scored touchdowns on seven of their last 11 red zone possessions (64%), which is much improved from their season touchdown percentage (48.7%).
Gore is more: Frank Gore not only leads San Francisco in rushing, but in receptions and touchdowns as well. The focal point of the 49ers offense, Gore represents more than a third of the team's offense (34%). Entering Sunday's game he stands fourth in the league in total yards from scrimmage with 1,191 and is on pace to finish the 2008 season with better than 1,700 all-purpose yards. The main reason why is his elusiveness as he ranks fifth in the league among running backs with 5.25 yards per touch.
Still going deep: Despite Gore's exploits Niners offensive coordinator Mike Martz still likes to air it out. Through 11 games San Francisco is tied for the league lead in yards per reception (13.1) with San Diego.
That figure has helped San Francisco a lot in third and long situations. In fact when facing 3rd-and-10 or more the 49ers rank fifth in the NFL in conversion percentage with a 26.3 percent success rate.
Clements to return punts? Bobby April's coverage units on special teams may be seeing a former teammate coming at them Sunday. San Francisco will be without Pro Bowl return man Allen Rossum this weekend due to an ankle injury, which is a big loss for their special teams unit as the 49er ranked in the top 10 on both punt and kick return.
Arnaz Battle is Rossum's backup on punt returns on the San Francisco depth chart, but he's nursing a foot injury, so in all likelihood it will be Clements. The former Bill has returned five punts this season for 43 yards (8.6 avg.).
Delanie Walker is expected to replace Rossum on kickoffs.
4-3 or 3-4? The San Francisco 3-4 front doesn't always look like one. Sometimes it will resemble a 4-3 look with outside linebacker Manny Lawson lined up as a standup defensive end on the right side of the formation with Isaac Sopoaga lining up at left defensive end.
It's likely due to the fact that the Niners do not have a dominant interior nose tackle for their 3-4 scheme like some of Buffalo's prevous opponents like the Jets or Patriots.
Aubrayo Franklin is the starter inside, but not of Kris Jenkins' or Vince Wilfork's caliber. Isaac Sopoaga is another interior defender, but is largely a plugger and not one that will push the pocket much.
TKO Picks" Takeo Spikes has settled in nicely at inside linebacker next to young phenom Patrick Willis. The former Bills linebacker leads the 49ers with three interceptions this season. All three came in consecutive games right after he was moved into the starting lineup in week 4.
Spikes is second on the team in tackles to Willis with 82.
Beware of blocks: San Francisco's field goal block unit made league history last month as they became the first team to return a blocked field goal for a touchdown in back-to-back games. Nate Clements returned a block 74 yards for a score against the Giants and the week before Donald Strickland returned a blocked kick 41 yards for a touchdown.
The Niners have three blocked field goals this season, with the 6'5" Manny Lawson (#99) the player to keep an eye on.
Quote of the week
"With five games in the season left, we want to try to make a run. That is how we have to approach the rest of our games and that's how we are going to play them. We have an attack mentality, we are going to go out and attack with less mistakes."
Stat of the week
NFL west coast teams (San Diego, Arizona, Seattle, Oakland, San Francisco) have a combined record of 0-14 in games played in the eastern time zone this season. Buffalo is already responsible for three of those eastern time zone losses having beat Oakland, San Diego and Seattle thus far this season.
Milestones in reach
Leodis McKelvin needs 66 kick return yards to pass Eric Moulds (1,205) for most kick return yards in a season by a Bills rookie.
Lee Evans is 102 receiving yards from passing Frank Lewis (4,638) for fourth all-time in team history.
Rian Lindell needs three points to post the fifth 100-point season of his career.
The 49ers have been outscored 93-51 in the fourth quarter this season.