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Maiocco: 2011 Super Bowl, MVP predictions

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Maiocco: 2011 Super Bowl, MVP predictions

Sep. 5, 2011MAIOCCO ARCHIVE
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Matt MaioccoCSNBayArea.com

AFC

East
1) New England Patriots
2) New York Jets (Wild card)
3) Buffalo Bills
4) Miami Dolphins

North
1) Pittsburgh Steelers
2) Baltimore Ravens (Wild card)
3) Cleveland Browns
4) Cincinnati Bengals
South
1) Houston Texans
2) Jacksonville Jaguars
3) Tennessee Titans
4) Indianapolis Colts

West
1) San Diego Chargers
2) Oakland Raiders
3) Kansas City Chiefs
4) Denver Broncos

Wildcard round
Steelers over Jets, Chargers over Ravens

Divisional round
Texans over Chargers, Patriots over Steelers

AFC Championship Game
Texans over Patriots

NFC

East
1) Dallas Cowboys
2) Philadelphia Eagles (Wild card)
3) New York Giants
4) Washington Redskins

North
1) Green Bay Packers
2) Detroit Lions
3) Chicago Bears
4) Minnesota Vikings

South
1) Atlanta Falcons
2) New Orleans Saints (Wild card)
3) Tampa Bay Buccaneers
4) Carolina Panthers

West
1) St. Louis Rams
2) Arizona Cardinals
3) San Francisco 49ers
4) Seattle Seahawks

Wildcard round
Saints over Cowboys, Eagles over Rams

Divisional round
Saints over Packeers, Falcons over Eagles
NFC Championship Game
Saints over Falcons

Super Bowl XLII
Saints over Texans

Regular Season Awards

MVP: Houston Quarterback Matt Schaub
The Texans are set up to experience success for the first time in their history, and the quarterback will lead the way. Schaub threw 24 touchdowns and 12 interception last season, and his production is going way up this season. Houston is not lacking for talent around Schaub, either. Andre Johnson is one of the top two receivers in the game. Running back Arian Foster, when he gets healthy, is a dual threat out, and Owen Daniels will be one of the top pass-catching tight ends in the league.

Offensive player of the year: Green Bay Quarterback Aaron Rodgers
Generally, the MVP and the offensive player of the year are the same person. Just consider this as a chance to hedge my bet. The Chico native entered the conversation as one of the top five quarterbacks in the league last season while leading the Packers to the Super Bowl title. And he is still getting better.
Defensive player of the year: Dallas Linebacker DeMarcus Ware
Defensive coordinator Rob Ryan has one of the game's great players, and he's going to use him at every position in the Cowboys' front seven to generate heat on the quarterback. And that's something Ware knows how to do. He has 80 sacks in six NFL seasons, including 46.5 in the past three years. He'll single-handedly neutralize Philadelphia's Michael Vick and bring a division title to the Cowboys.

Offensive rookie of the year: New Orleans Running Back Mark Ingram
He'll begin the season sharing time with Pierre Thomas, but Ingram will gradually get more and more action as a major part of the offense. Ingram will take the heat off quarterback Drew Brees, as the Saints will feature a well-rounded offense. And he'll be money in short-yardage situations. Go ahead and ring him up for 16 touchdowns and a little more hardware to go along with his Heisman Trophy of a couple years ago.

Defensive rookie of the year: Houston Defensive End J.J. Watt
At 6-5, 290, he's a great fit for Wade Phillips' 3-4 scheme. His adjustment has been remarkable smooth, as he quickly nailed down a starting job. He probably won't be a double-digit sack artist, but the push he provides will open things up for his teammates. The Texans' pass defense will improve dramatically, and Watt be a rock against the run.Comeback player of the year: Minnesota Quarterback Donovan McNabb
Yes, McNabb is still in the NFL. And while the Vikings are going to fall on some hard times, McNabb will post solid numbers and rebound from an embarrassing one-year fiasco in Washington under Mike Shanahan. McNabb's play will make it difficult for rookie quarterback Christian Ponder to get onto the field.

Coach of the year: Houston Texans' Gary Kubiak
Move over Colts, there's the makings of a new dynasty in the AFC South. Kubiak has himself an MVP candidate at quarterback (Schaub), an outstanding wide receiver (Johnson) who's not a diva, and a league rushing leader (Foster) who did not hold out for a new contract. In other words, he's done a great job of keeping this team focused on winning games and getting to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.

49ers snap count: Hyde's hip injury does not slow him down

49ers snap count: Hyde's hip injury does not slow him down

SANTA CLARA – Running back Carlos Hyde left the game Thursday night in the first quarter with a hip injury. At the time, the 49ers announced he was questionable to return.

But there was nothing questionable about Hyde’s effort, as he was in and out of the lineup in the first half before playing almost all of the second half. Hyde played 61 of the 49ers’ 82 offensive plays (including snaps nullified by penalties) in the team’s 41-39 loss to the Los Angeles Rams at Levi’s Stadium.

“I knew that it was going to be tough coming into this game,” said Hyde, who gained 84 difficult yards and two touchdowns on 25 rushing attempts.

“I didn’t expect anything less from the Rams. They always play us tough, especially in the run game. I knew that it would take the extra effort to get 1 or 2 yards extra to move the chains.”

Afterward Hyde appeared to be fine though he got a lot of attention from the 49ers’ medical staff early in the game. He exited after his third rushing attempt, landing on his left side on back-to-back plays on which he gained 20 and 3 yards.

“I landed weird on my oblique,” Hyde said. “And it got sore on me. But as I kept playing, the better it felt. When I went to the sideline, that’s when I felt it. When I was in the game, I didn’t feel it at all.”

Hyde said the injury was a bruise and not any kind of muscle strain.

Four of Hyde’s teammates, however, did not return after sustaining injuries:

--Fullback Kyle Juszczyk sustained what the club initially described as a neck injury, as he appeared shaken up after back-to-back plays on which he blocked at the goal line for Hyde in the third quarter. He was later diagnosed with a concussion.

--Safety Jaquiski Tartt was injured late in the third quarter after combining for a tackle on Rams receiver Robert Woods 25 yards down the field. His teammate, defensive lineman Earl Mitchell, inadvertently kneed Tartt in the head as he pursued the play. Tartt was immediately taken to the locker room and diagnosed with a concussion.

--Backup linebacker and core special-teams player Brock Coyle was also diagnosed with a concussion in the second half. Coyle, Juszczyk and Tartt are now in the NFL concussion protocol. The 49ers return to action Oct. 1 at the Arizona Cardinals.

--Defensive lineman Tank Carradine had a difficult time walking on his own as he left the stadium with an orthopedic boot on his right foot. Carradine sustained an ankle sprain early in the fourth quarter and did not return to action.

Here is a look at the 49ers’ playing time on offense, defense and special teams:

OFFENSE
(82 plays)
Quarterback – Brian Hoyer 82
Running back – Carlos Hyde 61, Kyle Juszczyk 26, Matt Breida 16, Raheem Mostert 8
Wide receiver – Pierre Garçon 69, Marquise Goodwin 59, Trent Taylor 39, Aldrick Robinson 27, Victor Bolden 2
Tight end – George Kittle 39, Garrett Celek 36, Logan Paulsen 27
Offensive line – Joe Staley 82, Trent Brown 82, Daniel Kilgore 82, Brandon Fusco 82, Laken Tomlinson 82, Garry Gilliam 1

DEFENSE
(67 plays)
Defensive line – DeForest Buckner 61, Arik Armstead 55, Earl Mitchell 50, Solomon Thomas 38, Tank Carradine 29, Aaron Lynch 14, D.J. Jones 13, Elvis Dumervil 10
Linebacker – NaVorro Bowman 67, Ray-Ray Armstrong 66, Eli Harold 26, Brock Coyle 2
Cornerback – Dontae Johnson 65, Rashard Robinson 65, K’Waun Williams 42
Safety – Jimmie Ward 67, Jaquiski Tartt 48, Lorenzo Jerome 19

SPECIAL TEAMS
(34 plays)
Dekoda Watson 28, Elijah Lee 21, Celek 21, Mostert 21, Adrian Colbert 20, Asa Jackson 19, Coyle 18, Harold 18, Jerome 18, Bolden 17, Bradley Pinion 16, Paulsen 16, Johnson 14, Breida 11, Kyle Nelson 9, R.Robinson 9, Robbie Gould 7, Buckner 7, Armstead 7, Mitchell 7, Tartt 7, Ward 7, Zane Beadles 6, Staley 6, Kilgore, 6, Fusco 6, Brown 6, Carradine 6, Gilliam 6, Armstrong 3, A.Robinson 3, Bowman 2, Jones 2, Juszczyk 2, Taylor 1, Thomas 1

DID NOT PLAY
QB C.J. Beathard

INACTIVE
WR Kendrick Bourne
CB Ahkello Witherspoon
DB Eric Reid (knee)
LB Pita Taumoepenu
LB Reuben Foster (ankle)
OL Erik Magnuson
DL Xavier Cooper

The three things you need to know from 49ers' 41-39 loss vs Rams

The three things you need to know from 49ers' 41-39 loss vs Rams

SANTA CLARA -- Three things you need to know about the 49ers’ 41-39 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 3 on Thursday night:

1. The offense is alive
It was a rough start for quarterback Brian Hoyer. His interception on the first pass attempt of the game was exactly how the team did not want to see him bounce back from a horrendous offensive showing against Seattle.

But Hoyer rebounded with a more-than respectable performance after his interception led to the Rams' first touchdown -- just 12 seconds into the game. Hoyer completed 23 of 37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. Still, everything is not running smoothly with the passing game. The receivers do not always seem to be running crisp routes. Hoyer is not putting his passes in great spots. And the receivers have far too many drops.

But with Carlos Hyde running hard – 84 yards and two touchdowns on 25 attempts – and the passing game showing some signs of life, the offense under coach Kyle Shanahan should get better and better.

2. Defensive letdown
The defense is the side of the ball that was supposed to carry the 49ers. And after solid showings in the first two games of the season, the defense failed to hold up its end of the bargain against a vastly improved Rams offense.

Again, the 49ers did not supply much of a pass rush. The run defense was pretty good for most of the game, but Jared Goff picked the 49ers apart because he has time to wait for his talented receiving corps of Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins to get open against the 49ers’ over-stressed secondary.

Third downs have killed the 49ers’ defense. The unit simply cannot get off the field in crucial situations. The Rams were successful on eight of their 12 plays on third downs. The defense has to find a level of consistency. And they are clearly missing rookie linebacker Reuben Foster, who has not played since the opening 11 plays of the opener due to a high ankle sprain.

3. Time to recover
The 49ers have a long week, and that comes at a good time with fullback Kyle Juszczyk, safety Jaquiski Tartt and linebacker Brock Coyle in the NFL’s concussion protocol after sustaining injuries in the second half.

Juszczyk appeared to be shaken up when he went head-to-head with Rams safety Mark Barron as a lead blocker on a third-down run play for Hyde. He was slow to get up but remained on the field for the fourth-down play. He made a block on Hyde’s 1-yard touchdown run, and again was slow to get up. He did not return to action due to a concussion.

Defensive lineman Tank Carradine sustained a right ankle sprain early in the fourth quarter and did not return. He left the locker room walking slowly while wearing an orthopedic boot after the game.

The 49ers return to action Oct. 1 at the Arizona Cardinals. The 49ers must get some of their players back in order to have any hope of avoiding an 0-4 start, including getting swept in their first round through the NFC West.