After getting back on the winning track last week with a 34-0 victory over the Jets to wrap up a two-game Eastern trip, the 49ers are back home Sunday.
And, at 3-1 with their mojo regained, the Niners have a prime opportunity to notch their fourth win.
The Niners’ matchup against the Buffalo Bills provides a study in contrasts.
The 49ers come into the game with a dominating defense, a strong running game and – once again – an ability to feast on opponents’ turnovers.
The 2-2 Bills have been wildly inconsistent.
At times they’ve looked talented and explosive – in wins over the Chiefs (35-17) and Browns (24-14) – but at others completely overmatched defensively, in losses to the Jets (48-28) and Patriots (52-28 last week).
The Bills are trying to regroup from a second-half blitz by New England in which the Patriots scored 45 points.
Add to that the fact the 49ers will be playing on a field where they’ve lost only two games since Jim Harbaugh became head coach – with both of those losses coming in overtime last season (against Dallas and the Giants in the NFC Championship Game) – and it’s clear to see why oddsmakers have made San Francisco a 9 1/2-point favorite.
Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick is the prime example of the Bills’ split personality. He leads the NFL in touchdown passes with 12, but also has thrown seven interceptions.
Though the Bills have shown they can score points, they come into this game with their top running backs, C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson, slowed by injuries. So if they’re going to move the ball against the Niners, it might have to be through the air.
Meanwhile, on defense, the Bills are a mess.
Last week against the Patriots, they were torched on the ground and in the air, becoming just the second team in NFL history to allow two running backs to rush for 100 yards and two receivers to have more than 100 yards in catches in the same game.
Bills coach Chan Gailey is just trying to keep his players focused on the matchup with the 49ers.
“You can’t let things affect you that you don’t have control over,” Gailey told reporters this week. “We have no control over what’s happened up to this point. It happened. It’s there. Now what are we going to do from here? How strong can you be from here on?”
The Niners, meanwhile, believe they regained their focus after losing to the Vikings in Minnesota in Week 3, coming back with their dominating win over the Jets.
Against New York, San Francisco ran for 245 yards and the defense pressured Mark Sanchez, cut off the passing game and smothered the run.
Now, San Francisco is due to get back running back Brandon Jacobs – out since preseason – to add to the mix. With Jacobs, Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick out of the wildcat formation, San Francisco likes to control the tempo of a game by running the ball from start to finish.
After losing to Minnesota, head coach Jim Harbaugh says his team has its attitude readjusted. His team knows it’s vulnerable if it starts believing it’s too good to lose. He believes his 49ers have to stick to basics and play physical football.
“The message is, ‘We’ve attained humility,’ ” Harbaugh explained to the media this past week. “I couldn’t really say when that is for each person. Personally, it was a long time ago. But that carries with it no loss of true pride. Nobody’s walking around here like we’re the greatest thing since sliced bread.”