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Crunching the numbers on Patriots-Niners

12/13/2012

Here are 15 things we think you should know about Sunday’s Week 15 matchup between the Patriots and 49ers:

1. The Patriots have won 13 straight December games, tied for the second longest streak in NFL history. Since 2010, the Patriots are 21-0 in games played in the second half of the regular season. That’s the longest win streak in games played in the second half of the year in NFL history.

2. The Patriots lead the NFL with 472 points this season, an average of 36.3 points per game. New England needs to score 118 points in its final 3 games, an average of 39.3 per game, to break the record for points in a season set by the 2007 Patriots.

3. The 49ers, meanwhile, lead the league in points per game allowed (14.2). According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Patriots have been involved in the last 2 games between the league’s top scoring offense and top scoring defense and won both.

4. The Patriots have held their opponent under 20 points in 3 straight games for the first time since Weeks 14-16 of 2009. The last time they did it in 4 straight games was Weeks 7-10 in 2008.

5. The Patriots lead the NFL with 10 turnovers this season and are tied for second with 34 takeaways. The Patriots haven’t had a negative turnover margin in 21 straight games. The next longest active streak in the NFL is 7 games by the Panthers.

6. Stevan Ridley has a rushing touchdown in 6 straight games, the longest streak in the NFL this season. With a TD Sunday, he’ll tie Curtis Martin’s franchise record for consecutive games with a rushing touchdown.

7. Tom Brady has 19 touchdowns and 1 interception in his last 7 games. His next passing touchdown will be his 30th of the season, making him the fifth player in NFL history with at least 4 seasons with 30 Pass TDs (Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Dan Marino). With 167 passing yards, he will become the fifth player with 4,000 passing yards in at least 5 seasons.

8. The Patriots have had at least 25 first downs in all 13 of their games this season. No other team has more than 7 games with at least 25 first downs.

9. With 5 receptions Sunday, Wes Welker will become the first player in NFL history with 5 seasons with at least 100 receptions.

10. New England has lost two straight home games to NFC teams following an 18-game win streak in home interconference games. The Patriots last lost three straight home games against NFC opponents in 2000-01, their first three such games under Bill Belichick.

11. The 49ers have won four straight games against AFC opponents by a combined score of 126-19.

12. The 49ers and Patriots have been two of the most sure-tackling teams this season, limiting opponents to a little over a yard per rush after contact. The Patriots’ run game might struggle more in Week 15, as they’ve averaged 1.4 yards per rush after contact this season, tied for third worst in the NFL.

13. The 49ers have had more big plays in the passing game with Colin Kaepernick at quarterback this season, with one more 30-plus yard pass plays in 88 fewer attempts. However, the 49ers have scored their points on the ground with Kaepernick.

14. San Francisco ranks second in the NFL in Rush yards per game (161.5) and yards per rush (5.3). The 49ers are tied for third with 16 rushing touchdowns.

15. The 49ers will clinch a playoff berth with a win OR losses by the Vikings, Cowboys, Redskins and Seahawks. San Francisco will clinch the NFC West with a win and Seahawks loss. The 49ers are seeking consecutive playoff appearances for the first time since 2001-02 and consecutive division titles for the first time since winning 4 straight from 1992-95.