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Around the NFC West: 49ers must manage

Around the NFC West: Dec. 11, 2012

The San Francisco 49ers have yet to face a winning team on the road with Colin Kaepernick as their starting quarterback.

That will change with trips to New England and Seattle over the next two weeks. Both games will be televised nationally in prime time, drawing additional attention to one of the more fateful decisions a head coach can make: which QB leads the offense.

There were no guarantees the 49ers would have won those games had coach Jim Harbaugh stuck with Alex Smith. Far from it. Not many quarterbacks could pull off such a difficult cross-country double. New England, after blowing out previously-11-1 Houston on Monday night, has now won 40 of its last 42 regular-season home games when Tom Brady started. Seattle is 6-0 at home this season and has won four of its last five overall, better than the 49ers' 3-1-1 record over that span.

I think opponents would rather prepare for the 49ers with Smith at quarterback than with the less conventional Kaepernick threatening defenses in additional ways. Kaepernick leads NFL quarterbacks with a 9.1-yard average and four touchdowns on option plays, according to ESPN Stats & Information. But if he doesn't improve as a game manager -- the team burned through timeouts repeatedly Sunday -- the formula for winning on the road will suffer.

Matt Maiocco of CSNBayArea.com has more on that subject.