While one half of Bay Area sports fans will be cheering for the San Francisco Giants this weekend in the NLCS, they will also be booing the New York Giants.
Week 6 of the NFL features a tough opponent for the San Francisco 49ers as the New York Football Giants come to town. The 5-1 49ers and the 3-2 Giants played each other twice last year splitting the games. However, the Giants win was the NFC Championship game in which they went on to win the Super Bowl against the New England Patriots. This Sunday is therefore a default NFC Title game rematch and yet again in Candlestick.
Despite that loss to the Giants in the postseason, 49ers’ fans still have reasons to hope for and expect a win this Sunday. The big one is still that top notch defense. In both games last year, Eli Manning wasn’t up to par through either. Eli is being talked about as a 4th quarter Quarterback and while he might be the best QB late in the game, he was still a bit shaky against San Francisco. Both performances had Eli’s QB rating in the 80′s, he threw just under 60%, and he was sacked 6 times in the NFC title game alone. Couple those stats with the fact that the 49ers have been able to handle Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford gives them more than ample chance to win the game.
The 49ers even have the higher rated QB this season. Not to suggest that Alex Smith is better than Eli Manning, but his overall QB rating is better than Eli’s and, in fact, any other Quarterback in the NFL. Alex Smith enters week 6 with an NFL best 108.7 QB Rating. Smith also has 8 TD passes (2 less than Manning) and 1 INT which is 4 less than Eli. Alex Smith as a “game manager” is proving to be just as (or almost) effective as Eli Manning for the Giants.
49ers offensive coordinator Greg Roman likes how Alex Smith is coming along in 2012.
“Mentally, physically and understanding the offense to where he’s running it on the field and his comfort,” Roman said. “Things are just clicking for him quickly.”
Alex Smith will still have to watch himself for this Sunday’s game or at least that defensive front. Smith was sacked five times in those two games vs. the Giants last year. Even though he wasn’t sacked at all last week and New York only has 8 sacks all season, Smith and the offensive line will have to watch out for the Giants’ defensive line. Osi Umenyiora, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Justin Tuck are still to be respected.
The 49ers rushing attack should still lead the way this Sunday like it did last weekend. Thanks in large part due to last week’s 311 yard rushing performance, the 49ers enter week 6 as the best rushing team in football averaging 196.2 yards a game and 6.1 a carry, league best in each category. The Giants are middle of the road in rush defense (111.4 yards allowed per game) so running the ball might not prove a challenge provided that the New York defensive line can be put in check.
The 49ers defense will be preoccupied mostly with Eli Manning and that passing attack. WR Victor Cruz has become Eli’s #1 target and the 49ers’ number one concern. Cruz has caught 37 receptions this season for 438 yards and 5 TDs, 3 of those TDs from this last weekend vs. the Browns. While Manning should be favoring Cruz, he’s not the only one the 49ers should be covering when Eli drops back and San Francisco knows it.
“It’s not just a one-guy operation,” Said 49ers defensive coordinator Nick Fangio. “You’ve got to be able to mix your coverages and guys are going to have some tough downs.”
While the Giants might be a passing team, that doesn’t mean they don’t run the ball effectively. Ahmad Bradshaw was not having a good year until last weekend when he ran an even 200 yards against the Browns. He averaged 6.7 yards a carry in that game and scored a TD.
Bradshaw will have his ultimate test against the 49ers. Opponents are averaging only 3.5 yards a carry and 81.4 rushing yards a game. LB Patrick Willis and the defense have only allowed one team to rush over 100 yards against them this season and that was the Vikings in week 3.
What can fans expect to see from the NFC Title game rematch this Sunday? Expect the 49ers to keep a balanced offense leaning towards the run while Eli and the Giants favor throwing for the win. If San Francisco can contain Eli like they have the last two times and not turn the ball over, look the for the 49ers to be victorious.
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Written by Daniel Trucios