Last season, the San Francisco 49ers were eliminated from the NFL playoffs at the hands of the eventual Super Bowl Champions: the New York Giants. This Sunday, the two teams renew their newfound rivalry at Candlestick Park in San Francisco.
San Francisco quarterback Alex Smith is playing with a sense of confidence, and with a defense clicking on all cylinders, the Forty-Niners look like the team to beat in the NFC once again.
Mario Manningham, one of the Giants' Super Bowl heroes, will get to experience this matchup from the other side of the field this time, as a member of the 49ers.
Keys to the game
Who let the dogs out: If the Giants' front four can get after Alex Smith, the 49ers could be in for a long day. However, if Smith has time to settle in the pocket, the 49ers receivers could cause problems for a very depleted Giants secondary.
Ground and Pound: Additionally, whichever team has a more productive run game will have a substantial advantage. Being able to control the ball in these defensive battles is crucial. Last week, Ahmad Bradshaw had his first 100-yard rushing game this season, galloping for 200 yards on 30 carries. On the other side, Niners running back Frank Gore is coming off a very impressive performance against the Buffalo Bills, running for 106 yards and a score. More impressive was his 7.6 yards per carry.
Keep stepping up: With Hakeem Nicks out for the past two weeks, the Giants need their other young wide receivers to continue stepping up and making plays. Last week, Rueben Randle had a number of catches, and the week before, Ramses Barden dominated against Carolina. With Victor Cruz sure to be receiving a plethora of attention from the Niners secondary, Rueben Randle and Domenik Hixon need to step up and make plays for Eli Manning down the field.
Eli Manning has become one of the best passing quarterbacks in the league seemingly overnight. The Giants certainly have the firepower to combat San Francisco’s established defense, but can Alex Smith move the ball efficiently against the Giants daunted front four? Look for the Giants to march into Candlestick and establish themselves as legitimate NFC contenders once again.
New York 27, San Francisco 16