2011 NFL Week 10 Picks: 49ers over Giants

Jake WestrichSenior Writer INovember 8, 2011

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - OCTOBER 30:   Frank Gore #21 of the San Francisco 49ers points to the crowd before running onto the field for their game against the Cleveland Browns at Candlestick Park on October 30, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

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Game of the Week: Giants at 49ers

Coming off their Super Bowl conquest, the Green Bay Packers sit atop the NFC with an impeccable 8-0 record. While their unblemished mark is certainly notable, many pigskin pundits expected the Pack to be conference contenders in 2011.

Two teams that weren't anticipated to contend for postseason entry were the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers. With the "Dream Team" in Philadelphia and a renewed sense of hope in Dallas, the G-Men were afterthoughts in the NFC East. Equally envisioned to irrelevancy were the Niners, as another year of Alex Smith and a lack of training camp for Jim Harbaugh to instill his principles did not foretell success for San Fran.

Yet entering the second half of the season, both the Giants and 49ers are fighting the reigning champs from Green Bay for NFC supremacy. The battle for the first-round byes will become a little clearer after this weekend when New York travels to the Bay Area to take on San Fran, with the matchup doubling as the WhatIfSports.com Game of the Week.

San Francisco's season got off to an inauspicious start, blowing a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter to the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 and giving the Niners a mark of 1-1. But since that late-game collapse, San Fran has wheeled off six straight wins, including impressive victories over playoff aspirants Philadelphia, Tampa Bay and Detroit.

The NFL might find itself in the advent of an aerial attack age, but the 49ers offensive strategy has shunned this new philosophy, enduring under the doctrine of ground-and-pound. Led by Pro Bowler Frank Gore, the Niners are averaging 137.6 yards per contest, third-best in the conference. Although Gore is the catalyst of the ground game (782 yards, five touchdowns), rookie Kendall Hunter has provided a nice change of pace, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.

We'd be remiss if we failed to mention the contributions of the signal caller Smith when discussing the offense. The average yardage accrual (173.5 per game, 30th in the league) may be minimal, but the former No. 1 overall pick has been extremely efficient, tossing 10 touchdowns, hitting a career-high 64.1 percent of his targets and throwing just two picks.

Hitherto, the spur of San Fran's revival stems from the team's defensive dexterity. The 49ers are holding opposing offenses to a league-low 14.8 points per game. A robust front seven, highlighted by Patrick Willis, NaVorro Bowman and Justin Smith, is suffocating adversaries to a meager 70.8 yards per outing (lowest in the NFL), while the secondary has 10 interceptions to their credit.

The Giants fall somewhere on the other side of the defensive domination spectrum, as the club is ranked a pedestrian 17th against the pass and 25th versus the run. A rash of injuries has made the New York secondary depleted, and the front line hasn't been a model of good health by any means. However, Jason Pierre-Paul has kept the G-Men formidable, racking up 9.5 sacks in the first half.

Attributing New York's climb to the top of the division to their defense would be a misnomer. So how are the Giants 6-2 with a so-so defensive unit? Eli Manning's improved play has some correlation with this fact. After throwing 25 interceptions in 2010, the "other Manning" has cut down on his turnovers significantly, tossing just six picks through eight contests during the current campaign. Even more enlightening is Eli accomplishing this feat despite the exodus of Steve Smith and Kevin Boss, along with top receivers Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham missing time due to injury. If Aaron Rodgers wasn't posting video game-like numbers every week, a case could be made for Eli as the league's MVP.

So who wins this clash of NFC titans? According to the award-winning WhatIfSports.com football simulation engine, the 49ers come out on top 59.1 percent of the time by an average score of 21-18. To check out the rest of this week's predictions, check below:

NFL Week 10
Matchup Win% Avg Score
Minnesota Vikings 26.5 19 Boxscore
@ Green Bay Packers 73.5 27 Vikings" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Denver Broncos 36.6 18 Boxscore
@ Kansas City Chiefs 63.4 22 Chiefs&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Denver+Broncos" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Arizona Cardinals 37.0 20 Boxscore
@ Philadelphia Eagles 63.0 24 Cardinals" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Oakland Raiders 38.7 22 Boxscore
@ San Diego Chargers 61.3 25 Chargers&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Oakland+Raiders" target="_blank">Simulate Game
New York Giants 40.9 18 Boxscore
@ San Francisco 49ers 59.1 21 Simulate Game
New England Patriots 41.1 21 Boxscore
@ New York Jets 58.9 24 Jets&vSeason=2011&vTeam=New+England+Patriots" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Buffalo Bills 44.7 21 Boxscore
@ Dallas Cowboys 55.3 23 Bills" target="_blank">Simulate Game
St. Louis Rams 45.3 17 Boxscore
@ Cleveland Browns 54.7 20 Rams" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Washington Redskins 46.1 20 Boxscore
@ Miami Dolphins 53.9 21 Redskins" target="_blank">Simulate Game
New Orleans Saints 47.5 24 Boxscore
@ Atlanta Falcons 52.5 25 Saints" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Tennessee Titans 51.0 24 Boxscore
@ Carolina Panthers 49.0 23 Panthers&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Tennessee+Titans" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Detroit Lions 58.4 23 Boxscore
@ Chicago Bears 41.6 21 Bears&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Detroit+Lions" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Jacksonville Jaguars 68.1 22 Boxscore
@ Indianapolis Colts 31.9 16 Colts&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Jacksonville+Jaguars" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Pittsburgh Steelers 68.7 23 Boxscore
@ Cincinnati Bengals 31.3 17 Steelers" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Houston Texans 73.0 29 Boxscore
@ Tampa Bay Buccaneers 27.0 20 Buccaneers&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Houston+Texans" target="_blank">Simulate Game
Baltimore Ravens 85.2 24 Boxscore
@ Seattle Seahawks 14.8 11 Seahawks&vSeason=2011&vTeam=Baltimore+Ravens" target="_blank">Simulate Game