With that said, it was tough not picking the likes of Lions-Bears, Steelers-Bengals or Patriots-Jets this week. But I’m going with Giants-49ers because it is quite possible that the winner of this one between division leaders will be the No. 2 seed in the NFC playoffs.
I mean, let’s face it: the Packers are going to be the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But with New York at 6-2 and with a two-game lead in the NFC East and San Francisco at 7-1 and with a ridiculous five-game lead in the NFC West, it would appear that these two will win their divisions (and the Niners could actually clinch next Sunday if things break right).
The Saints/Falcons NFC South winner might still have a say in getting the NFC’s No. 2 seed, but that spot is valuable for three reasons: you get Wild Card weekend off, are assured of the home game in the divisional round and avoid the Packers until the last possible game.
A Niners win Sunday all but assures San Francisco of the No. 2 because, of course, they would have the tiebreaker over New York and still have five games left against their wretched NFC West brethren. So that’s a 12-4 likely record, at a minimum. The remainder of the New York Giants' schedule is much more difficult.
There’s not much to go on in past meetings between these two (as they haven’t played since 2008), and obviously, the Niners under Jim Harbaugh are a vastly different team since that ’08 club that lost 29-17 in the Meadowlands. These Niners already have one more win than last year’s club finished with, and Harbaugh is a cinch for Coach of the Year.
Giants at 49ers Betting Storylines
The 49ers are riding their first six-game winning streak in 14 years after Sunday's 19-11 victory at Washington. San Francisco has just the No. 30 passing attack, but QB Alex Smith has the fewest interceptions (two) of any QB who has started all season, and he is No. 6 in the NFL in passer rating.
RB Frank Gore is on a tear with a team-record five straight games of 100 yards rushing. Gore did injure his ankle last week, but certainly will play. He needs 149 yards to become the all-time leading rusher in 49ers history.
The Giants have been iffy vs. the rush. In last week’s stunning upset at New England, New York snapped its streak of allowing at least 145 rushing yards in five straight games. But the Giants still yielded 106 yards and 4.4 yards per carry to the Patriots, who aren’t exactly a rushing powerhouse.
I will be shocked if New York doesn’t stack the box and dare Smith to beat them.
San Francisco has the NFL’s top-ranked run defense. Dating back to last season, the 49ers' defense has not allowed a rushing TD in nine consecutive games, and it hasn’t allowed a 100-yard rusher in 30 straight games.
The 49ers are No. 22 against the pass, so it could mean a big day for Eli Manning, presuming New York can’t run the ball.
Manning (62.9, 2,377 yards, 15 TDs, six interceptions) is playing as well as any time in his career, and has led New York to three straight fourth-quarter wins. In that quarter, Manning leads the NFL with a 121.7 passer rating and 803 yards.
Last week’s win marked the fifth time this season—and the 19th time in his eight-year career—that he has led the Giants to a win after they were tied or trailing in the fourth quarter.
For what it’s worth, the Niners have faced only four quarterbacks so far this season who rank in the upper half of the NFL in passer rating (Manning is No. 5): Tony Romo, Michael Vick and Matthew Stafford all had big games against the Niners.
It’s no coincidence that the three games in which San Francisco gave up its most points this year was against the Cowboys (the one loss), Eagles (who should have won) and Lions (who also likely should have won). The fourth was Bengals rookie Andy Dalton, who struggled in his first start.
Injury-wise, the Niners escaped last week in pretty good shape, presuming Gore is fine. Defensive end Ray McDonald, who missed his first game since 2008 because of a hamstring injury, said he expects to be ready this week.
The Giants played without three key starters in beating the Patriots: No. 1 WR Hakeem Nicks, leading rusher Ahmad Bradshaw and center David Baas, a former Niner. It appears that both Nicks and Baas will play this week, but that’s not likely for Bradshaw.
Giants at 49ers NFL Betting Odds and Trends
The Niners opened as 3.5-point favorites, with the total at 42.5 on NFL odds. About 58 percent of the lean is on New York.
San Francisco remains the only NFL unbeaten ATS team at 7-0-1 overall, and is 3-0-1 at home. New York is 4-3-1 ATS and 3-1 on the road. The Giants are 4-3-1 on the over/under while San Fran is 4-4.
The Giants have only covered once in the past six vs. a team with a winning record. The Niners are 7-0 ATS in the past seven as a favorite. The over is 8-2 in the Niners’ past 10 vs. NFC. For what it’s worth, the Giants have covered the past five meetings.
Giants at 49ers Predictions and Football Betting Picks
This seems like a 49ers pick in so many ways. The Giants have the whole cross-country thing working against them, and all of a sudden, Eli and Co. are media darlings—especially Manning—after that epic win in New England stopped the Pats’ 20-game regular-season home winning streak. So a letdown seems likely.
Plus, missing Bradshaw will really hurt this week. Throw in the fact that New York has tended to tank in recent years after starting 6-2 (fifth time under Tom Coughlin).
But if Gore isn’t 100 percent, and he doesn’t seem likely to be, I think that New York's defense can shut down the vanilla 49ers. So for sure take the under.
But I’m going with the Giants because, at worst, they won’t lose by more than a field goal.
Doc Moseman is the owner of Doc’s Sports football picks Web site.