Written by Colin Kennedy
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New York Giants vs San Francisco 49ers
While this upcoming week features few premier match-ups for NFL fans, there is one game that I’ve had circled on my calendar since the schedule came out: the New York Giants at the San Francisco 49ers. In a rematch from last year’s NFC Championship game, this has the chance to be a standout game and potentially an instant classic. The 49ers are the favorite in this matchup, and win 66 percent of AccuScore simulations. However, using the same data, the Giants are projected to slightly cover the +6.5 spread at a rate of 51.5 percent.
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The Giants pulled off an upset overtime victory 20-17 over San Francisco last year during their run to the Super Bowl. However, the G-Men were lucky to survive that game as San Francisco’s Kyle Williams muffed two critical, late game punts that led to recoveries for the Giants. The 49er offense also sputtered as Michael Crabtree led all wide receivers with just one catch for three yards as quarterback Alex Smith was held completely in check for just 12 for 26 passing.
The 49ers have made great strides already this season in improving their offense as they’ve just completed an historic offensive performance against the Buffalo Bills. That followed a 34-0 shellacking of the once vaunted New York Jets defense. They compiled a team record (remember, this franchise has five Super Bowl victories) 621 total yards on a defense that recently upgraded by adding defensive ends Mario Williams (admittedly underperforming) and Mark Anderson. In the Bills game, Smith had an almost perfect QBR rating (99.2) and the 49ers defense stuffed the Buffalo run game limiting Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller to just 53 yards combined.
While Alex Smith is questionable with a sprained finger, it’s a near guarantee that he will suit up and play. Besides Smith, there are no critical injuries on offense to this San Francisco offense. AccuScore expects San Francisco to continue to pound the rock and projects running back Frank Gore for close to 100 yards and a touchdown. The bread and butter of this San Francisco offense is the run game, so unless it stays close late, I wouldn’t expect higher numbers for Smith (projected at 217 passing yards, 1.7 TDs 0.7 INT). If this game becomes a shoot-out, look out for Vernon Davis to beat his projected numbers (5 receptions, 60 yards, 0.6 TD).
New York defensive coordinator Perry Fewell must be able to contain Niner backs Gore and Kendall Hunter to let his elite pass rushers get after Smith, and specifically attack San Francisco’s weak links in their offensive line, specifically the right side of their line where RG Alex Boone & RT Anthony Davis play. Despite having the league’s best pass rush, AccuScore is not projecting much of an impact from their defensive line as they are averaging just 3.1 sacks and 1.5 forced turnovers in simulations. The Giants defense is one of the most banged up in the league as Rocky Bernard, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin, Chris Canty, Kenny Phillips, Terrell Thomas, and Brian Witherspoon will all miss this game.
On the other side of the ball, the Giants offense has now become the consistent force for the Super Bowl champs. The G-Men have been competitive in every game this season with both of their losses coming to divisional rivals. Through five games, Eli Manning has already passed for 1579 yards and 10 touchdowns while Ahmad Bradshaw rushed for 200 yards last week against the Bills. General Manager Jerry Reese has surrounded Manning with loads of young, talented receivers that will make an impact in this game.
Receiver Victor Cruz is projected to lead the Giants with 85 yards and 0.6 touchdowns, however, I would expect one of either Cruz, Hakeem Nicks or Domenik Hixon to cross the century barrier. Manning has been on the mark this season, and while I expect this Niner defense to slow him down, you can only limit a special player to a certain extent. Although this is perhaps the league’s elite defense, I still expect Manning to put up respectable numbers.