First, a few relevant statistics: The Giants are 29th in the league in rushing offense, and the Niners are first in the league in rushing defense. The Niners are 6th in the league in rushing offense, and the G-Men are 25th. The Niners are 30th in the league in passing offense (the Giants are 6th), while the Giants are 17th in the league in passing defense and the Niners rank at 22nd.
When the Niners have the ball, look for them to pound it out. Frank Gore has put together another stellar season, and his backup is more than capable. Former 2005 first round draft choice Alex Smith is an efficient game manager, and the team doesn’t put too much pressure on him to force him to win the game with his arm. If they do get into that situation they are more than likely in trouble, although he came through against Philly (thank you!). Tight end Vernon Davis is a prime target, and Braylon Edwards and Michael Crabtree are outstanding wideouts. Basically, the niners are what the Giants were under Bill Parcells: they will grind it out on the ground, using the run to set up the pass. They have a tough tight end, a possession receiver, and a deep threat. On first down, Alex Smith has a rating of 114.2, which ranks him third in the NFL
Defensively, the Niners are tough. They haven’t allowed a 100 yard rusher in 30 consecutive games, and play an aggressive 3-4 defense. They rank first in the NFL in points allowed, allow an opponent to score on less than 25% of their possessions (2nd in the NFL), and have only allowed 6 drives of over 5 minutes (tied for 2nd).
Based on those stats, how can the Giants even compete? Brandon Jacobs will again shoulder the rushing load, but don’t look for a major effort to run the ball against the Niners. The Giants will likely use the pass to set up the run. Look for the Giants to use play action passes to make the LB’s think before they commit to the run, and empty backfield sets to force the Niners D to spread the field. The G-Men might also use screens to Ware and Scott to open up the running game. From a passing standpoint, the Giants receivers all look to be good to go. Nicks’ leg seems like it’s healed, which can only be good news. The only opponent that the Niners have faced with a quality receiving corps to match the Giants’ players was the Cowboys, and they tagged the 49ers with their only loss.
On defense, the Giants must stop the Niners running attack if they want to have any hope of winning this game. If they allow Gore to run through them for big yardage, they will put Alex Smith into a position where he can use short passes and timing routes to control the clock. If there is any good news, Gore sustained an ankle sprain in the last game. While it won’t keep him out, it may slow him down, especially as the game wears on. If the Giants can hold the Niners rushing attack in check as they did with NE, that will make things easier.
From the standpoint of intangibles, both coaches have the teams playing with confidence, and the players BELIEVE; this makes both teams dangerous. As many have noted, the Giants tend to play to the level of their opponent, so the G-Men should play a good game. While the Giants can run up the points, I look for this to be another defensive contest. I firmly believe that the Giants will win, but due to my superstitious nature (i’m not joking), I will pick the Niners to win, thereby ensuring the victory. Niners 20-17, and may I be wrong again. If anyone would like, I’ll enumerate my track record in the After Action Review.