Giants – 49ers Game Preview
While this upcoming week features few premier matchups for NFL fans, there has been 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 this week’s standout game and potentially a instant classic to this already unforgettable season. The 49ers are the favorites in this matchup, and have won in 66% of our projections. However, using our same data, the Giants are projected to slightly defeat the +6.5 spread by just 51.5%.
The Giants pulled off an upset 20-17 overtime victory over San Francisco last year in their run to a Super Bowl victory, however the G-Men were lucky to survive that game as 49er PR Kyle Williams muffed two important, late game punts that lead to recoveries for the Eli Manning & Crew. The 49ers offense also sputtered as Michael Crabtree led all 49ers wide recievers with just one catch for three yards as QB Alex Smith was held way below his average with 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, which followed a 34-0 shellacking of the once vaunted New York Jets defense. The 49ers compiled a team record (remember, this franchise that has 5 Super Bowl victories) 621 total yards on a defense that recently upgrade that unit by the additions of DE’s Mario Williams (although he’s underperforming) and Mark Anderson. In the Bills game, Smith had an almost perfect QBR rating (99.2) and the 49ers defense stuffed the always dangers Bill’s run game, limiting RBs Fred Jackson and CJ Spiller to just 53 yards combined (a little over a 3 ypa).
While QB Smith is questionable with a sprained finger, it’s a near guarantee that he will suit up and play this weekend. Besides Smith, there are no vital injuries on offense to this Jim Harbaugh offensive unit. Through our projections, we expect San Francisco to continue to pound the rock and believe that RB Frank Gore could be in for a seasonal best with close to 100 yards and a TD. 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 build on his NFC Championship game success and beat his projected numbers (5 receptions, 60 yards, 0.6 TD).
In order for the Giants to stay in this game, they’re going to have to limit the 49ers rush and keep the game close in able to let their strength of their defense attack. Defensive Coordinator Perry Fewell must be able to contain Frank Gore & 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, we’re not projecting much of an impact from their defensive line as they’ve averaged just 3.1 sacks and 1.5 TOs in our simulations. The Giants’ defensive unit is one of the most injured in the league as DL Rocky Bernard, Shaun Rogers, Marvin Austin, and Chris Canty and DBs 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 just 5 games, Eli Manning has already passed for 1579 yards and 10 TDs, while the run game has been on the attack with Ahmad Bradshaw rushing for 200 yards last week against the Bills. General Manager Jerry Reese has surrounded Manning with loads of young, talented receivers that despite the 49ers elite secondary, will make an impact in this game.
WR Victor Cruz is projected to lead the Giants with 85 yards and 0.6 TDs, however, I would expect either Cruz or WRs Hakeem Nicks or Domenik Hixon to cross the century barrier. Manning has been on the mark, and while I expect this 49er 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.