With more than just a single victory on the line, the (3-2) New York Giants head into Candlestick Park to take on the (4-1) San Francisco 49ers in what marks the first head-to-head meeting of these two teams since last season’s NFC Championship (4.25pm ET, Sunday).
A berth to the Superbowl on the line, the Giants benefited from a bit of luck as 49ers tackle, Kyle Williams, fumbled the ball in the game’s waning minutes allowing New York to kick the winning field goal. The final score was 20-17 and the Giants rode the momentum all the way to their second Superbowl victory over the New England Patriots.
Make no mistake; the 49ers have not forgotten this game and how they let a chance at a championship appearance literally slip through their fingers. They will be primed and prepared for the rematch especially since it is on their own home turf.
Is Alex Smith Really the Best Quarterback in the NFL?
It may be hard for some to believe but if you look at statistics, particularly the total QBR (quarterback rating), it is San Francisco QB Alex Smith that has separated himself from the rest of the league.
Not too long ago Smith, who has spent his entire career with the 49ers, used to be nothing more than a solid back up. From 2005-2010 he started a total of 54 games in six seasons, only once playing a full 16 game season. Smith, considered one of the smartest signal callers in the game, was never seen to have more than just mediocre talent. That all changed however in the 2011 season.
Although the Niners offense had tight end Vernon Davis and running back Frank Gore, Smith finally got weapons in the passing game when the team drafted top five wide receiver pick Michael Crabtree. Smith also seemed to immediately form a rapport with new head coach Jim Harbaugh. With upgrades on defense as well, this team went from being a two-win team to a 12-win team.
To take a look at just how much better Smith was in 2011 compared to 2010, here are his stat lines from those two seasons.
- 2010: 11 GP, 59.6 CMP%, 2,370 YDS, 14 TD, 10 INT
- 2011: 16 GP, 61.3 CMP%, 3,144 YDS, 17 TD, 5 INT
Smith who was once a top pick in the draft himself, finally found the talent that scouts knew he had. His stats improved drastically and so did the 49ers fortunes. With a 13-3 record, San Francisco made the playoffs under Harbaugh and Smith for the first time since the 28-year-old QB joined the team in 2005.
Once again hoping to achieve playoff success, Smith’s 2012 has gotten off to the best start in his career. He is posting numbers that have him well on pace to break all of his personal season bests and that also have him, at least for now, sitting front and center at the MVP discussion.
- 2012: 5 GP,68.6 CMP%, 1,087 YDS, 8 TD, 1 INT
His stats are incredible but what has really set him apart if his ability to read defenses and to not make mistakes. For example, his QBR this year is 81.1 which is far and away better than any other QB. This is evident of his ability to thrive under what analysts have classified as: important game situations. QBR is also a measure of what a quarterback does in terms of game management, something Smith has also excelled in.
On top of the QBR, Smith also leads the league in completion percentage when under a five or more man rush and when throwing the ball 15 yards downfield. He is also first in the NFL in overall rating with a 108.7.
Are the Giants Suffering from a Superbowl Hangover?
Like most other sports, football is a game of momentum. If you start the season off slow then chances are you will have some trouble finding that pace to start winning games. If you are coming off a miraculous championship winning series however, starting slow could turn into “Superbowl hangover.”
Unfortunately for New York, this is exactly what it looks like they are facing.
The Giants are 3-2 this season having won games against Tampa Bay, Carolina and Cleveland, three teams that are a combined 2-12 on the season. This includes the still winless, (0-5) Cleveland Browns. Conversely, their losses have come against two divisional rivals in the (3-2) Philadelphia Eagles and (2-2) Dallas Cowboys.
The fact that the Giants are winless against .500 teams is definitely worry some but even more than that is the reason to worry about this team’s performance on defense in 2012.
The Giants are ranked 22nd in the league in opponent’s passing yards as they surrender on average, 261.4 a game. They are ranked slightly better at 16th when it comes to rush defense, yielding as a unit, 111.4 per game. Overall these numbers are an improvement on the team’s 2011 defense that finished 27th in the league.
In addition to the task of having to go up against San Francisco’s league best rushing offense (196.2 yards a game), the Giants should also be concerned about how to stop the passing attack. Although on the season San Francisco is ranked 27th with just over 205.4 yards a game, the team is coming off back-to-back 30+ point games. This includes last week against Buffalo where for the first time in franchise history, the Niners recorded a 300 yard passer, two 100 yard rushers and two 100 yard receivers in the same game.
Against Philadelphia and Dallas, New York struggled to stop the balanced running and passing attack. Against San Francisco, not only will they face a more balanced attack but they will also confront a smarter and more accurate QB, a stronger rushing attack and a more fluid passing game. Not to mention, San Francisco is a very tough place to play as the road team.
Giants at 49ers Betting Picks & Preview Verdict
Revenge is sweet and no one wants it more than Jim Harbaugh and his San Francisco 49ers. After coming off of two back-to-back complete games, the Niners find themselves favorite by 6.5 points on the sportsbooks’ spread.
- While I can’t find a reason to see the 49ers losing, expect the Giants to keep it close and for this reason bet on the NY Giants +6.5 points @ -110 with BetOnline Sportsbook or Bovada. If you are not from the USA, then bet on this with Bet365.