(San Francisco): RB Frank Gore - The 49ers offense is built around the running game and led by RB Frank Gore. He has been the workhorse and star for this offense every since he was drafted in the 3rd round in 2005 from the Miami Hurricanes. Gore is a beast rushing the ball between the tackles and has the ability to bounce it to the outside using very good speed, vision, and burst. In today's NFL an every down back is hard to find and Gore represents the true meaning of that. He is not only just superb at running the ball but is just as valuable at receiving out of the back field. The Giants have struggled of late at stopping the run defensively, so look for Gore and company to bring the pain of smash mouth football all day. The 49ers will need a huge day from Gore to have any chance at getting the win at home.
(New York): QB Eli Manning - The process of elimination puts Manning as my MVP for the Giants in this game. The main reason is the 49ers defense is ranked 1st against the run only allowing about 71 yards rushing per game. They have not allowed a rushing TD all season. He will need to be very efficient in the passing game against the 49ers defense and not commit turnovers allowing the 49ers offense to eat up the clock and keep the game close. Manning will need to be on point with his receivers and make the big plays when they arise.
San Francisco Offense vs. New York Defense: The 49ers subpar play on offense has been one of the reasons over the last decade that has hindered this team from being a consistent participant in the playoffs. QB Alex Smith who was selected as the 1st pick overall in the 2005 NFL Draft had not lived up to expectations and the 49ers offense had struggled because of it. Smith has made a 360 degree turn around so far in 2011, he is having his best year stat wise completing 64% of his passes, has an overall QB rating of 97.3, and has thrown 10 td passes. The biggest stat that jumps out at you is he has only thrown 2 ints after being a turnover machine his entire career. The 49ers coaching staff has helped out Smith tremendously by not putting him in situations where he has to win the game for you with his arm. The other guy that is helping Smith is RB Frank Gore who is the heart and soul of the offense. Gore has rushed for 782 yards and 5 tds. As long as Gore and the offensive line, which has three 1st round draft choices up front, continue to run the ball effectively and keep opposing offenses on the side lines QB Alex Smith want have to worry about winning games with his passing. The Giants defense has perhaps the best pass rushers collectively on one team. DE Justin Tuck, DE Osi Umenyiora, DE Jason Pierre-Paul, and LB Mathias Kiwanuka have a combined 21 sacks. Tuck and Umenyiora have missed about 4 games a piece with various injuries and the sack count could have been higher. They are great at pressuring opposing QBs and disrupting what offenses are trying to execute. That pressure helps the Giants secondary which is having a decent year at creating turnovers. CB Aaron Ross and CB Corey Webster have 3 ints each while FS Antrell Rolle and SS Kenny Phillips have been all over the field making key contributions.
San Francisco Defense vs. New York Offense: San Francisco has the number 1 ranked rushing defense in the NFL only allowing 71 yards per game. Led by All-Pro MLB Patrick Willis this unit has not allowed a rushing td all season. This defense added some talented pieces in the off season to help out Willis. They signed two former 1st round draft choices in free agency in SS Donte Whitner and CB Carlos Rogers both have made impacts in the secondary. The 2011 1st round draft choice DE Aldon Smith has transitioned well to solidify the rush OLB position in the 3-4 scheme the 49ers use and leads the team as a rookie with 6.5 sacks. San Francisco will need to have a good combination of coverage and pressure to slow the Giants and QB Eli Manning passing attack. QB Eli Manning is having a MVP type season and is trying to elevate himself in the discussion of being one of the elite QBs. He has plenty talent around him such as WR Hakeem Nicks, RB Ahmad Bradshaw, WR Victor Cruz, WR Mario Manningham, and RB Brandon Jacobs. Nicks and Bradshaw may not be available for this game because of injuries but Manning has learned to adapt to whomever he has out on the field. Manning has a QB rating of 98.8 overall and has thrown 15 tds and 6 ints. New York will need to jump on the 49ers early and try to obtain a big lead to force the 49ers and QB Alex Smith to pass the ball more which is not in Smith's favor. The Giants could then unleash their talented pass rushers to wreak havoc on Smith and the offensive line.
San Francisco (NFL Rank & Yards) New York (NFL Rank & Yards)
Rush Off. 6th - 137.6ypg 28th - 88.8ypg
Pass Off. 30th - 173.5ypg 6th - 282.9ypg
Rush Def. 1st -- 70.8ypg 24th - 127.1ypg
Pass Def. 22nd - 255.1ypg 17th - 238.5ypg
Total Offense: 26th 11th
Total Defense: 8th 19th
Points Per Game: 25.8ppg (8th) 24.8ppg (12th)
RB Brandon Jacobs (versus) MLB Patrick Willis: Jacobs will be the primary feature running back with RB Ahmad Bradshaw out with a foot injury. Jacobs is just getting back into form after also missing games with an injury. He is only averaging 3.3 yards per carry and has 3 rushing tds. The 49ers are the best team in the NFL stopping the run and the primary reason is MLB Patrick Willis. He has the speed, agility, foot quickness, and mental awareness to chase down plays sideline to sideline. He is also very strong at the point of attack shedding blocks and then can deliver a powerful blow. It has been said by many defensive experts, if your middle linebacker is fast then you have a fast defense. Well, the 49ers fit that category and Baltimore Ravens future hall of fame MLB Ray Lewis should pass the torch to Patrick "P-Funk" Willis as the best linebacker in the game when he retires. This matchup of Jacobs power and Willis' hitting and tackling ability will be huge in short yardage situations.
Giants Defensive Line (versus) 49ers Offensive Line: New York wants to force opponents into uncomfortable down and distance situations so that they can let the dogs out and go Jim Jones(rap artist) on you("Balling"). They have the best pass rushers collectively on any team in the NFL. The Giants pass rushers are getting healthy at the right time with DE Justin Tuck and DE Osi Umenyiora back from injuries. They also have two talented past 1st round draft choices who can get after the QB in DE Jason Pierre-Paul and OLB Mathias Kiwanuka. Giants can also bring pressure from the inside with DT Chris Canty. San Francisco will need to stay out of 3rd and long situations. The offensive line has helped pave the way for the 6th best rushing attack at 138 yards per game. They have 3 former 1st round draft choices on the line with LT Joe Staley, LG Mike Iupati, and RT Anthony Davis. They are great at opening up holes in the running game but as a unit they struggle in pass protection. So, it is imperative that they stay ahead or close on the scoreboard and don't play catch up by getting behind by a huge margin. If they do the Giants will like I said earlier let the dogs out and go "Balling".
Final Word: San Francisco hired John Harbaugh away from Stanford University to be their new head coach during the off season. He has had immediate success so far this season. Harbaugh being an ex-NFL QB himself has really been an influence on 7 year veteran QB Alex Smith who has had one foot out the door for several years now because of some very erratic performances. Smith's play has been instrumental in the 49ers turn around. He has performed well with a 131.0 QB rating in the final two minutes of games and has an overall rating of 106.7 for the 4th quarter. I am one who does not like to kick a man when he is down, but the late game ratings can be a little misleading because Smith and his offensive teammates have for the most part never been behind by a big margin which keeps Smith from having to carry the team with his arm in come from behind situations. So the jury is still out with Smith. The 49ers passing offense is ranked 30th in the NFL passing for only 174 yards per game. They rely heavy on RB Frank Gore who is the driving force behind the 6th best rushing attack in the NFL at nearly 138 yards per game. The 49ers defense is led by All-Pro MLB Patrick Willis that has not allowed a 100 yard rusher or a rushing td all season. They are very aggressive and tenacious against the run with the telling sign being in 8 games played they have a 50 percent starting running back knockout rate. ( KDub) The 4 starters are Felix Jones(Dallas), LeGarrett Blount(Tampa Bay), Jahvid Best(Detroit), and Montario Hardesty(Cleveland) all have not been the same since. The Giants have a three game winning streak since the devastating loss at home to the Seattle Seahawks. QB Eli Manning has elevated his game and is a big reason why the Giants are sitting at 6-2. He has orchestrated the game winning drives in all three games. Manning like Alex Smith has performed well in the fourth quarter and leads the league with a 121.7 QB rating during the quarter. The Giants would like to establish a big lead early on the 49ers to force QB Alex Smith to make plays in the passing game which would allow them to unleash their dynamic pass rushers on the 49ers offense.