Week 6: New York Giants At San Francisco 49ers
- QuarterbackEli Manning is as dependable a quarterback as there is in the NFL. He’s at his best when the Giants have a big game and this certainly qualifies as a big, early-season game. Manning is coming off a solid game against the Cleveland Browns in which he completed 25-of-37 passes for 259 yards with three TDs and one interception.Alex Smith is at the top of the passer ratings through the first five weeks and he is putting together a second consecutive excellent season. Smith is athletic, reads defenses well and is throwing the ball with confidence. The upgrade at the wide receiver position has made him one of the best passers in the league.
- OffenseThe Giants couldn’t run the ball last year when they finished 32nd in the league in regular-season rushing, but they have turned that around this year. Ahmad Bradshaw is coming off a 200-yard game against Cleveland while rookie David Wilson has explosive speed. Wide receiver Victor Cruz is very tough to cover in clutch situations and tight end Martellus Bennett is improving and rapidly becoming a Manning favorite.Frank Gore is not just a good back, he is a go-to difference maker. He pounded the weak Buffalo for 106 yards and a touchdown. The Niners have a much-improved crew of receivers. Mario Manningham, Michael Crabtree and tight end Vernon Davis give Smith a slew of targets who can go downfield and dominate. Randy Moss is not working out well for the Niners at this point.
- DefenseThe Giants still have the best front four on paper in the NFL. However, that unit did not have one sack in the 41-27 victory over the Cleveland Browns. This would be the week for Jason Pierre-Paul, Osi Umenyiora and Justin Tuck to assert themselves once again. The secondary is vulnerable to downfield passes because the pass rush is not what it should be.The Niners are rolling on defense since their Week Three loss at Minnesota. Since then, they have shut out the Jets and held the Bills to three points. The Giants are a much more formidable team and have a running game this year, but linebackers Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith will punish anybody they can get their hands on.
- Special TeamsThe Giants are not usually going to make a lot of big returns, but their coverage teams are excellent. The Niners remember that it was a special teams forced fumble that gave the Giants the chance to win the NFC championship game. Lawrence Tynes is a clutch placekicker while Steve Weatherford is a solid punter.David Akers has awesome leg strength, but he may not be the most consistent field goal kicker at this point in his career. However, he made a career for himself in Philadelphia by hitting clutch kicks against the Giants. Andy Lee averaged 56.0 yards on two punts against the Bills.
While the Giants may have a key edge at quarterback and they can hold their own with a solid pass-rushing defense against the all-around strength of the Niners defense, San Francisco comes in with the motivational edge. The Giants eliminated them in the NFC championship game last year and they want to get some payback.