In perhaps their toughest game of the season, the San Francisco 49ers look to make a statement against the New York Giants in a rematch of last year's NFC Championship Game.
After a string of dominant performances the 49ers head into this game with the second best record in the NFC at 4-1. The 49ers have been outscoring opponents by an average of about 17 points per game and are currently leading the NFL in rushing.
The reigning Super Bowl Champion Giants however are by no means an easy opponent. They lead the NFC in scoring and may very well have the NFL's best offense.
In order to solidify their case as the NFL's best team, the 49ers will need to get a big win and shutdown Eli Manning and crew on Sunday. The best way for them to do this is to stop Pro-Bowl Wide Receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz, the third-year receiver from the University of Massachusetts, dominated the 49ers defense in 2011. In two games he caught 16 balls for 226 yards against the 49ers.
The 49ers must not let Cruz torch them on Sunday. 49ers Cornerback Carlos Rodgers will need to step it up and have his best game of the season. If he can effectively re-route Cruz at the line of scrimmage he will be successful in limiting the Giant's aerial attack.
The second key to the game for the 49ers involves the offense. Veteran Quarterback Alex Smith is having a great year and is on pace to set career highs in both passing yards and touchdowns. Against a weak Giants pass defense, Smith should continue his streak of solid games. There is one thing holding Smith down though, and that is his Wide Receivers.
Excluding Vernon Davis, the 49ers receiving core was atrocious against the Giants in the NFC Championship game last year. The receivers as a whole only had 1 catch for 3 yards during the course of the entire game.
In order to address this problem the 49ers made numerous off-season signings at the WR position. They added veteran Randy Moss and former Giant Mario Manningham. One of those two guys, along with Michael Crabtree, will have to submit great games on Sunday for the 49ers to make a statement.
Prediction: The 49ers will have their hands full with the Giants offense but will be able to pull out of a close game with 30-24 win.