“It is impossible to suffer without making someone pay for it.”
- Friedrich Nietzsche
Through five games, the San Francisco 49ers have done just that. Excluding a bump in the road against Minnesota, the 49ers have been downright terrorizing their opponents. Thus far, they have definitely been making teams pay for suffering a devastating loss in the 2011 NFC championship game to the New York Giants. The 49ers will have their first crack at the Giants since the crushing defeat when the two teams meet at Candlestick Park. With more than just a game at stake, here are three things to watch for.
1. The Struggling Giants Pass Rush
Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, and Jason Pierre Paul have led the vaunted Giants pass rush over the past few years. A key part in the Giants’ success has been that they have the ability to get pressure on the opposing quarterback with just a four-man rush. Well, they have struggled to do that this season. The Giants have just eight sacks on the season, a number they definitely want to improve upon.
The front four have struggled to get pressure, so they’ve needed more blitzes, taking away players from the rest of the defense, leaving them vulnerable to big plays. They’ve allowed 105 points in their 5 games. While they’ve been able to get by because of the high-scoring offense, the defense will need to play much better against a team whose defense is capable of shutting down the best offenses in the league
2. The Play of the League’s Highest Rated Quarterback
And no, this point is not about Eli Manning. This one is about 49er quarterback Alex Smith. That’s right, Alex Smith is the ‘best’ quarterback in the league. Whether you look at the more traditional Quarterback Rating, (108. 7) or the new Total QB, (81.1) Alex Smith will be at the top of the list.
Smith thrived in his first season under coach Jim Harbaugh last season, and Smith looks to be building on his breakout year. But this game will be a defining game in Smith’s “revival.” While there is no denying his great season, Smith has not faced a team with as potent a pass rush as the Giants have. Smith struggled against them in the playoffs last season, so his play against the defense will have a direct impact on the outcome of the game
3. Mario Manningham and Brandon Jacobs vs. Their Former Employer
Manningham and Jacobs both signed with the 49ers after having hands in defeating them months prior. Manningham left the Giants on good terms, but Jacobs and the Giants parted rather unceremoniously. Jacobs has yet to be active this season, and is undoubtedly chomping at the bit to get into this game and make an impact against the team that wanted to cut his salary in half.
It’ll be interesting to see not only if Jacobs plays, but how he’ll be able to keep his emotions in check. With a history of temperamental outbursts, Jacobs will have to keep his cool and not let his emotions get the best of him on the field.
As for Manningham, he’ll have plenty of opportunities for big plays if the Giants struggle to get pressure on Alex Smith with their front four. Both men could potentially have big games, which will no doubt be welcomed by the 49ers.
When all is said and done, the 49ers get their sweet revenge, prevailing in a tough fought game. Alex Smith gets the better of Eli Manning and the Giants defense.
Final score: 49ers 24- Giants 21.