A year ago today one certainly wouldn’t imagine the San Francisco 49ers to be involved in an NFL game of the week at any time during the remainder of the season, but after a surprising and impressive turnaround this year led no doubt by the introduction of first-year head coach Jim Harbaugh, today’s match-up for the 49ers against the New York Giants comes in as one of the best NFL games available for football fans and fans of online sports betting, as two NFC division leaders clash at Candlestick Park in San Francisco, CA in a critical game for both teams.
Though the 49ers (7-1) play in what is widely regarded as the worst division in all of football year in and year out (their closest competition is the Seattle Seahawks and Arizona Cardinals, both at 2-6), there is no doubt that this season’s San Francisco squad has been good enough to play in any division, especially when considering their talented defense, which has stepped up to become the league’s top rated unit against the rush. Despite having struggles against opponents’ passing in numbers mainly (allowing 255 yards/game, 22nd in the league), much of that is due to the fact that no teams have been able to run on the stout 49ers D, which is allowing just 70.8 yards/game on the ground to opposing running backs, and continually find themselves playing from behind especially during the 49ers’ 6-game win streak. San Francisco’s own offense however has had no problem generating offense via the running game, as Frank Gore (159 carries, 782 yards, 5 TDs) has been able to step up in spite of an anemic 30th-ranked passing attack led by Alex Smith, to help deliver 137.6 yards/game for the 49ers and keep ball possession in their hands for most of the games played. Though Gore’s long-term health is always in question once the midway point of the season is reached, coming in to today’s match-up riding a six-game winning streak (their longest in 14 years), the energy and amount of confidence in this year’s 49er team alone looks to be more than enough inspiration to help them overcome just about any obstacle, be it a key injury, or a poorly performing quarterback.
The New York Giants (6-2) are certainly riding a similar tide of optimism about their team’s standing this year, entering today’s game as the top team in the NFC East after winning 3 straight close contests due to the clutch play down the stretch of quarterback Eli Manning. Having helmed the Giants to game-winning 4th quarter drives in each of the Giants’ last 3 wins, Manning has shown great poise and leadership which has obviously rubbed off on the rest of the New York squad. Surprisingly though, it’s been all about the passing game this season for the Giants (ranked 6th in the league, 282.9/contest), who have suffered a series of injuries between the once-formidable tandem of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs that has seen the rush attack falter to just 88.8 yards/game, putting them at the bottom of the league with the likes of the Seattle Seahawks, Cleveland Browns and Tennessee Titans. Few in Giants’ blue would otherwise care about the lack of offense generated on the ground considering that New York sits 2 games ahead of second place Dallas in the NFC East and has run off 3 straight wins, but heading into the critical second half of the season, the lack of the once-stout running game to balance the attack could make New York susceptible, especially in games like the one today against one of the best rush defenses in the nation.
This match-up proves to be a very interesting one for online sports betting, based on the differences between the two offenses on the field today, with the San Francisco 49ers hedged solidly on the rushing attack, and the New York Giants leaning to the passing game. Both opposing defenses show a bit of weakness against the other teams’ strongest points, with the Giants ranking 24th in rush defense giving up 127.1 yards/game, and the 49ers coming in at 22nd in the league against the pass allowing the aforementioned 255 yards/game. One big area of separation that I see in this game lies at quarterback however. Despite the fact that 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh continually touts Alex Smith as an elite QB this season (he’s certainly known as ever the optimist, which is part of the reason for the 49ers great team chemistry this year), mainly based on his ability to work well in the 4th quarter and close games, I for one certainly question that status, despite Smith’s decent offensive numbers (64.1 percent completion rate, 10 TDs to 2 picks, 97.3 passer rating). No elite quarterback has the league’s 30th ranked passing game, which as an example ranks behind the likes of Curtis Painter for the Colts, Tim Tebow of the Broncos, and Tarvaris Jackson of the Seahawks…you get the picture. However, in the game of clutch, which can outweigh the best offensive numbers on any given Sunday, Alex Smith has been performing right on pace with Eli Manning, no doubt one QB who has gone a long way to earn his elite status this season. It’s all about how you finish a game, not how you start it, and these two quarterbacks will certainly be eager to prove who has the best finishing game between each other in today’s game.
Looking at a few key areas to watch for in this game, we first point to the availability of Hakeem Nicks for the New York Giants, their top receiver, who sat out last week with a hamstring injury. As part of the Giant’s solid pass-catching unit led by Nicks and Victor Cruz, Nicks’ 15.1 yards/catch would certainly benefit New York today, especially if Brandon Jacobs struggles to find traction in the ground game (he’s rushing at just a 3.3 yards/carry clip this year). Secondly for the Giants, they’ll be without lead rusher Ahmad Bradshaw in the backfield, who misses today’s game with a broken bone in his foot. Therefore it’s almost essential that Eli Manning has all his weapons available including Hakeem Nicks in the passing game, which will be leaned heavily on especially late in the game should it become a close, down-to-the-wire contest. In that same scenario, the 49ers will no doubt turn to Smith as well to lead the team down the stretch, but it’s going to be a whole lot of Frank Gore in both the rushing and short passing game that could spell the difference in this match-up. If Gore can get off to a hot start, he’ll help to open up the short passing game for the likes of big-man TE Vernon Davis (leads the team with 339 yards receiving, 3 TDs), and hopefully help keep the heavily targeted Michael Crabtree free to add to his receiver-leading 15 first downs this year. While there is a big difference between how these two teams conduct their offense this season, there’s no question that both teams know how to win in tough circumstances, and without a doubt we can expect one solid game for NFL Football in our featured match-up of the day.
Betting Lines for the San Francisco 49ers vs. the New York Giants
Sportsbetting.ag Sportsbook is the top online sports betting site featured for NFL Football action, and as such we’ll check out the betting lines offered for this top match-up today at their easy-to-use sportsbook. At home, the San Francisco 49ers are a 4.5 point favorite against the spread, mainly due to their strong defensive unit, which will need to step up against the pass to help keep points down. New York finds itself as the 4.5 point underdog today, with +190 odds on the money line for a straight up win, mostly amidst questions about their running game, and whether or not they’ll have a full complement of receivers available for today’s game. This contest certainly favors a defensive match-up first of all, with 42 points allotted for the over/under at Sportsbetting.ag, and expecting both defenses to be jacked up and flying around today, we certainly like the prospects of this game staying under total points as both sides will look to keep the strongest parts of the opposing offense at bay.
Our Pick to Win:
Though San Francisco plays in the worst division in football, their record certainly isn’t padded with fluffy wins against the likes of Arizona, Seattle and St. Louis. They’ve won on the road in clutch games against Cincinnati, Philadelphia, Detroit and Washington, and their only loss on the season was by 3 points in overtime to the Dallas Cowboys. The Giants have been similarly good about being clutch, especially in the 4th quarter of games (noted especially against New England last week as they handed the Pats their first home loss in 31 games), and that piece of the puzzle alone might be good reason to back a confident New York in today’s tough road game. For the bottom line, I think this game really comes down to the performance of two players; Frank Gore for San Francisco, and Eli Manning for New York. If Gore can stay on track and avoid injury (which is not unlikely in a hard-hitting game like this should be), as well as avoid being hounded all day by the Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora-led Giants defense, San Francisco could control possession towards a crucial win at home. On the other hand, if Eli Manning can keep the passing game successful and avoid costly turnovers, the Giants could continue their winning ways by rallying late in the game behind their QB. Today however, we’re going with a ‘defense prevails’ approach, and expect the 49ers to be geared up to shut down the Giants’ rush, force long passing plays on 3rd downs, and pull out a 1-TD victory today. 49ers win, 27-20.