Giant's offensive plan:
Effective run game and high percentage passes in early downs when in own territory, opening up on 3rd and long or at midfield for 55+% completion rate deep passes.
49ers' defensive counter:
Kill the run, to force 2nd and 3rd and long. Thus forcing lower % passes. Take the INTs. Tackle to force fumbles. Create pressure with 4 man front to lower Eli's completion rate and keep 7 men in coverage.
49ers' offensive plan:
Effective run game and high percentage passes in early downs when in own territory, opening up (a little) at midfield for deep passes... back to conservative in red-zone.
Giant's defensive counter:
Sack Alex or otherwise force 3rd and long. Alex will not take the high risk plays if the score is close. Force the punt.
Best punt team in the league by far. Pin them deep in their own territory or possibly force a turn over. Back to step 1.
Keys of the Game
49ers' offensive line. Can they withstand the onslaught of the giant's rush? Any sacks allowed in 49ers territory will likely kill the drive. Sacks elsewhere will turn TDs into Field Goals. And Field Goals into punts.
The 49ers offensive plan relies on them having a high 1st down efficiency. The giants can disrupt this by holding Gore/Walker to 2-3 yards on first downs. These are explosive backs who will break through with some big runs in every game, but expect the Giants overload the box. This was the Giant's plan during their week 10 matchup and they were happy with their performance. Do not expect them to change their overall plan. However, the Giants defense has changed a lot since week 10. Good health has them performing at a much higher level than when the teams met during the season.
The Giants cannot defend the run better than they did in week 10, when they held Gore to 0 yards on 6 carries and the 49ers rushers to 3.85 yards per carry. It is not possible. In week 10, Joseph and Umenyiora each sacked Smith. This was pretty effective at the time. The Giants will not deviate from this plan, instead they are relying on the improved health of their players to elevate their performance. This is what the Giant's public bravado after losing in week 10 and certainly in the media circus that followed their victory in Green Bay is telegraphing. The Giant's Defensive line is a lot stronger now which makes the job of the 49ers offensive line that much more challenging and crucial to the game's outcome. Frank Gore, who went into week 10 with a freshly sprained ankle from the Washington game, is a lot healthier now as well. He is likely to do some good things for the 49ers on Sunday.
Crabtree, Ginn (if he plays), Williams and Swain
The Giants will again double team Vernon Davis. The Giants plan is to stop Davis from beating them. This might not work, but it coupled with overloading the box to stop Gore will create opportunities for Crabtree, Ginn, Williams and Swaine. Who will need to step up their game. Dropped passes have haunted this squad all season, and can be the difference between scoring and punting.
The 49ers will need another game from their secondary like the highlight film from their divisional matchup against the Saints. Cruz, Nicks and Manningham are lethal and the 49ers will need to perform at a high level to minimize their impact on the game.
49ers' front 7
49ers' front 7 against the Giants run game. The 49ers will stop the Giant's rush and create pressure on Eli with their front 7. This is about damage control for the Giants, who were held to 3.2 yards per carry in Week 10. The Giants cannot reasonably expect to run against these guys. Only one back managed to all season, Marshawn Lynch and it took him two tries. The Giants two backs do not add up to one Marshawn Lynch.
49ers' Special Teams
The Giant's special teams can't match up with the body of work created by the 49ers during the course of the season. Expect the 49ers to have clutch kicks on field goals, extra points, kick offs and punts. The 49ers will win the battle for field position. 49ers special teams unit is among the most explosive in football, it is very possible they could be the difference in the game.
My Pick: 49ers win and beat the spread. What do you think?