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There hasn't yet been a game with as much significance among the 49ers 2012 opponents as the upcoming match against the New York Giants.
The 49ers have the 2012 season off to a good start. We'd all like to forget about the devastating loss to Minnesota, especially after many of us predicted an ugly blowout-win. If you look at the other four games though, all victories, what are you left with?
Initially I looked at Green Bay, circled that game as a helluva way to kick off the year against a team that won 15 regular season games in 2011 and was the Super Bowl Champion less than two years ago. Aaron Rodgers is thought to be the best quarterback in the NFL by many...capable of putting the team on his back and willing them to a victory if need be.
Sure the Packers defense had some questions, but their secondary and pass-rush have generally been pretty solid of late. I'm sure the taste was still in their mouth, the bitter taste of defeat in their first and only playoff game last season. Plus, the game was at Lambeau Field...
The 49ers however came into town and besides a return touchdown (with a horrible missed-call) and a late score...they owned the Packers.
The next week against Detroit I was slightly more optimistic about the team's chances, but the Lions played us tight in 2011, requiring a late touchdown to Delanie Walker and one last defensive stand to secure victory. Plus, you can't ever really count-out Matthew Stafford when he has Calvin Johnson to throw the ball to.
The team rebounded though and destroyed the New York Jets in a shutout win at the Met. After returning home to San Francisco, they promptly dismantled the Buffalo Bills, racking up a franchise record 621 yards of offense and becoming the first team in NFL history to rush for 300 yards and pass for 300 yards.
Still, watching these teams play in their other games leaves one thinking that perhaps they just aren't that good. Green Bay will always have a chance with Aaron Rodgers on the field, same with the Lions...but the Jets and Bills just look...well, not very good.
Which brings us to this week's match-up against the reigning Super Bowl Champion New York Giants. Even typing that feels wrong as the Giants only reached the Big Game via a heartbreaking loss by the 49ers, who played them in the NFC Championship Game.
This is the team who's most recently been the best in the NFL via their Lombardi Trophy.
They're the team who knocked the 49ers off last year amidst accusations that they were targeting Kyle Williams, who, at the time had recently returned from a concussion.
This is the team that while they've been tested thus-far in 2012, they've responded with huge offensive production and overcome those who got a jump on them.
Most importantly, this is a team that we frankly don't like very much. The Giants have played spoiler in the 49ers past more than once, and the most recent one still stings.
They're also probably the best team the 49ers have faced thus-far. This is one of those games that shows the rest of the NFL who's boss, and these type of games don't stop coming, either. While I don't want the team to think they're one of the NFL's best teams, I want the rest of the world to know. It's part of why I'm a fan, so I can say, "My team is the best!"
Of course, a win on Sunday still won't prove that. There's only one win that can prove that, definitively: The Super Bowl...and Sunday continues the journey thereto.