Week 7 the 49ers head into New York to face the defending Super Bowl champs, the New York Giants. The 49ers will be in the midst of a rather fearsome stretch: @ New Orleans, vs. New England, vs. Philadelphia, @ NY and versus the Seahawks. If they want this season to go anywhere, 2-3 seems like a bare minimum result.
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While I'm sure there are people who picked the Giants to win it all, I think the general consensus is that they shocked the world this past February when they took down the unbeaten New England Patriot. The Giants squeaked into the playoffs at 10-6 and definitely made the most of their opportunity. Earlier in the season they faced off against the 49ers and saw their defense score 24 points in an eventual 33-15 Giants victory. My prediction of a close Giants win was not to be.
While the Giants lost Jeremy Shockey for the season in Week 15, things worked out well enough in the end thanks to the somewhat stunning rise of Eli Manning, a superb defense and a quality year from Plaxico Burress.
The Giants made some interesting additions in the offseason. They landed Mario Manningham, a favorite of some around here, late in the third round. While he has a ways to climb on the depth chart, I'm curious to see how he performs in the NFL. He came with some question marks and some baggage, but even though he's in New York, I wouldn't imagine there is a lot of pressure to put up big numbers right away. And playing behind Amani Toomer and Plaxico Burress will give him two impressive receivers to learn from.
They added veteran Sammy Knight when they elected not to shell out the big bucks for Gibril Wilson (thank you Al Davis). The first two rounds of the draft landed a safety and a cornerback for the future, but they're in good shape for now in their secondary. I also think they might just have a steal on their hands in sixth round pick Andre Woodson. He struggled late which saw his stock plummet from high first rounder to where he ended up.
The big change is of course the most recent news of Jeremy Shockey to the Saints. Losing the franchise's #4 man in receptions certainly won't help the team, but they showed they could win big without him. Losing the single season sack leader (and #5 all time) in Michael Strahan is certainly a tough blow as well. While Strahan was starting to lose steam, he still made a very solid contribution.
At the same time, even though two guys who were pretty close to the face of the franchise off and on over the last few years, I don't think the Giants are in too much trouble with these losses. There will be an impact, but they have some talented guys behind them. If nobody steps up there will certainly be issues, but the sky isn't falling yet (and besides they won the Super Bowl and can't complain anyways).
2008 Questions and Answers
Will there be a Super Bowl hangover? Considering the fact that few if any people expected the Giants to win, a hangover certainly seems like a distinct possibility. At the same time, Tom Coughlin is a disciplinarian type of coach and I can see him being the type of guy who can focus the team on the task at hand and get them thinking about 2008 and only 2008.
Will the real Eli Manning please stand up? Week 17 and the first rwo rounds of the playoffs saw Eli Manning absolutely blow up, taking care of business and moving the team forward. While he was nowhere near as good in the conference championship game and the Super Bowl, he still didn't blow things for his team, which is sometimes all you can ask for. The monkey of being Peyton's little brother has been removed by the Lombardi Trophy, so now we get to see what Eli can do without that kind of pressure. It's still New York so there will always be some pressure. Winning it all could lead to Eli getting truly comfortable as a star QB, or he just reverts back to his old ways. Who really knows right now.
vs. San Francisco
Last season I picked a 23-21 Giants victory. This season, I think the Super Bowl hangover happens and the 49ers offense doesn't have the turnover issues they had last year. I'm gonna go so far as to say 49ers victory 24-20. Of most of the predictions I'll make, this one might inspire the least confidence. However, if the guys we expect to start are starting (meaning no 3rd string QBs and the like), I think this is a very winnable upset. Join with me in praying for the hangover.