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Here are five things to watch Sunday when the New York Giants face the San Francisco 49ers.
Which pass rush has the biggest impact?
We have spent oodles of time talking about the missing in action Giants' pass rush, which has generated only eight sacks in five games. Well, despite the otherwise dominant work by the San Fran defense, the 49ers' pass rush hasn't really been any better. San Francisco has only nine sacks in five games.
At Niners Nation, David Fucillo addressed this topic in detail. I won't go over it in the same depth, but suffice it to say that both teams expect their front sevens to generate much more pressure on opposing quarterbacks. The team that is most successful in doing that will have a leg up on a victory Sunday.
San Francisco defensive end Justin Smith does not have a sack yet this season, but Giants' fans know how good of a player he is. He will line up opposite Giants' left tackle Will Beatty. When Beatty isn't blocking Justin Smith, he will likely be locked up with outside linebacker Aldon Smith, who leads the 49ers with 4.5 sacks.
Can the Giants contain San Francisco's running game?
The Giants were gashed on the ground the last two weeks by LeSean McCoy of the Philadelphia Eagles and Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns. The 49ers have the league's No. 1 ranked rushing attack (196.2 yards per game), and backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter (sorry, Brandon Jacobs!) have to be frothing at the mouth over what they have seen on film. Giants' defensive coordinator Perry Fewell admitted that both the backside containment and the tackling have been awful. If that doesn't improve drastically on Sunday the Giants won't stand a chance.
How will the Giants handle Vernon Davis?
The San Francisco tight end has six catches, three for touchdowns, against the Giants a season ago. The Giants will rely on the speed of Jacquain Williams, Michael Boley and Keith Rivers to try and contain him.
What will David Akers do to the Giants this time?
Akers, the San Francisco field-goal kicker, always seems to do something to kill the Giants. Whether it is drilling clutch field goals or fooling the Giants with surprise onside kicks (please don't let that happen again!) Akers always seems to put a dagger in the Giants one way or another.
Can the Giants run the ball?
The Giants have rediscovered their ability to run the ball, having gotten a 200-yard game from Ahmad Bradshaw last week and a 113-yard effort from Andre Brown against the Carolina Panthers. The Giants are now 12th in the league, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Can they keep that up against the outstanding San Francisco defense?