For the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants a victory on Sunday will be a huge statement win for the team coming out on top. The winner will emerge as the clear number two in the NFC behind the Green Bay Packers. A win on Sunday by the 49ers will strengthen their five game lead in the NFC West and give them their fourth win over a possible playoff team. A win by the Giants will give them a four-game winning streak, their second straight win on the road against a formidable team and a chance to extend their NFC East lead to three games.
At the beginning of the season nobody thought the 49ers and Giants would have a combined record of 13-3 and lead their divisions in week ten. Both teams are led by quarterbacks that don’t get much respect in the NFL. This is more so true for the 49ers and Alex Smith but Giants QB Eli Manning, even with a Super Bowl ring, also has his share of critics. Smith and Manning have gained more respect with the way they have managed and led their teams to the top of their divisions this season. One reason for the unexpected rise by both teams is the fourth quarter play by Smith and Manning.
The Giants current three-game winning streak has been engineered by Manning leading the team in the fourth quarter to victory. During the streak Manning has led game-winning drives against the Bills, Dolphins and Patriots. Last week’s win by the Giants was the most impressive as Manning led the Giants on 80-yard touchdown drive in the last 1:32 minutes of the game that ended the Patriots' 31-game home winning streak in the regular season. The game on Sunday will come down to the final drive to determine the winner. The 49ers defense has shown in wins against the Eagles and Lions they can hold off a team from scoring on late fourth quarter drives. The defense will have their hands full as Manning has a league high 121.7 QB rating in the fourth quarter.
Alex Smith is equally as impressive compared to Manning in the fourth quarter. Smith has led game winning drives over the Bengals, Eagles and Lions. Smith’s successful game management and only two interceptions this season has allowed the 49ers to not have to lean on Smith to make big plays. But when he is called on to win games he steps up and delivers. Smith leads the NFL with a 131.0 QB rating in the final two minutes, and has a 106.7 rating in the fourth quarter. The former number one overall pick is having his best season in his seven year career. With career highs in passer rating (97.3) and completion percentage (64.1) has allowed him to stay mistake free, toss ten touchdowns and let the running game wear down the defense.
Even though the Giants and 49ers have wins over playoff caliber teams this season, a win Sunday will cement the winner has a clear front runner in their division and the team best suited to challenge the Green Bay Packers.