Submitted by Jim Hurley on Saturday, November 12, 2011 at 11:54 AM
You know what? These are your father's San Francisco 49ers!
Well, maybe there isn't exactly the glitz and glamour of those Bill Walsh, Joe Montana and Jerry Rice teams of the 1980s but all this current Niners crew does is win and the folks in/around the Bay Area sure got plenty used to that a few decades back.
Now, what if someone told you this past August that the Niners - if the season ended today - would win the NFC West in an absolute runaway and secure a #2 NFC Playoff seed to boot?
Think about it: The 7-and-1 SF 49ers could indeed put themselves in a position where they need to win just one playoff home game and then play in Green Bay for the right to go to this year's Super Bowl ... not so kooky stuff all of a sudden!
No doubt the Niners home game here against the surging New York Giants is the marquee matchup among NFL Week 10 afternoon games - we'll have that Sunday Night showdown between the New England Patriots at the New York Jets in tomorrow's editions of Jim Sez - on a day when there's lots of great NFL action.
Here's the hit list for this second Sunday in November with the NFL Week 10 key games ...
NEW YORK GIANTS (6-2) at SAN FRANCISCO (7-1) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
The history books claim the San Fran 49ers failed to record a winning record for the past eight years in a row but now here sits a Niners team with the league's second-best record between still-perfect Green Bay and it's not as if SF's doing it with smoke-and-mirrors.
A punishing ground game starring lunch-pail type RB Frank Gore (782 yards rushing, 4.9 yards a carry and 5 TDs) has been the franchise's cornerstone player but first-year Niners boss-man Jim Harbaugh is no fool - he's riding this hard-hitting and sure-tackling team to the winner's circle nearly each/every weekend and perhaps you watched last week when all-world LB Patrick Willis stripped two different Washington Redskins players of the ball en route to that 19-11 blue-collar win in the nation's capital.
If Willis and Company can put the wraps on QB Eli Manning (2,377 yards passing with 15 TDs and 6 INTs) - the former Super Bowl MVP easily is having his best NFL season - than SF should extend this current winning streak to seven in a row. And check out these numbers that could well tell the tale here: The Giants sport the NFL's 25th-ranked rush defense - hey, Gore has topped the 100-yard rushing mark in five consecutive games - while the Niners' defense is allowing just 14.8 points per game (a league low).
Want an X-factor here? The Giants believe WR Hakeem Nicks (hamstring) is close to 100 percent and he could flip the field in one fell swoop here.
Spread Notes - San Francisco is an amazing 7-0-1 ATS (against the spread) this season to make 'em the best pointspread team in the NFL and note the 49ers are a perfect 4-0 spreadwise as betting favorites this year. On the flip side, the Giants are a dead-even but vig-losing 4-4 this season but did you know that NYG is 27-13 vig-wise away since the start of their Super Bowl-winning season back in 2007?
DETROIT (6-2) at CHICAGO (5-3) - 4:15 p.m. ET, Fox
It's Round II of this bare-knuckled NFC North matchup after the Detroit Lions copped a 24-13 win/cover as 6 ½-point home favorites back on MNF in Week 5 play. You might recall that evening that Bears' QB Jay Cutler was under siege and running for his life - well, the Chicago O-line has improved by leaps and bounds since than (although Cutler has been forced to creatively get the ball out of his hand a few times since) and keep in mind that Chicago's blocking wall committed nine false start penalties in that affair.
But here's something else: Chicago has not lost a game since that prime-time affair with consecutive wins/covers against Minnesota, Tampa Bay (in London) and Philadelphia and the up-to-date stats show Cutler's thrown only 6 INTs on the season while RB Matt Forte - who lost two fumbles in that 30-24 win against Philly last Monday Night - has rushed for 805 yards to go along with 41 catches for 436 yards.
Now, let's see if Lions' overly-aggressive DL Ndamukong Suh and mates have the answers for the hot Bears here - and note Motown rookie DL Nick Fairley should be back here from his season-long foot woes that have forced him to miss five games.
Spread Notes - Detroit's a rock-solid 5-2-1 against the odds so far in this 2011 season and the Lions are 6-1-1 ATS when playing fellow NFC North crews since the start of last year. Meanwhile, Chicago enters this divisional duel on a three-game spread winning streak but keep in mind the Bears are just 4-4 ATS on the year.
PITTSBURGH (6-3) at CINCINNATI (6-2) - 1 p.m. ET, CBS
Hey, the Steelers ain't dead or anything but let's keep this little write-up all about the new stars of the AFC North: The Cincinnati Bengals roll into this head-knocker game having won five in a row since that 13-8 home loss to - you got it - San Francisco back on Sept. 25th and nobody in the Queen City is even uttering the name Carson Palmer anymore.
Rookie slinger Andy Dalton - whose three touchdown passes sparked last week's come-from-behind 24-17 win at 2 ½-point favorite Tennessee - is the toast of the town these days and note he enters this clash having thrown for 1,696 yards with 12 TDs and 7 INTs and - tell us right now that Dalton will get a 100-yard ground game from RB Cedric Benson here and we'll tell you the beat will go on for the Cincy kids.
Spread Notes - Cincinnati is a terrific 7-1 ATS overall this season and the Bengals bounce into this AFC North clash on a five-game spread winning streak. Note that Pittsburgh is 4-5 ATS overall this season and the Steelers are 0-2 ATS in divisional play (both spread losses to archrival Baltimore) after last year having gone 6-1 ATS in divisional play.
NEW ORLEANS (6-3) at ATLANTA (5-3) - 1 p.m. ET, Fox
Here's the straight dope on this NFC South clash from inside the Georgia Dome: The visiting Saints have won four of the last five games played in Atlanta including last year's 17-14 triumph when QB Drew Brees aired a six-yard scoring strike to TE Jimmy Graham with 3:24 left in the game. Now, that combo will look to wreck havoc here on a Falcons' team that has won their last three consecutive games while limiting the opposition to just 13.3 points a game (and only 272 yards per game).
If Brees-to-Graham is quieted at all here, than New Orleans will have to count on sprite RB Darren Sproles to rescue 'em and gut feeling here is Sproles will get his hands on the ball 15 times (or more).
Hey, Atlanta's averaged 30 points in its five wins this season and did you see that touchdown grab by a diving WR Julio Jones in last Sunday's 31-7 road win at 6 ½-point pup Indianapolis? It was the weekend's finest catch and now the rookie from 'Bama is hoping to make some noise here with QB Matt Ryan (12 TDs and 1 INT in his last seven November games) his triggerman.
Spread Notes - New Orleans is 5-4 against the Las Vegas price tag this season but did you know the Saints a rotten 4-10 vig-wise away since the start of the 2010 campaign? Atlanta, meanwhile, is 4-4 against the pointspreads this season but the Falcons have covered their last three in a row (versus Carolina, Detroit and Indianapolis). Atlanta is a solid 9-5 vig-wise in NFC South play the past two-plus seasons.
NOTE: Get the NFL Week 10 Sunday Night Football Game Preview - that's the Patriots at the Jets - in the next edition of Jim Sez.