The Patriots suffered a setback against the Giants recently. Charles Krupa/AP/Press Association Images
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The Redzone: One Giants step for the 49ers?

AS THE NFL moves to Thursday, so too does The Redzone. Steven O’Rourke looks through week ten’s juiciest encounters.

New York Giants (6-2) @ San Francisco 49ers (7-1)

WHEN YOU THINK of great 49ers quarterbacks, Alex Smith – the first overall pick of the 2005 draft – is not necessarily one that comes to mind.

This is, after all, a team that had three-time Super Bowl MVP Joe Montana and Steve Young, holder of the highest career passer rating in the NFL, under centre during their most successful periods.

Since Young threw six touchdown passes against the San Diego Chargers to win Super Bowl XXIX in January 1995, the 49ers have virtually disappeared as a force within the NFL.

However, this year they are almost assured their first NFC West title since 2002 and their 7-1 record is second only to the Green Bay Packers.

The 49ers are ranked seventh in rushing the football, averaging more than 30 attempts per game, while asking Smith to throw just 26 times, the fewest in the league.

Luckily they have one of the best running backs in the NFL in Frank Gore to make up for the fact that they should have drafted Aaron Rodgers in 2005 instead of Alex Smith.

In his seven seasons in the NFL, Smith has thrown just 61 touchdowns compared to 55 interceptions. Compare that with Rodgers who has 111 endzone completions and just 35 picks in the same period.

It might be an unfair comparison, given Smith’s struggles with injury and changes in 49ers coaching staff, but this franchise chose him over Rodgers so it’s only right to wonder what might have been for the Candlestick Park faithful had they chosen the current Packers QB.

However, without the likes of Joe Montana, Steve Young and Jerry Rice, this 49ers team are performing well above expectations and that has to be admired.

Verdict: It’s by no means a must-win game for either team but it could determine just how difficult their playoff routes are. In a tight encounter, the 49ers’ running game will have a significant edge. 49ers by 5+.

New England Patriots (5-3) @ New York Jets (5-3)

Had you asked me last week, I’d have bet my house on the Patriots coming into this game with a 6-2 record to face a Jets team whose loss to the Bills had put them at 4-4 and out of the playoff pictures.

Instead, the Pats were very poor against Giants while the Jets put in an almost perfect performance in Buffalo.

Tom Brady’s lack of a deep threat might actually suit in this game though as ‘Revis Island’ and his fellow DBs are far less effective against ‘dink and dunk’, tight end led offences than they are against teams who prefer to look deep.

However, this is a divisional clash and the Jets don’t like to lose at home to anyone, never mind their biggest rivals.

Verdict: The Patriots haven’t lost three in a row since 2002. The Jets are 4-0 at home this season. Something has to give and I think it’ll be the Patriots playoff hopes. Jets by 3+.

New Orleans Saints (6-3) @ Atlanta Falcons (5-3)

With Drew Brees on course to break Dan Marino’s single season passing record and the Atlanta Falcons giving up more than 245 passing yards a game, this one looks as if it could be a walkover for the Saints.

However, as the Rams have proven recently, the Saints can be susceptible to the run and the Falcons have one of the best running backs in the league in Michael Turner.

If the Atlanta offensive line can win the battle at the line of scrimmage, the game and, indeed, control of the NFC South, is there for the taking.

Verdict: This should be a shootout but, given that they are often the hardest games to call, it’s difficult to pick a winner. Home advantage is probably going to be decisive here. Falcons by 6+.

All games and predictions:

  • Oakland Raiders @ San Diego Chargers – Chargers
  • New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons – Falcons
  • Tennessee Titans @ Carolina Panthers – Panthers
  • Pittsburgh Steelers @ Cincinnati Bengals – Steelers
  • St. Louis Rams @ Cleveland Browns – Browns
  • Buffalo Bills @ Dallas Cowboys – Cowboys
  • Jacksonville Jaguars @ Indianapolis Colts – Colts
  • Denver Broncos @ Kansas City Chiefs – Chiefs
  • Washington Redskins @ Miami Dolphins – Redskins
  • Arizona Cardinals @ Philadelphia Eagles – Cardinals
  • Houston Texans @ Tampa Bay Buccaneers – Buccaneers
  • Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks – Ravens
  • Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears – Lions
  • New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers – 49ers
  • New England Patriots @ New York Jets – Jets
  • Minnesota Vikings @ Green Bay Packers – Packers

Steven O’Rourke is the Offensive Co-ordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club, winners of the IAFL DV8s national title in 2010 and 2011. Tullamore are always recruiting new players so, if you’d like to play football and not just read about it, Steven would love to hear from you.

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