Week ten of the 2011 NFL season got going Thursday night when the Oakland Raiders faced the San Diego Chargers, but for the San Francisco 49ers, Sunday is when things really matter. The 49ers face the New York Giants with playoff positioning officially on the line. The 49ers hold a five game lead in the NFC West, which means they are now trying to position themselves for a first round bye, and possible home field through the NFC playoffs.
The 49ers have their own important game, but there are several games that could impact the race for playoff positioning. The AFC South features a huge game between the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. The NFC North features a big one between the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears. And even the NFC West's three squads have games that could impact the 49ers. If the 49ers win and the other three NFC West teams lose this weekend, the 49ers can clinch the NFC West in week 11.
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers: The 49ers are slim favorites and this game figures to be a stiff test of where they are at halfway through the season. The 49ers defense has faced a pair of weak offenses the last two weeks and will get all it can handle from the Giants big passing attack. The Giants bring a stiff pass rush, so Alex Smith could find himself on the run if the offensive line gets overwhelmed by the likes of Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora. Nonetheless, I think the 49ers can stickto their rushing/defense/special teams formula and improve to 8-1. It won't be easy, but they can win this. PICK: 49ers
New Orleans Saints @ Atlanta Falcons: The 49ers and Giants are battling for positioning, but the winner of the NFC South likely will have a say in the second first round bye. The Falcons are in the middle of a three-game winning streak and the Saints have struggled on the road. I'll stick with the hot home team. PICK: Falcons
Detroit Lions @ Chicago Bears: In reality, these two teams are likely battling for the wildcard. Nonetheless, if the Packers suddenly hit an unexpected cold streak, the Lions have a shot if they can keep winning. The Lions are coming off a bye and back in the swing of things after some initial struggles. This is going to be a tight battle between two long-time rivals, but I think the Lions can spring the upset. PICK: Lions
Baltimore Ravens @ Seattle Seahawks: It is tempting to pick Seattle to spring the upset as they bring out their 12th Man at home against a Ravens squad coming off an emotionally draining victory. But then I remember that the Seahawks are wildly inconsistent and led by QB Tarvaris Jackson. PICK: Ravens
St. Louis Rams @ Cleveland Browns: I remain convinced the Rams are about to turn this thing around and make a run for second place in the NFC West. I was convinced of this last week as well and then Patrick Peterson decided to handle that. Nonetheless, this is the easiest opportunity for the rest of the NFC West to get a victory. PICK: Rams