NFL Czar: Are the 49ers the team to beat?

In this wild and wacky NFL season, several surprise teams have established themselves as playoff contenders. Possibly the best and most talented of all have been the San Francisco 49ers. Despite question marks surrounding quarterback Alex Smith and new head coach Jim Harbaugh, the Niners have possibly become the team to beat in the NFC, other than the Packers of course. Their opponent for week 10, the New York Giants, have ridden one of the better offences in the league to the lead in the tough NFC East. Fresh off a Super Bowl rematch from a couple years ago against the Patriots, the G-Men face a tough inter-conference matchup. They will need all of their offensive weapons to step up, as the Niners will be the toughest defence the Giants have faced all year.

Key Matchups
1. Eli Manning vs. Alex Smith: Both are former first overall draft picks. Manning has a Super Bowl ring already, and Smith is starting to look like a QB who could get one himself (after years of being labelled a draft bust). With the proper protection, both can produce huge plays in the passing game.

2. Ahmad Bradshaw vs. Patrick Willis: Bradshaw has been among the top running backs in the league over the past few years, but he will have to run away from Willis in this one. Willis is the best in the NFL when it comes to stopping the run, and he'll be geared up for this matchup. The difference in the matchup will be the receiving ability of Bradshaw. If he gets out of the backfield and starts catching passes, he is extremely dangerous.

3. Giants' Defensive Line vs. 49ers' Offensive Line: The Giants have signed and drafted several pass rushers over the past few years, and it is paying dividends. They are getting loads of pressure on opposing QBs, and will look to get after Alex Smith. The Niners have done a good job keeping Smith on his feet, but will need to be at their best here.

The Rundown
The good news for the Giants is that they have won big games like this before. The only problem is that the game is in San Francisco, and teams generally struggle when they travel across the country. I think this trend will continue. The 49ers will protect Alex Smith and slow down the Giants' offensive attack. Give me the Niners, 24-13.

For next week, the defending AFC West Champs take to Monday Night looking for an upset in Foxborough.