The New York Giants face the San Francisco 49ers on Sunday, October 14 (4:25 p.m. ET on FOX) in a rematch of the NFC Championship Game . If last year was any indication, Sunday's game is going to be an intense, competitive battle with little margin for error on both sides. With that in mind, here's are the keys to victory for the defending Super Bowl champions.
Sack Attack -- With eight sacks five games, the Giants' vaunted pass rush has been stuck in neutral. Well, it's time to shift gears. Defensive ends Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul have a combined 3.5 sacks -- they had 30.5 in 2011. With New York's secondary banged up, it's imperative for the Giants not to allow Alex Smith (NFL-best 108.7 QB rating) time to throw the ball.
Protect Eli -- This one is no secret. If the Giants keep Manning on his feet, No. 10 is going to do damage. He has thrown for a league second-best total of 1,579 yards and 10 touchdowns. Furthermore, in last year's NFC Championship Game, the 49ers sacked Manning six times and he still threw for 316 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Imagine what he'll do with time to drop back and pass?
Be Special -- This figures to be a physical, low-scoring game, so field position will be crucial. If David Wilson or Domenik Hixon can break off a couple of big returns on special teams, it will take the edge off the Niners' vaunted defense. On the flip side, the Giants have to get hands on Ted Ginn Jr. and Kyle Williams, who will be seeking redemption for his muffed punts in last year's title game.
Cruz Control -- Lost in all the dramatics of last year's NFC Championship victory was Cruz's stellar performance. He abused the 49ers with 10 catches for 142 yards. The Giants need another 100-yard game from Cruz, who is key to their second-ranked passing offense. Watch for him on third downs and in the red zone, as San Francisco is nearly impossible to run the ball on (No. 7 in the NFL).
Adam Martini is a freelance sports writer who proudly wears his Rodney Hampton jersey on Sundays during the football season. He grew up in Queens, N.Y. rooting for the Giants despite being surrounded by Jets fans. Adam follows back Giants fans on Twitter @PegCitySports.