San Francisco 49ers, Giants have plenty left to prove in coming months 

click to enlarge Niners quarterback Alex Smith showed he can win a big game against a good team, but he still has plenty left to prove. (AP file photo) - NINERS QUARTERBACK ALEX SMITH SHOWED HE CAN WIN A BIG GAME AGAINST A GOOD TEAM, BUT HE STILL HAS PLENTY LEFT TO PROVE. (AP FILE PHOTO)
  • Niners quarterback Alex Smith showed he can win a big game against a good team, but he still has plenty left to prove. (AP file photo)
  • Niners quarterback Alex Smith showed he can win a big game against a good team, but he still has plenty left to prove. (AP file photo)

Alex Smith this afternoon or the Giants this offseason both have plenty to prove.

After seven days of the 49er Faithful pushing his bandwagon, Smith has to build upon the “cold-blooded” status he earned during last week’s upset of the Philadelphia Eagles.

Smith showed he can win a big game against a good team. Definitely a step forward.

Now he has to cement the perception that he won’t be the reason the 49ers lose. He’s been a question mark for too long, tempting fans with oh-so-close performances — last year’s game against the New Orleans Saints comes to mind — only to burst that balloon with ugly turnovers en route to hair-pulling losses.

Smith has danced through the first four games without the big mistake taking a bite out of his momentum. With a quarter of the 49ers’ 2011 season in the books, Smith ranks eighth in the NFL with a QB rating of 97.7.

Exceeding expectations to this point has been easy for Alex because there were none. There are now, so things will be more difficult from here on for the 49ers starting quarterback.

His future depends on it.  

Same goes for the Giants and their future, which could depend on this offseason.

Brian Sabean says keeping the pitching staff intact long-term will be offseason priority No. 1. I agree. However, I think the biggest sales pitch he can make to those pitchers comes in two words: Prince Fielder.

Imagine the Giants posting a batting order featuring Buster Posey, Fielder and Pablo Sandoval written into the 3-4-5 spots, with Nate Schierholz batting second or sixth.

The heart of that lineup would put some runs on the board, and put smiles on the faces of Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum. Fielder in a Giants uniform would have to appeal to Sandoval, too, because Fielder would make Sandoval look skinny.

The Giants should see their offense improve simply because Posey and Freddy Sanchez return from injuries in 2012. Brandon Belt and Aubrey Huff will likely be in better form. And Brandon Crawford should grow into his role.

Unfortunately, that won’t be enough. Not after the way Lincecum and Cain suffered through a lack of run support this season.

Just imagining Fielder in a Giants uniform highlights how close this team is to being really, really good from April through October.

The Giants have to come to grips with swallowing the $40-plus million dollars owed to Barry Zito, and set out this offseason to prove there will be plenty of runs ahead.

Their future depends on it.

Tim Liotta is a freelance journalist and regular contributor to The Examiner. Email him at tliotta@sfexaminer.com.

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