Let’s be honest, I don’t think many of us expected the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants to be facing each other in the NFC Championship game.
The Niners shocked the nation this past weekend, defeating the New Orleans Saints with their own replica of “the catch” 36-32. This will be San Francisco’s first time appearing in the NFC title game since losing to the Green Bay Packers in 1998.
New York also surprised us by dismantling the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers at Lambeau Field 37-20. This will be the Giants’ second appearance in the NFC title game in the last four years.
Both of these teams met in week 10 of the regular season, in which the 49ers won 27-20, but things will be much different this time.
The G-Men enter this game full of confidence and have a good reason to. Their defense has been on a tear, shutting out the Falcons’ offense in the Wild Card and holding the Packers’ offense to 20 points in the Divisional Round. The defensive line has been superb as New York can relentlessly rush the passer without having to bring extra defenders.
Eli Manning has also silenced his critics after a helluva display in Green Bay. He is finally looking like the elite quarterback he claimed to be prior to the start of the season. It also helps with the big play receivers he has around him. With all the attention going to Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks has already gotten four touchdown receptions in the playoffs.
Although the Giants are red-hot, don’t expect the Niners to back down by no means.
San Francisco, in my opinion, are the best tacklers in the NFL, which why their defensive is so good. Their defensive backs don’t freeze up like a deer in the headlights and can make the play. They can also pressure the quarterback and stuff the run.
Many saw Alex Smith as the biggest question mark heading into the playoffs, but after last week’s heroics, I think he’s answered bell. For the first time, I saw Alex Smith play like the number 1 pick that he is. He made all the right throws, exploiting New Orleans’ man-coverage.
Even though Alex proved to us that he can sling the football, I don’t expect the Niners to change their game plan. They will go into this game seeking to pound the ground game and play solid defense. San Francisco leads the NFL in takeaways, therefore they will be looking to capitalize on the opposing team’s mistakes. The Niners are one of the league’s best in protecting the football and don’t beat themselves too often.
The Giants will need to focus on stopping the run and force Alex Smith to beat you. Yeah, Smith had a great outing last week, but let’s see if he can do that again. The secondary will need to have their focus on tight end Vernon Davis after his stellar performance last week.
As much as I dislike the Giants, I see them going into Candlestick Park and prevailing with a win.
The Niners may have a great defense, but I don’t see them stopping Eli Manning and the Giants. The Niners showed last week that you can throw the ball on them and score points. Eli is looking better than his brother Peyton right now and he will outplay Alex Smith.
Smith has had a great season thus far, but he will be exploited on Sunday. Smith has never been a great passer under heavy pressure. The Giants won’t be afraid to test him.
The 49ers’ defense will keep it close, but Eli and Co. will pull it out at the end.
New York Giants 27 – San Francisco 24