The NFC Championship game was supposed to feature the high-powered offenses of the Packers and the Saints, but the Giants and 49ers thought otherwise.
The Giants embarrassed the Packers in Green Bay last week in a 37-20 win, and the 49ers beat the Saints, 36-32, in one of the greatest playoff games in recent memory.
Both teams feature tough defenses, but the offenses have come alive in the past few weeks for both teams.
New York Giants
The Giants clinched a playoff spot in the final game of the NFL regular season and have proved why they belong in the playoffs. In their first two postseason games, they have outscored the Packers and Falcons by a combined score of 61-22.
The G-Men finished the regular season with the worst rushing offense in the NFL but have picked it up in the playoffs. They ran for 172 yards against Atlanta, and for 95 against Green Bay. They eclipsed their NFL-low average of 89.2 yards in the regular season. The 49ers have the best rush defense in the NFL, so the running game might have a tough time getting going on Sunday.
The 49ers forced Drew Brees to throw 63 passes last week, and it is very possible that Eli Manning will have to throw the ball for the majority of the game. If the run game is shut down early, which it likely will be, Eli will be tasked with getting points on the board. He is entirely capable of being the focus of the offense and had to deal with the lack of the running game throughout the regular season.
When these two teams met in Week 10 the Giants’ defense played a solid game. The final score was 27-20 in the 49ers’ favor, but the Giants offense actually outgained the 49ers by 90 yards. The defense forced four field goals, but two interceptions by Eli proved to be the difference.
The defense for the Giants is at full strength and features some of the most skilled pass-rushers in the entire league. Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul are going to be a lot for the offensive line of San Francisco to handle, and they could give Alex Smith problems. They will have to get pressure early and stop the running game. The Niners rely heavily on Frank Gore, and stopping him early would force Smith to have to throw more than he would like to.
San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers are having a memorable season under first-year coach Jim Harbaugh and want to keep the magic going. They beat the Saints on a last-minute touchdown pass to Vernon Davis last week, but they will face a much tougher defense this week.
The Giants are not going to allow Alex Smith to throw for 299 yards as he did last week, and they will certainly not allow two touchdowns in the final two minutes of the game.
The key for the 49ers will be to try and establish the run game early. I mentioned before how tough the Giants’ defensive line is rushing the passer, so the Niners will have to find a way to be successful in the run game and keep New York off balance. They have had an entire week to prepare, so I am sure they have plans to combat the defensive line.
For Alex Smith, he will have to get Vernon Davis involved early and often. Davis will find a way to make a big play if given the chance, but he will be a main focus for the Giants. If he is tightly covered, Michael Crabtree will have to step up. He only had four catches for 25 yards last week, including a few key drops, and he is capable of much better results.
On defense, the 49ers must be prepared for a pass-heavy attack from the Giants. Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks always seem to find ways to get open, which means the secondary for San Francisco must make sure that there are no blown assignments. Any mistake will likely result in a touchdown for the Giants.
The 49ers have caught the attention of football fans across the country, but I just can’t pick against the Giants right now. Eli Manning will find a way to get a win, and the defense for New York is just too tough.
I picked the Patriots to win the AFC, so I am looking forward to the Super Bowl rematch between the Giants and the Pats’.
Pick: Giants 30 | 49ers 24
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers Game Info
- Giants-49ers Date: Sunday, January 22nd
- Giants-49ers Time: 6:30 ET
- Giants-49ers TV: FOX
- Giants-49ers Announcers: Joe Buck and Troy Aikman (with Pam Oliver and Chris Myers)
- Giants-49ers Point Spread: 49ers -2
- Giants-49ers Over-Under: 43