We were ‘money’ once again last week as we went 3-1 for the second week of playoffs. Here are our picks for this Sunday’s NFC conference championship game…
Giants over 49ERS- Funny how when the season began, following all the sexy additions made by the Philadelphia Eagles, that they were considered a ‘Dream Team’. It’s now the third week of January and we’re going into the last round of the playoffs; just 60 minutes away from the Super Bowl, and the N.Y. Football Giants have been more of a ‘Dream Team’ while the Eagles were more of a ‘Scheme Team’. Ironic…
First of all, this weekend all Giants fans ought to be very proud of their team. Mainly for the way they have turned it up a notch over their past four games in particular with wins over the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons, and the Packers. Suffice it to say, ‘Big Mo’ is totally on their side. And usually the team that’s the hottest going into the playoffs (think Green Bay last year), fares the best.
For San Francisco, kudos to Niner’s General Manager Trent Baalke for helping to turn around a franchise that hadn’t been to a playoff game in over a decade. From his signing of Jim Harbaugh who was coaching at Stanford, to 1st round pass rusher Aldon Smith who recorded 14 sacks this year, one less than the rookie record for sacks. From his decision to bring Alex Smith back for a one year deal to his signing of veteran kicker specialist David Akers. All the Baalke moves under Harbough’s coaching had transformed a 6-10 team of a year ago into a 13-3 team just one game away from the Super Bowl.
Even with the vast improvements to the club, the 49ers with all their talent simply do not have the depth of weapons that the Giants posses. “There’s Davis and Gore and not much more.” WR Michael Crabtree, their WR1 has compiled 874 yards on the season and 4 TD’s. His problem is he has always had a case of the ‘dropsies’ and it doesn’t get any better further down the depth chart; WR Kyle Williams 241-3 and Ted Ginn Jr. 220-0. Compare these wideouts to the Giants core of Nicks 1192-7, Cruz 1556-9, and Manningham 523-4 and there really is no comparison.
WR Michael Crabtree had three dropped passes vs the Saints last week (in 'perfect' weather) and loses one here vs the Raiders earlier this season. Photo: raidernationstation.com
Ah, but they have RB Frank Gore you say… Well his numbers are good; 1211 yards-8 TD’s. However, when compared to the combined 1220-16 that ‘Thunder & Lightning’, Bradshaw & Jacobs put up then Gore’s numbers are not as impressive. That leaves TE Vernon “I’m planning a post playoff game party” Davis who tallied 792 yards & 6 TD’s. Nice, but when you total TE Jake Ballard and Travis Beckham’s numbers they’re almost in line with Davis’; 700yards & 5 TD’s.
Which brings us to Alex Smith vs Eli Manning. Smith, while being an efficient quarterback this season and one not prone to turnovers (just 5 interceptions), finished the year passing for 3144 yards and 17 TD’s. Eli, a more clutch QB, having more come from behind 4th quarter victories this year than in most of Alex Smith’s career, finished the season with an amazing 4933 yards and 29 TD’s. Clearly the edge at quarterback, as well as total offense has to go to the Giants.
IT will be Eli Manning vs Alex Smith tomorrow in the NFC Championship game. Weather will not keep Eli from coming through in the clutch. Photo: CBS NY image
Defensively, the Niners are in the top three in the league but they still gave up 32 points last week to the Saints and 27 to the St. Louis Rams in the last game of the regular season; a game they almost lost. The Giants have given up 20 points-in their last TWO games combined! And the last one was to one of the most prolific scoring teams in the NFL; the Green Bay Packers. And just 14 apiece to the Jets and the Cowboys before that. That’s an average of just 12 points a game in their last four!
The Niners don’t have the pass rushing type of personnel like Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, and Jason Pierre-Paul. Where they do match up very well is with their linebacking core. They can get off the block as quickly as anyone in the league and, like the Giants, are a relentless, hard-hitting group.
So why did the Giants lose to the 49ers back in November? Simply put, they played the game without Ahmad Bradshaw, lost Aaron Ross near halftime, and were without standout Linebacker Michael Boley for half the game. In fact, when Boley got injured, S.F. scored 14 points in a span of just 61 seconds! And the Giants still could have tied the game with just 30 seconds left if not for a pass intended for a wide open Vuctor Cruz in the endzone been batted down.
Tomorrow, whether it rains or sleets, or hails, or snows, the Giants will win this game. Remember, if you are going to factor in the weather conditions, San Francisco has to play in the same conditions as the Giants. And it will be harder to tackle the elite receiving core of the Giants as they know where they’re going to run- the Niners defense doesn’t. And when you’re forced to make cuts as a back, that’s when you lose your footing the most. We’re hoping for a great game and one that’s officiated fairly…
This is the Trophy the Giants and the Niners will be playing for on Sunday, Jan. 22, 2012. Photo: sbnation.com