NFC Championship Game
New York Giants (11-7) vs. San Francisco 49ers (14-3)
Kickoff: Sunday, January 22 at 3:30 PM PST
Weather at Kickoff: 52°F, 15 mph wind (40% chance of rain)
Here are five things to watch out for in the showdown beating the Giants and 49ers:
The improbable run that has brought the 49ers one win from the Super Bowl is in large part due to Alex Smith’s redemption season. The former one number one draft pick, former potential draft bust, has now turned into a franchise and viable quarterback you can now count on to come through, not only in the clutch, but clutch in the playoffs. Smith proved not once, but twice he can match touchdown-for-touchdown with a Super Bowl winning quarterback and can come out on top. Smith will need to have similar results this week against the Giants with no turnovers, accurate on passes and coming through in the final minutes of the fourth quarter like he did against the Saints.
Alex Smith knows winning this game will silence the rest of the critics who think last weeks performance was a fluke and he cannot duplicate his success against the Giants. Smith has proven when he needs to lead his team back from behind, he is fully capable. See the games against the Eagles, Lions and some team called the Saints.
The key to the game is Smith because if he starts causing turnovers with interceptions, the 49es are doomed. But something tells me with only five interceptions during the regular season and zero last week against the Saints, Smith will not falter. Smith showed in week 10 against the Giants he can pass against them starting the game 12-for-13 passing. Smith will have a big day connecting with Vernon Davis and Delanie Walker.
In San Francisco it has rained steady from mid-day Thursday until late Friday night. On Saturday it rained off-and-on. Everyday here in The City regardless if it’s raining, there is a constant gust of wind. There is a 40% chance of rain at kickoff with the likely hood of rain increasing as the game goes on. Regardless whether it is raining or not, the field will not be in good condition. Sure, when the game starts the field will be presentable. But if you have seen previous Niner playoff games in January with rain before or during the game, it’s been a while so we understand if you don’t, the field becomes a mess shortly after the first quarter.
Yes, Niner fans get the Giants play in actual cold weather with wind and rain too. But the Giants play on a fake grass field that gives them more speed regardless of whether the field is dry or wet. This will not be the case in San Francisco. If the 49ers crappy stadium and field is ever a good thing, it is in playoff games with bad weather.
The Giants passing game will be shut down as much by the defense as the playing surface. With Giants wide receivers not being able to make the proper cuts on routes on the outside because of the wet and eventually muddy field, will cancel out a huge part of their offense.
Niners Tight Ends
This season I have developed a saying every time Vernon Davis scores a touchdown: “VD, VD! That’s a VD you want!” After screaming and crying in reaction to Davis’ game-winning catch against the Saints, I yelled the same thing. I have a feeling I will be saying this multiple times during the game for Davis. With Delanie Walker active and ready to play you know the 49ers are going to utilize both tight ends to take of advantage of the mismatches against the Giants linebackers and safety’s. Offensive coordinator Greg Roman has a game-plan with and without Walker playing, showing how big a role both tight ends will play in beating the Giants.
Niner fans will concede the Giants have a great pass rush that is…second to us. The 49ers offense can avoid the Giants pass rush by exploiting one-on-one matchups with Davis and Walker. Roman loves to run a lot of plays with two tight end sets. With Walker back in the lineup the offense gets another receiving threat and a good run blocker back on the field giving more options for Alex Smith.
49ers Rushing Attack
Alex Smith will need to score two touchdowns for the 49ers to have a chance to beat the Giants. What will set up Smith and the 49ers offense for touchdowns will be the rushing duo of Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter. The Giants have a very good defensive front-seven led by Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck and Jason Paul-Pierre, however the 49ers offensive line will be ready to limit the damage done similar to week 10.
The Giants will be looking to stop the run and will make the 49ers beat them with the pass. The 49ers will come out running against the Giants to set up the play action for later in the game. The 49ers offense will rely on the rushing game for the first three quarters, but the offense will start to take chances down the field in the fourth quarter. Gore was absent for much of the previous game against the Giants. You know he will be a focal point and the engine of the offense.
Everyone is talking about the 49ers and Giants great defenses and how this could be a low scoring game. I agree with that but you cannot put the 49ers defense on the same level as the Giants. The 49ers defense is much more physical and will either knock you out of the game or knock the football out of your hands.
The Giants defense will come out much like they did against the 49ers in week 10 by allowing one-on-one coverage on the outside daring Michael Crabtree and Kyle Williams to make a plays. Vernon Davis will most likely have Giants linebacker Michael Boley on him all day and he could see plenty of double team coverage. Similar to week 10 the Giants defense will stack eight and maybe nine players in the box to stop the 49ers rushing attack. Alex Smith showed not only in week 10 against the Giants but last week against the Saints that he will take advantage of one-on-one matchups for big plays.
49ers 27 Giants 25
The NFC Championship game will be one for the ages with the game coming down to the final minutes to determine a winner. The 49ers defense and special teams will make big plays to put the offense in position put points on the board. We will again see last minute magic by Alex Smith and the offense giving the 49ers the win. On ward to the Super Bowl!
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