NFC Championship: So Hard to Predict
The New York Giants are playing good football.
In three consecutive weeks the Giants have made the Cowboys, Falcons, and Packers; all explosive offenses in their own right, look rather mediocre. And they are doing it with fierce pass-rushing from big, athletic edge rushers like Justin Tuck, JPP, and Osi Umenyora. Meanwhile, the Niners offensive line has struggled to keep Alex Smith on his feet throughout large stretches of the season. Beginning on Thanksgiving night, when T-Sizzle and the Baltimore Ravens sacked Alex Smith 9 times, the Niners pass protection has been rather bad, giving up at least two sacks in every game besides the Monday Night dismantling of the James Harrison-less Steelers. These late-season struggles were frustrating, profanity-inducing and, oh yeah, happened against the Rams and Cardinals.
Recipe for disaster, Right?
Potentially. But, truth be told, I don’t know what is going to happen on Sunday.
At the farthest extreme, we can imagine a game where the Giants D-Ends beat Joe Staley and Anthony Davis (who if you don’t follow on Twitter, start immediately) all around the field and the pressure disrupts all offensive execution. But we can just as easily imagine the opposite, where Harbaugh, Roman and company go to Double-Tight packages, Jumbo formations, or Traps and Screens (similar to the Detroit game) and use the Giants pass-rushing ability against them.
And that is the beauty of playoff games, especially the Conference Championships. These teams are all talented, well-coached teams that have executed in crucial situations to get to this point. For every point in one teams’ favor there is an equal counterpoint:
“Eli’s better than Alex.”
“But Alex led the 49ers on TWO 4th Quarter comeback drives, and, Eli’s inconsistent”
“You can’t stop Cruz, Nicks, Manningham, and Ballard.”
“The 49er’s secondary is better than its getting credit for”
Therein lays the excitement of this game. I cannot think of a single factor significant enough that would decide this game. The Niners defense and Giants offense are both very good. The Giants defense and 49ers offense are both average.
And I think that’s a good thing. We cannot decide the game before it starts, and there’s fun in not knowing. Pure, unadulterated fear also, but…fun. Since the first game, new questions have arisen and answers have been found. Plus, the first game came down to last second heroics by the surefire (in my humble opinion) Defensive Player of the Year. It’s a true toss-up in my book.
But, I like the 49ers 21-20.
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