How many people predicted this NFC Championship matchup? Although many thought either the gritty 49ers or the surging Giants had the chops to reach the NFC title game, there was little evidence to suggest both would be here while the high-flying New Orleans Saints and Green Bay Packers sit at home!
In an era of touchdown football, the 49ers-Giants matchup should be a tough, old school slugfest. The 49ers are a pugnacious group that has taken on the aggressive personality of their new coach, Jim Harbaugh. Long a talented but underachieving group of players, the 49ers have now paired potential with production and are the best remaining team in the NFC.In particular, their defense, led by linebackers Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman, is fast, mean, and adept at getting into opposing team's backfields.
The Giants, like their 2007 predecessors, are a late-blooming group that is peaking at the right time. But New York has been deceptively good all season; up until a month ago they were hamstrung (no pun intended) by a long rash of injuries on the defensive line and in the secondary. But, with everyone healthy on defense and Eli Manning clicking with new top target Victor Cruz, the Giants are the most dangerous team left in the playoff field.
So, which team will be going to the Superbowl? It's a tough game to call; not least because these groups have similar, defensive personalities. The 49ers are at home, playing with a chip on their shoulder, and have a defense capable of shutting down Eli Manning on third down. Manning's third down conversions have been a critical part of the Giants success, particularly in their win over the Packers, but no one is better than the 49ers in closeout and red zone situations. However, the Giants also have the defensive front to bring consistent heat on Alex Smith and force him to make bad decisions and the 49ers do not have the offensive weapons needed to keep the Giant's defensive playmakers occupied. It will be a tough, defensive slugfest and whichever team can make the few big, game-breaking plays will take home the victory. My bet is on the GIANTS.
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