[credit provider=”Wikimedia Commons”]
Despite going 13-3 this season and going punch-for-punch in beating the New Orleans Saints last week, the San Francisco 49ers aren’t getting a whole lot of respect going into the NFC Championship game this weekend.All of CBS Sports’ NFL writers are picking the Giants to win and so is SI.com’s NFL blogger.
Sports books are also seeing most of the money going for the Giants.
The New York Giants are the hot, sexy team right now, but if last week’s thrilling last minute victory against New Orleans is any indication you shouldn’t overlook this year’s most surprising NFL team.
Punishing run defence: The Giants finally brought a balanced attack in their playoff victories over the Atlanta Falcons and Green Bay Packers by putting up 172 and 95 rushing yards, respectively. But the 49ers boast the best rushing defence in the NFL by a long shot, giving up an average of 15 fewer yards per game than the second best rushing D, Baltimore. They also held the sixth best rushing team, New Orleans, to a meager 37 yards last week.
Alex Smith can air it out if he needs to: Although many see 49ers quarterback Alex Smith as an afterthought, he beat the Saints at their own game last week by putting up 299 yards and throwing for three scores. Also, don’t forget the Giants pass defence was one of the absolute worst in the entire league (holding Matt Ryan and Aaron Rodgers in check the last two weeks may be more exceptions than the rule).
49ers beat the Giants once already: Yes, New York had more plays and total yards in their first meeting (apparently enough evidence for one expert to say the better team lost that day), but they lost because they only went 1-4 in the red zone and Eli Manning was picked off twice. Eli’s been mostly clean this postseason, only throwing one interception against Green Bay. San Francisco’s secondary creates A LOT of turnovers, though, with three 49ers defensive backs totaling at least four INTs each this season and two more picks coming against Drew Brees last week. Giants fans don’t need another reminder of how Eli likes reverting to his old mistake prone and worried-self from time to time.
VERNON DAVIS: San Francisco’s star tight end is on an absolute tear lately, with 15 catches for 298 yards and two TDs his last two games. New York is likely to throw a combination of linebackers like Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka and safety Antrel Rolle at Vernon Davis. The problem with this strategy? Giants’ LBs will struggle to keep up with him and the secondary will have a difficult time bringing down his 6-3, 250 lbs. frame.