Friday, January 20, 2012

Hold On Folks

Everywhere I look, people are already gifting the NFC Championship to the New York Giants. Most, if not all, of the ESPN analysts are giving the Giants the win. 49ers supporters are in the minority, and this is unbelievable. Everywhere I go, people are saying that the Giants are the hottest team. I beg to differ on that account. The 49ers just came off their biggest win since 2003. They hung with and eventually beat one of the most gifted offensive teams in the New Orleans Saints. Yes, the Giants are probably a more complete team, but the 49ers have proved themselves in my eyes. They have a shot, and a very large shot at that, of beating the Giants and making it to the Super Bowl. To prove this, let's break down each matchup going into Sunday's game and award points on a scale of 1 to 10.

Giants passing vs 49ers pass defense
The Giants have three dynamic receivers in Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham and they could pose serious problems for the 49ers' secondary. They also have Eli Manning, whom I now consider one of the premier passers in this league. The 49ers have a decent secondary, however, including Pro Bowl cornerback Carlos Rodgers and Pro Bowl safety Dashon Goldson. The 49ers linebacking corps is one of the best in the league, featuring Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman on the inside. They also have one of the best pass rushes in the league, featuring sack machine Aldon Smith and total beast Justin Smith, who will have to overcome the Giants shaky offensive line. Solely because of the advantage in the receiver vs secondary matchup, I'll give this one to the Giants.
Giants: 1.5 points

Giants rushing vs 49ers rush defense
The Giants have two bruising backs in Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs, but I believe that plays to the strength of San Francisco, where Mike Singletary brought in a tough style of play which Jim Harbaugh has carried through. As stated before, the 49ers have two sure tacklers manning the inside in Willis and Bowman. In addition to the linebackers, the 49ers boast a strong defensive line of Smith, Isaac Sopoaga, and Ray McDonald who make it hard on any offensive line to generate push. The 49ers have been the best team against the run this year and they clearly have the advantage here.
49ers: 3 points

Giants kicking units vs 49ers return and field goal units
Giants' kicker Lawrence Tynes ranks in the bottom third of the league in field goal percentage. Past the 30 yard line, he's just 7 of 12 in the regular season. The 49ers have blocked a couple field goals this year. As far as punts, Giants' punter Steve Weatherford has a net punting average of 39.2. The 49ers return game will depend on whether Ted Ginn Jr. will be able to recover from his injury in time for the game. Ginn had some memorable returns early in the season and should give the 49ers decent field position.
49ers: .5 point

49ers passing vs Giants pass defense
Alex Smith has had a resurgence this year, despite having few weapons at his disposal besides Vernon Davis and Michael Crabtree and perhaps Frank Gore out of the backfield. The 49ers have no dynamic receivers to throw to. If Delanie Walker is able to play on Sunday, Alex Smith will be a happy man. Looking at the Giants defense, you have to start with their defensive line, including star lineman Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, and Osi Umenyiora. The Giants can get pressure by only rushing four men, and are therefore able to leave the rest in coverage. The 49ers offensive line allowed among the most sacks this season. If they can keep the pressure away from Alex Smith, the 49ers will be able to attack the Giants' weak secondary, but the Giants have the edge in this one.
Giants: 2 points

49ers rushing vs Giants rush defense
Frank Gore is a great runner, passing Joe "The Jet" Perry earlier this season for the most yards in 49ers franchise history. However, this Giants' rush defense is nothing to scoff at. They didn't allow the Packers or Falcons to have a 100-yard rusher in the playoffs this season. I talked about their defensive line earlier. The 49ers offensive line has had its struggles in pass protection but they are solid in the run game. San Francisco is a run-first team and this regular season, they pounded it out with Frank Gore, who rushed for over 1000 yards again this season. I think this one is a toss up between the Giants' powerful lineman and linebackers and the 49ers stout runnign game.

49ers kicking units vs Giants return and field goal units
The 49ers have both their kicker, David Akers, and punter, Andy Lee, heading to the Pro Bowl (although that'll be in doubt if the Niners win Sunday). Akers set a league record for field goals made in a regular season, with 44, and Lee had the highest net punting average. The 49ers also boast one of the best coverage units with star special teamers Blake Costanzo and Colin Jones. The Giants have a poor return game. Devin Thomas ranks 19th in kick return yards and Aaron Ross ranks 34th in punt return yardage. The 49ers will neutralize the Giants' return game and pin them deep in their own territory.
49ers: 3 points

Alright, now let's do the math...

Giants: 1.5 + 2 = 3.5
49ers: 3 + .5 + 3 = 6.5

When you break it down to each matchup on the field, the 49ers have the advantage. When you take into account the home field advantage as well, the 49ers look like the clear favorite in this game.

I'm not sure what everyone else is thinking when they pick the Giants. I'm firm in my belief that the 49ers will win this game and make it to the Super Bowl.

What do you think? Who do you think will emerge victorious in this NFC Championship?

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