Super Bowl Predictions 2012: 5 Reasons Why the NFC Will Conquer the AFC
Saying that the Super Bowl will be dominated by the NFC may be considered a facetious remark, but the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers have all the tools to pull out an easy victory against their AFC opponents.
Both the 49ers and Giants have been playing great football, and they have beat two teams that were considered to be Super Bowl favorites in the Green Bay Packers and the New Orleans Saints.
Vernon Davis is a mismatch for any team and the San Francisco defense is elite.
The New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens have major deficiencies as well. One team's problems are on offense while the other's shortcomings are apparent on defense (it isn't hard to guess which).
New York Giants' and San Francisco 49ers' Confidence Level
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The San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants are brimming with confidence after taking out two of the top contenders for the Super Bowl in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs.
The 49ers played the New Orleans Saints, and the game ended with one of the most exciting fourth quarters of the season.
The two teams put up 34 combined fourth quarter points, and the game ended with a 36-34 San Francisco victory.
The Saints were scorching hot going into the playoffs. They had won nine in a row before going against San Francisco. There weren't many people who thought the 49ers could handle New Orleans' offensive firepower, but they did. Alex Smith was able to run for a touchdown and hit Vernon Davis with just a few seconds on the clock to pull off a victory.
The New York Giants have been on quite a run, too. The team has basically been playing elimination games since Week 16. The Giants had to win two straight regular season games against the New York Jets and the Dallas Cowboys (although the Jets game wasn't needed after the fact). Since then, the Giants dominated the Atlanta Falcons and went into Green Bay to devastate the Packers.
The NFC teams have a ton of confidence right now, and they should with the way that they have played recently.
Vernon Davis and the San Francisco 49ers Defense
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Simply put, there is no one in the NFL capable of shutting down Vernon Davis on their own. The New Orleans Saints found that out the hard way after Davis dropped 180 yards and two touchdowns on the team that decided to play him in single coverage.
At 6'3", 250 pounds, the former Maryland star has blazing speed and ran a 4.38 40-yard dash at the NFL scouting combine. Davis is too strong for cornerbacks and safeties (and faster than most), and he is much quicker than linebackers.
While double-teaming Davis is one way to try to stifle his production, he is excellent at catching the ball in traffic. If Alex Smith can get him the ball, Davis is hard to stop.
The San Francisco 49ers have a couple of playmakers on defense as well.
During the regular season, the 49ers defense was fourth in yardage allowed and best in the NFL against the run.
The team didn't allow a single running back to gain 100 yards against them until Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks (Marshawn Lynch was the only player who did so all season).
San Francisco is 16th against the pass, which could be problematic against the New England Patriots. However, the Patriots don't run the ball often, so the defense can focus on stopping Tom Brady and the passing game.
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The New England Patriots defense did have a solid game against the Denver Broncos, holding them to just 10 points. However, that performance was more because of Tim Tebow's struggles than anything else (although the game plan set to stop him was solid).
New England will have much more trouble stopping the San Francisco 49ers or the New York Giants.
The Giants are starting to become more balanced in the playoffs, but Eli Manning can match Tom Brady's prolific offense through the air. The 49ers will run the ball down New England's throat. When the Patriots move up the safeties to help, Alex Smith will start throwing over the top.
The Patriots defense are only allowing 252 yard per game (best in the playoffs), but their regular season totals are a more likely indicator of how the New England defense will play.
New England gave up the second most yardage of any team (only ranked higher than the Green Bay Packers).
While the Patriots defense has played better in their only playoff game, expect the defense to struggle against the NFC.
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Admittedly, the Baltimore Ravens played a strong defense in the Houston Texans in their only playoff game, but Baltimore is dead last in offensive yardage among all 12 playoff teams this postseason.
In the Wild Card Round, the Cincinnati Bengals even put up more yardage against the Texans. The Bengals gained 300 yards against the Texans to the Ravens' 227 total yards (and Cincinnati hasn't been a offensive powerhouse this season).
The Ravens' offensive problems are nothing new. The team was a middle-of-the-road 15th in total yardage gained during the regular season, and the vast majority of their offensive production came from running back Ray Rice.
The New York Giants pass rush could give Flacco serious problems. Now, if the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers again, it will be tough for Flacco to put the team on his shoulders with Rice being taken out of the game by the top-ranked run defense (like in Week 12, Rice's rushing and receiving production will be minuscule).
The Ravens bested the 49ers 16-6 in Week 12 in a defensive matchup, but the San Francisco offense will play inspired and won't been as ineffective this time around.
New York Giants Passing Game and Pass Rush
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The New York Giants have been hurting defenses through the air all season. The Giants were averaging the fifth most passing yards per game during the regular season, and Eli Manning was ranked fourth overall in passing yard behind Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford.
Manning and the Giants are keeping up the aerial assault during the playoffs as well.
New York is averaging 297.5 yards per game in the postseason. The Giants' trio of deadly wide receivers, Mario Manningham, Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, has a plethora of receiving yards. Nicks has four touchdowns and Manningham has two.
Only one team in the playoffs can match the Giants' passing attack—the New England Patriots—but Eli Manning won't have to face his team's stellar pass rush.
It is hard to get anything going when a quarterback is constantly being harassed, and that is just what the Giants defensive ends do.
The Giants have six sacks in two postseason games, and they were tied for third best during the regular season in sacks with the Baltimore Ravens after taking down the quarterback 48 times.
The combination of a high scoring offense and a superb pass rush gives the Giants the edge regardless of who they play.