Giants vs. 49ers: Why New York Is Favorite in Rematch
How can the New York Giants be the favorite in the NFC Championship Game against a team they lost to in the regular season?
The Giants were bested in Week 10, losing to the San Francisco 49ers 27-20, but New York is filled with a new-found confidence.
Manning has been playing as well as any other quarterback, and the Giants passing game is a deadly weapon.
The 49ers have been bothered by good pass-rushing team before, and New York should be able to get to Alex Smith often.
Also, the Giants wide receivers create some mismatches, and if it is a high scoring contest, then the 49ers likely can't keep up.
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It's no secret that the New York Giants have a better passing game than the San Francisco 49ers.
While Manning had 16 interceptions to Smith's five, the nearly 2.000 more passing yards and trying to fit throws into tighter windows account for those statistics.
In the postseason, Manning has played even better. He has passed for 607 yards and six touchdowns while only throwing one pick.
San Francisco does have an elite defense. The 49ers rank fourth in overall yardage allowed and first against the run, but they are not nearly as good at stopping the passing attack.
The 49ers defense ranks just 16th against the pass and give up 230.9 yards per game.
Throughout the season Smith has been an excellent game manager, but Manning has had to put the team on his shoulders game after game. Expect Manning to take advantage of the San Francisco passing defense and carry his offense once again.
And the players Manning gets to throw to aren't so bad either.
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The receivers for the New York Giants create major mismatches. Victor Cruz, Mario Manningham and Hakeem Nicks are all capable of having big days against the San Francisco 49ers.
During the regular season, Cruz actually led the team in receiving yardage with 1,536 followed by Nicks with 1,192.
During the playoffs, it has been Nicks who has taken charge. He has 280 yards and four touchdowns in just two games.
Manningham has 99 yards and two postseason touchdowns, while Cruz has racked up 102 yards.
There is no particular pecking order with the three. Whoever is open will get the ball.
And when a team thinks it has all three locked up, tight end Jake Ballad sneaks off the line of scrimmage and makes a big play. He actually was the Giants' third leading receiver during the regular season.
Manningham missed a number of games and still had one more reception (39 catches for 523 yards), but Ballard had 604 receiving yards and was tied with Manningham with four touchdown catches.
The San Francisco 49ers only have one lockdown cornerback in Carlos Rodgers, and if he decides to cover Nicks, Manning won't have to throw in his direction with so many other options available.
Nicks has great hands, but if he can't get free from Rodgers, Manning won't throw him the ball.
The Giants do have Vernon Davis to contend with, but expect New York to pay him a ton of attention forcing Alex Smith to throw to Michael Crabtree.
Can the 49ers Score If Needed?
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The San Francisco 49ers offense has struggled all season long.
There is no question that the 49ers stepped up on offense in the fourth quarter against the New Orleans Saints. They reeled off two touchdowns and a field goal scoring 16 points to win the game, but before that, the offense hadn't done a whole lot.
San Francisco was among the worst offenses in the NFL during the regular season. It ranked 26th in total yardage per game with 310.9. The 49ers were 8th in overall rushing yards per game with 127.8, but their average passing yards per game was 29th best (183.1 yards per contest).
The biggest worry for the 49ers should be getting behind early. They are best when they can dominate on the ground. If the Giants take the an early lead, then the 49ers just don't have the firepower to come storming back.
And if the Giants' pass-rush can take Vernon Davis out of the game, then the San Francisco offense will look even worse.
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The New York Giants' pass-rush will give the San Francisco 49ers fits.
The 49ers offensive line has been much better at run-blocking than pass-blocking this year. During the regular season, the Giants gave up 44 sacks. Only six teams allowed more sacks than the 49ers.
And even if Alex Smith didn't go down with a sack, he still got hit quite often. The quarterback was hit 82 times, and that is ninth worst in the NFL.
If the pass-rush is too much for the offensive line to handle, then Vernon Davis might have to stay in to block on the line of scrimmage as well (something that was seen during the regular season.
Taking Davis away as a receiving threat would give the Giants a decisive advantage.
A Different Team
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The New York Giants aren't the same Jekyll and Hyde team that fans saw during the first 15 weeks of the regular season.
The Giants had some incredible wins and some embarrassing losses. The last lost of the season was to a sub-par Washington Redskins team in Week 15. The matchup wasn't even close and the game ended with a 23-10 Redskins' victory.
Since that Week 15 loss, the Giants have been a different team.
They won their last two games of the regular season against the New York Jets and Dallas Cowboys, and both games could have potentially knocked the team out of the postseason race (the game against the Cowboys became a must win.)
During the Giants' four-game winning streak, the team has averaged 30.25 points per game. They have allowed their opponents to score just 12.5 points per game.
Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs have been playing much better as well. During the regular season, Bradshaw averaged 3.9 yards per carry and Jacobs just 3.8
Now, through two postseason games, Bradshaw is averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Jacobs is running for five yards per carry.
The whole team is playing well, and even though the San Francisco 49ers are at home, stopping the surging Giants will be no easy task.