2012 NFC Championship: the 49ers Are the Hottest Remaining Playoff Team.

Tyler EmkenContributor IIIJanuary 18, 2012

Frank Gore
Frank GoreThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

Football is a game of momentum.  Everyone is comparing the New York Giants to the 2007 team or the Green Bay Packers from last year.  Eli Manning is playing lights-out, the Giants are running the ball again and the Giants defensive line made arguably the best quarterback in the league look tentative.  

What is being forgotten is the momentum that the San Francisco 49ers are currently riding into the NFC title game.

Think about this: Are the 49ers the most disrespected No. 2 seed ever?

It seemed to me that most football fans thought that San Fran was a good story that was about to meet its end.  Everyone likes the Jim Harbaugh angle and Alex Smith not looking like a total bust.  Even with a lot of good wins under their belt, nobody seemed at all convinced that they were really as good as their record.  

They didn't have a chance against the scary-powerful New Orleans Saints, who were assuredly going to meet the Packers in the title game.  San Francisco plays in the NFC West for God's sake!  Their rivals are the Seattle Seahawks, St. Louis Rams and Arizona Cardinals.  How good could they really be?

But they did beat the Saints and did so convincingly.  Every football expert said that Smith could never beat Drew Brees in a shootout.  Somewhat miraculously, the 49ers, who have struggled to score touchdowns all season, went blow for blow with the man who holds the record for most passing yards in a season.  The winning touchdown pass looked like it was made by him instead of Smith.

Maybe no one respects them because of the supposed "East Coast bias."  I live in Central Illinois and I only watched the 49ers twice this season before their divisional-round game.  They were not a good team at all last year, which means they didn't appear on any of the prime-time games.  

Everything I knew about them had less to do with what I saw with my eyes and more to do with what I heard.  They were good on defense but weak offensively.  Smith still couldn't lead a team to victory, but he had gotten better at not losing it for them.

I don't imagine that they are too upset about not being the most talked-about team in the league.  All season the 49ers were excellent while flying under the national radar.  They are used to this and they thrive off of it.  They like proving the pundits, their opposition and people like me wrong.

Listening to certain Giants talk, they seem like they are starting to believe their own hype.  In sports, that can be deadly.  It will be a close one, but I am going on record to pick the 49ers over the Giants, 23-17.  

If people do not know who the Niners are now, they will after Sunday night.