NFC Championship Game 2012: New York's Front Four Will Lead Giants to Super Bowl

Justin WeltonAnalyst IIJanuary 21, 2012

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 01:  Jason Pierre-Paul #90 of the New York Giants reacts while playing against the Dallas Cowboys at MetLife Stadium on January 1, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

Did Alex Smith prove that he isn’t just a game manager in just ONE game against a lousy New Orleans Saints defense? That’s what I’ve been hearing, but I realize that fans live in the moment when it comes to sports. At least wait until he proves it again, right?

The New York Giants will provide a much different obstacle for Smith and the 49ers. That obstacle is their dynamic front four on the defensive line, a unit that will lead the Giants to a Super Bowl after their victory of the 49ers in the NFC Championship game.

Smith will see pressure all day from Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and several others. They will limit Frank Gore in the run game and be all over Smith in the passing game.

GREEN BAY, WI - JANUARY 15:   Osi Umenyiora #72 of the New York Giants celebrates after defeating the Green Bay Packers during their NFC Divisional playoff game at Lambeau Field on January 15, 2012 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Im
Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Umenyiora has struggled to stay on the field this season but he’s healthy at the correct time. He has recorded nine sacks, Tuck has five sacks and Pierre-Paul is the team-leader with 16.5.

The Giants have 20 more sacks (48 total) than their opponents this season; 15 more than the Saints. New Orleans gets the majority of their sacks on blitzes whereas New York can drop seven and rush four. That simple change in philosophies will create a major impact in the outcome of the contest.

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 08:  Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants reacts against the Atlanta Falcons during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at MetLife Stadium on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)
Al Bello/Getty Images

With their ability to rush the passer, their secondary, which has seen their share of struggles, has less time in coverage. However, they are coming together at the correct time as well so we are really seeing a team gel right in front of our eyes.

I’ll be the first to admit that Smith showed me something that I didn’t think he carried in their victory over the Saints—clutch factor. I didn’t expect him to match New Orleans point-for-point and lead the 49ers to a game-winning touchdown.

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JANUARY 14:  Head coach Jim Harbaugh of the San Francisco 49ers talks with quarterback Alex Smith #11 in the third quarter against the New Orleans Saints during the NFC Divisional playoff game at Candlestick Park on January 14, 2012 in
Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

However, just because he did this in one game doesn’t necessarily mean I’m convinced that he’s the real deal. One game in a seven-year career shouldn’t determine whether or not you are a legit quarterback in the NFL. Look at the entire body of work and then determine what you think.

If you take his two biggest pass plays away (37 and 47) he would have finished with 215 yards against the 30th ranked passing defense in the NFL. It was just one game against a porous defense.

I’ll be all on board if Smith plays well once again against a much better defense on Sunday. I just don’t see it happening because of the Giants front four. They will have the biggest impact on the outcome of the game and Smith will be the first to admit it when the clock strikes double-zeroes.

The Giants will be in the Super Bowl once again.

Prediction: New York 27, 49ers 20