In a year with three 5,000 yard passers, running games that don't matter, and the two worst defenses in the league getting home field advantage, we see a retro NFC Championship match up featuring two teams who like running the ball and defense.
The Giants come into the playoffs barely making it again, having to win a playoff game in Week 17 against the Cowboys to get into the playoffs. They were playing fairly well until that point, and carried that momentum into a dominating 24-2 defeat of the Atlanta Falcons in New York. They beat the Packers by playing perfect (and catching some breaks). They are built to win on the road. They have a dominant defensive line (mostly Jason Pierre-Paul) and try to run the ball (they have been more successful in the playoffs) to create a perfect upset recipe. Eli Manning has elevated his game all season, and is becoming an elite QB.
For the Giants to win: They need to get after Alex Smith and make him into the QB we all knew before this year. JPP should do the trick. If they can force him to play poorly, they can stop Vernon Davis and limit Frank Gore's runs. They don't have a wide receiver to really worry about. Against the 49er's defense, Eli will have to protect the ball and feed his talented collection of pass catchers. They must run the ball to stay honest, but not expect results. The Niners defense is really incredible. The veteran offensive line must keep the pass rush down.
The 49er's are a big surprise this year in Jim Harbaugh's rookie year. They play tough, physical defense, that stops the run and gets lots of turnovers. Their defense is young and awesome. Its only going to get better. Their offense is different. Its young and has some elite players in Vernon Davis, and an aging Frank Gore. Their offensive line for the most part is young and talented. Its built to run and be dominant. They have solid depth at running back, but only Michael Crabtree is (sometimes) their only good receiver. Alex Smith has improved a lot and takes care of the ball. He still isn't elite, but he can most likely get the job done. Their special teams are also solid. They played in an awful division, but stunned the Saints at home and looked impressive doing it.
For the 49er's to win: They need to play Niners ball at home. They have to shut down any Giant running attack and make Eli force passes, which almost always lead to mistakes. The offense needs to feed their playmakers and rely on special teams and field position to win the game. Its simple. Run and make timely passes, and make sure your defense stays awesome.
What will happen: This game was really tough to pick. I can honestly see both teams winning. When it comes down to it, I am going to have to go with the hot team. I think the Giants can stop the Niner's offense more and they will make enough plays to win the game. Both teams will be shut down offensively and it'll come down to what QB makes a big play. Eli will make one more play than Alex Smith, and the Giants will be in the Super Bowl again.