For those of you who have read my first couple of FanPost entries, you should figure out by now that I'm a football discussion programming junkie. This morning, while watching "ESPN First Take," one of the topics they tackled was which team out of the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants is currently on a bigger "roll" coming into the NFC Championship Game. Admitted 49er fan Jemele Hill, who I respect because she's always been able to put her "fan-dom" aside when providing her analysis made great points about the Niners being the hotter team right now, but the rest of the panel all disagreed for various reasons.
I think they all missed one big point that tells me that the question of "who's hotter" really doesn't matter.This season, the Niners have come up against so called "hot" teams more than once, and prevailed in all of the games with the exception of the road game in Arizona (when they had already clinched their spot in the playoffs). First, let's look back to the game in Detroit against the then 5-0 Lions. Calvin Johnson, at the time, was on pace to have 28 touchdowns on the year. Matthew Stafford was playing lights out at quarterback. This was the game where the 4-1 49ers were going to get brought back down to earth.
But the 49ers went into the Lions' house and not only knocked them off their pedastal, but shook the confidence of that VERY confident team to their very core.
Fast forward to last weekend.
The Saints hadn't lost since the embarrassing tumble they took in Saint Louis against the Rams, winning 9 straight games with a record breaking offense firing on all cylinders - and then some. Drew Brees, Darren Sproles, Jimmy Graham, Marques Colston, Robert Meachem - it didn't matter how good the 49er defense was, the general consensus among the "experts" was that there was just too much fire power for San Francisco to overcome,
Now the Saints are sitting at home licking their wounds, and it's the 49ers playing in the NFC Championship game.
So here we are again, with a slight caveat. The "red hot" New York Giants are coming back to town, flying high after a huge victory over the Green Bay Packers. Las Vegas seems to see the Niners as slight favorites, but most of those so-called "experts" are once again pointing at the team that's "on a roll" - citing the fact that Ahmad Bradshaw's now healthy, they're back to full strength at defense, basically saying "This isn't the same team that was one batted pass away from tying the game and potentially sending it to overtime."
This 49er team isn't the same team that the Giants faced in week 10 either. Frank Gore was missing for the bulk of that game, and Vernon Davis has finally wrapped his head around this offensive system and has been proving it the past few weeks. Delanie Walker's potential return to the field also gives San Francisco another major weapon back. Alex Smith has broken out of the "game manager" title that people had been placing on him all season and is playing with a confidence that I haven't seen from a Niner signal caller in over a decade. And that confidence has spilled over to the rest of the team - all beautifully orchestrated by Coach Jim Harbaugh.
On top of that, the 49ers offensive goody bag is much deeper than it was in week 10, as it's been well documented that installing the full playbook has been a season long process by the Harbaugh regime. Add that into the fact that the Niners run defense is still the best in the league, and the pass rush will generate pressure on Eli Manning with less than five players coming, including Aldon Smith, who's been playing his best football in the last quarter of the season and into the Saints game. With the rainy conditions that are forecasted for Sunday's game, "elite" or not, I believe that Manning will be forced into making some bad decisions that this ball hawking defense will be more than ready to capitalize on.
Yes, the Giants are playing great football right now, I'm not denying that at all. But the fact that they're so "hot" and on "major roll" really doesn't play into evaluating just who is going to be heading to Indianapolis for this year's Super Bowl. The better, more complete team should win on Sunday afternoon, and I don't think that there's any question that the 49ers are the most complete "team" left in this year's crop of Super Bowl contenders.
Unstoppable force, meet immovable object. The "red hot" New York Giants are heading back to Candlestick, but it's not going to be the rain storm currently passing through the Bay Area that cools them down.