Dog’s Day When New York Battles San Francisco
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It’s all about the dogs when New York takes on San Francisco in Sunday’s second game during one of the year's biggest Pro Football betting weekends.  Both New York and San Francisco won their respective playoff games last weekend as underdogs.  New York upset defending champion Green Bay in a fantastic 37 to 20 performance where they forced last year’s champs into three fumbles.

San Francisco beat New Orleans in one of the toughest, most emotional football games ever in a 36 to 32 victory.  The lead changed hands three times with less than 2:15 on the clock in the 4th quarter.  San Francisco came out on top in stunning fashion by scoring a TD with only 14 seconds left in the game.

Keep reading for more info on this Sunday’s exciting championship game!

NFC Championship:  New York Giants at San Francisco 49’ers

When:  Jan. 22 at 6:30 pm EST

Betting Line:  San Francisco -2.5, Total 42.5   

Offense

Offensively, the New York Giants have been absolutely brilliant in their last four contests.  The G-Men have averaged 30.25 points per game in their last four.  Although beating up on the Dallas Cowboys, by scoring 31, and the Green Bay Packers and their 32nd ranked defense by putting up 37 is understandable, putting up 24 versus Atlanta’s 12th ranked defense in the Wildcard Round and rocking the New York Jets’ 5th ranked D with 29 points on Christmas Eve was ultra-impressive.

It all starts with Eli Manning for the G-Men when they have the ball.  Peyton’s little brother is now in the elite class after taking his team to the NFC Championship game only four years after upsetting the New England Patriots as the quarterback for the largest underdog in the history of the Super Bowl.  Eli has been sensational in the Giants’ last three games.  He produced a 136.7 QB rating against the rival Cowboys.  That victory gave the Giants the NFC East title.  Against the Falcons, Eli threw 3 touchdowns and no interceptions.  He also threw for 277 yards.  He finished with a 129.3 QB rating.  Versus the Packers this past Sunday, Manning threw for 330 yards and 3 TDs with only 1 pick for a 114 QB rating.

The Giants’ rushing attack has gotten better although it’s still ranked 32nd in the NFL.  The G-Men produced 172 yards on the ground versus the Atlanta Falcons, but last Sunday, in the Divisional Round, NYG could only rush for 95 yards against Green Bay.  Both Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are capable of racking up yards on the turf for New York and Eli is quicker and has more moves with his feet than brother Peyton.  The wide receivers are exceptional.  Hakeem Nicks is one of the best in the NFL.  Victor Cruz has the speed to break catches for long gains and Eli trusts Mario Manningham who has become a very good possession receiver.

The San Francisco 49’ers offense has gotten better and better this season.  The 36 to 32 victory over the Saints this past Sunday proves how efficient Alex Smith has become.  His pass to Vernon Davis, with only 40 seconds left, to set up the game winning TD was absolutely perfect.  Smith doesn’t throw for a lot of yards or a ton of TD’s but he rarely makes a mistake.  He’s tossed only 5 interceptions this season and hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 12.  That’s amazing.  Not only that, but the man is incredibly coachable meaning that all he wants to do is what’s good for the team.  He’s got a fantastic target in Davis who is also an incredible blocker and the usually sure-handed Michael Crabtree has developed a nice rhythm with Smith.

San Francisco’s offense is all about the run.  The 49’ers average 128 yards on the ground.  Both starter Frank Gore and back-up Kendall Hunter are capable of busting a long one and the Niners are incredibly disciplined meaning that they will stick to the rush for the entire game even if it’s not working early on in the game.  San Francisco has the luxury of being able to trust their rushing attack because of their strong defense.

Defense

Both teams bring stellar defenses to Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.  The New York Giants’ D held the Atlanta Falcons to 64 rushing yards, 183 passing yards and no points, in their wildcard victory. Atlanta’s only 2 points came on a safety.  Then, the Giants forced Green Bay into 3 fumbles and Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers into a pick and a 26 out of 46 night. That was easily the worst performance of the season for Rodgers.  The Giants’ defensive line is one of the best in the league.  Jason Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Chris Canty can all break double-teams meaning that the G-Men are very difficult to keep away from the QB.  The linebacking corp, led by Michael Boley and Mathias Kiwanuka, is very good, and safeties Kenny Phillips and Antrel Rolle are both exceptional playmakers. 

The most points that the Giants have given up since the victory over NYJ on Dec. 24th, was 20 to Green Bay last Sunday.  Since Green Bay had the best offense in the NFL this season, giving up 20 is nothing to worry about.  The Giants’ defense has simply been incredible in the past 4 weeks.

San Francisco’s defense is arguably the best in the NFL.  San Francisco’s D is ranked 1st in the NFL versus the rush, allowing only 77.2 yards per game, 16th against the pass, allowing 231 yards per game through the air, and 2nd in the league in scoring, allowing 14.3 points per game.  San Francisco’s 3-4 defense is very manageable. San Francisco’s coaches can switch to a 4-3 or even a nickel.  The defense is aggressive.  It forced New Orleans’ QB Drew Brees into two interceptions and RB Pierre Thomas into a fumble on the Saints’ first drive of the game.

Like the Giants’ frontline, the 49’ers can pressure the QB with three or four pass rushers.  Justin Smith was an absolute beast against the Saints in the divisional round victory while free safety Dashon Goldson had 11 tackles and a pick against the usually perfect Brees.

Betting Analysis

My first thought was that it’s going to be next to impossible for the San Francisco 49’ers to get motivated this Sunday after such an emotional game against the New York Giants.  Then, I suddenly realized that the San Francisco 49’ers are coached by one Jim Harbaugh and that the man could motivate a lemming to not jump off of a cliff.  Harbaugh won’t allow his team to take a seat back emotionally meaning that they’re going to be fired up to beat a Manning and get to the Super Bowl. 

The Giants are definitely no slouches, but as good as their defense is, I’m just not convinced that it matches up well with the San Francisco 49’ers offense.  The Giants’ D allowed the Jets to rush for 105 yards on the ground.  It allowed the Packers to rush for 147 yards.  Yes, the Giants shut down Dallas’s and Atlanta’s rushing attacks, but San Francisco won’t give up on the run in this game because they won’t get behind the Giants.  San Francisco’s defense is simply too good.  It can stop New York’s rushing attack without an extra man in the box, a luxury that the G-Men don’t have on D, and Goldson might be the best free safety in football.

My gut tells me that the San Francisco 49’ers are the team to back against the spread.  SF has the better special teams with kicker David Akers as good as it gets from 50 yards and beyond, punter Andy Lee averaging over 50 yards per punt, and the special teams forcing the Saints to fumble twice last Saturday. 

But the real reason I like the San Francisco 49’ers comes down to the play of the individual quarterbacks in this game, Eli Manning for the Giants, and Alex Smith for the Niners.  Eli has played very well lately, but he still threw 16 interceptions during the regular season and everybody saw how good the San Francisco 49’ers are at masking their defense in the secondary against Brees and the Saints.  Smith hasn’t thrown a pick since Week 12 and showed pinpoint accuracy with his passes to tight end Vernon Davis against the Saints.

Speaking of Davis, because he’s so good and so fast, Phillips or Rolle will have to guard him one-on-one when NYG is on D.  What it means is that the Giants, for all intents and purposes, might not be able to play 8 men in the box to shut down the 49’ers rushing attack.

All of the signs point to the San Francisco 49’ers marching on to the Super Bowl after beating the New York Giants and covering the spread on Sunday.  I’m backing the San Francisco 49’ers in the 2012 NFC Championship Game.

Pick:  San Francisco 49’ers -2.5