Richard Moore looks at a re-match of last year's NFC Championship game.
New York Giants (3 – 2) @ San Francisco 49ers (4 – 1)
‘Big Blue’ rediscovered their mojo, and much needed confidence after their last – gasp defeat to divisional rivals the Philadelphia Eagles, with a comprehensive 41-27 decimation of a lowly Cleveland Browns side that have now lost all 5 games, and once again sit afoot the AFC North basemen.
Victor Cruz was the standout performer connecting with Quarterback Eli Manning (65% completion rate, 10 touchdowns, and 3 interceptions so far) to find the end- zone on three separate occasions.
There were also significant contributions from Runningback’s Ahmad Bradshaw, 1 touchdown from 200 – yards on 30 carries, and David Wilson (seemingly back in Coach Tom Coughlin’s good books following his attack of ‘fumbleitis’ earlier in the season) 44 – yards on 2 carries, and 1 touchdown.
The Giants’ defense also came up big, forcing Brandon Weeden and the Browns into three costly turnovers, which in conjunction with the offensive fireworks, helped bring about, in the end, a comfortable win, thus getting them back above .500.
If the Giants have been inconsistent, Jim Harbaugh’s 49ers (4-1) have been one of the most dominant teams in the NFL this season, a dominance summed up quite brutally by a pulverising of the Buffalo Bills 45-3 last week, and a 34-0 blowout of the Jets in week 4.
With Alex Smith seemingly evolving from ‘game manager’ to fully fledged Quarterback, the 9ers look a good bet to repeat their play – off run of last year. Only this time of course, they’ll be hoping to go that one stage further by lining up at ‘The Mercedes Benz Dome’ on the 3rd of February, and they can lay down quite a marker by knocking off Eli and the Giants.
Verdict: In summary, Eli and the Giants will have their work cut out to stop a defence that’s suffocated opponents to the tune of 3 points in two games, and a team that will be boiling for revenge following their defeat in the NFC Championship game last year. It will be close, but I’ll be-tipping the 9ers, purely on the basis of home field advantage.
image: © anee.baba