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Tonight’s NFC Championship rekindles the rivalry between the San Francisco 49ers and the New York Giants. The teams will face off in their eighth postseason meeting in the last 35 years, this time with a trip to the Super Bowl in Indianapolis on the line. The 49ers lead the postseason series 4-3, but the Giants are 4-0 in NFC Championship games. Also, the Giants are looking to avenge a regular season loss and are the only team to win on the road so far this postseason (last week in Lambeau Field).
The last time the Giants went to Candlestick Park, it seemed their early season fourth quarter magic ran out. The Giants offense was rolling as Eli Manning converted two fourth-quarter fourth downs. Brandon Jacobs was powering through the highly-touted 49ers run defense. Then, the 49ers defense stopped a 4th-and-2 attempt at their own 10 yard line with less than a minute left in the game. The loss sparked a four-game losing streak for the Giants.
Now the Giants return to the West Coast for revenge. They are coming off a win against the No. 1 seeded Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field and feel like they can take on anyone. Even though the 49ers have running back Frank Gore back (he was injured in the first matchup), the Giants shouldn’t have trouble getting to Alex Smith and rattling his cage a bit.
What do you do when you have the worst running attack in the game and are facing the best run stoppers? Don’t worry. The 49ers pass defense is mediocre, and Eli Manning won’t have much trouble picking it apart. Brandon Jacobs had some success against the Niners in the regular season, but any numbers he puts up today will just be icing on the cake.
In the end I think this one will come down to experience. The Giants play well under pressure because they have experience playing as a unit. This is Alex Smith’s first relevant season, and 49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh is a rookie. Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning have the experience and grit to go into a hostile environment and win some tickets to Indy. While it would be fun to watch a Harbaugh-Harbaugh showdown in the big game, I don’t see that happening this season.