The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants square off in the NFC Championship game at Candlestick Park.  So before I get into what I feel would be the keys to victory for either team, I’ll run through a few “quick facts”

  1. This will mark the first time since the 1995 that San Francisco will be appearing in the NFC title game; a 38-28 win over the Dallas Cowboys, the third consecutive meetings between these two teams in the fixture (Dallas won the previous two contests).
  2. San Francisco beat Dallas 28-27 in the 1982 NFC title game (see: “The Catch”), kick-starting a run of dominance which featured 5 Superbowl wins, and would last well into the 90s.
  3. The 49ers and the Giants faced off during some memorable games during that time (see: Mark Bavaro), but the Giants got the better of the 49ers, posting a 3-1 record in the playoffs.
  4. The 15-13 win by the Giants in the 1991 NFC title game is the only previous meeting between these teams in this fixture.  The game is remembered for, among other things, the vicious hit by Giants lineman Leonard Marshall that not only knocked QB Joe Montana out of the game, but effectively ended his reign as the 49ers signal caller.  The Giants also knocked out Montana in a previous meeting (a 49-3 rout in the ‘87 playoffs), but I doubt it hardly compares to the latter.
  5. The 2003 Wildcard match was the last time these teams met in the playoffs, when San Francisco overcame a 24 point deficit to beat New York 39-38.
  6. The New York Giants boast a perfect 4-0 record in NFC title games.

San Francisco beat New York 27-20 in week 10, the first of four straight games that the Giants would lose, before righting the ship late in the season.  With wins over Atlanta, the defending Superbowl champ Green Bay, the Giants are easily the hottest team in the playoffs right now.

Keys to the game:

  1. Alex Smith: Last week, Smith stepped up to lead 2 late touchdown drives.  This was the kind of performance that had been expected of him when the organization drafted him #1 overall in 2005.  If anything, he may be probably be called upon to do the same this week.
  2. The D-Line: New York’s defensive line harassed Aaron Rodgers last week, but Green Bay’s line could not get to Eli Manning fast enough; that proved to be the telling difference in the game.  The Niners, who made life rather hard for Drew Brees for most of the game, will need to do the same to Manning, who can be turnover prone.
  3. The Giants receiving corp: Mario Manningham, Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz would be an asset to any quarterback.  Can San Francisco’s secondary manage to hold them off?

All things considered, expect a very entertaining fixture, and good luck to both teams.