Last week it was all about the nine year wait for a playoff game. This week, a 15 year wait ends as the 49ers host and play in their first NFC Championship game since 1997. Last week they were able to defeat the Saints, who came marching in on a roll, winniners of nine straight and seemingly unstoppable. After pulling off that win, it seemed assured that the Niners would have to travel to Lambeau Field and try to knock off the Packers. Instead, the New York Giants took the mantle of the hottest team in football and obliterated Green Bay. Everyone is in love with the Giants and how they are playing right now. Visions of 2008 are dancing in their heads. The Giants certainly present a challenege but trust me, the Niners are much happier to be at home against them, then they would have felt having to go to Green Bay.
These two teams met in Week 10 in San Francisco and the 49ers held on to a 27-20 victory. The book on the 49ers before that game was that if you stopped the run, they couldn’t beat you. Frank Gore was hurt early and the 49ers only ran for 77 yards. However, in a sign of things to come, Alex Smith picked up the slack and the defense forced two Eli Manning interceptions. In this weekend’s game, Gore is now healthy and should play a full game. The 49ers need to say committed to the run and get that established. After his game last week, the Giants will make Vernon Davis a priority. Davis beat the Giants for a touchdown in the first game, and without his herculean efforts last week, the 49ers would be sitting at home right now. The 49ers did allow a bunch of points to New Orleans last weekend, but also forced 5 turnovers. The 49ers defense is not just opportunistic, they also make running the ball virtuall impossible. Part of the Giants rebirth has been that their running game finally woke up. They were without Ahmad Bradshaw in the first game and he definitely scares me more than annoying trash talker Brandon Jacobs does. The Giants were a team that couldn’t run the ball until a month ago, and I think the 49ers defense can force the issue and make them one dimensional. Eli Manning has been very good this season, but he is still prone to throwing some bad balls, which leads to the Eli shoulder shrug. I think Eli is good for at least one or two interceptions in this game, as he will try to force the issue. This will be a competitive, back and forth game, and I don’t expect it to be the high scoring affair that Saints/49ers was last week. However, I think the 49ers are a more disciplined team and will avoid costly mistakes. Turnovers will be the difference as the 49ers head to their first Super Bowl in 18 years.
College Basketball – Top 25
Wake Forest (10-7, 1-2) at #4 Duke (15-2, 3-0), ESPN, 7:00 PM ET.
#17 Virginia (14-2, 1-1) at Georgia Tech (8-9, 1-2), 8:00 PM ET.
#8 North Carolina (15-3, 2-1) at Virginia Tech (11-6, 0-3), ESPN, 9:00 PM ET. Looking like another NIT year for the Hokies.
#25 Illinois (15-3, 4-1) at Penn State (9-10, 1-5), ESPN2, 9:00 PM ET.
Pepperdine (7-10, 1-5) at #23 Saint Mary’s (17-2, 6-0), 10:00 PM ET.
New Orleans (3-11) at Houston (7-7), 8:00 PM ET. Still liking it in Nawlins, Chris Kaman and Eric Gordon?
Los Angeles Lakers (10-5) at Miami (9-4), TNT, 8:00 PM ET. Will be shocked if Lakers win, have been a terrible road team thus far.
Dallas (8-7) at Utah (9-4), TNT, 10:30 PM ET. Dallas suffered another excruciating loss last night.
Minnesota (22-17-7, 51 pts) at Toronto (22-18-5, 49 pts), 7:00 PM ET.
Boston (29-13-1, 59 pts) at New Jersey (26-17-2, 54 pts), 7:00 PM ET.
Pittsburgh (24-17-4, 52 pts) at New York Rangers (29-11-4, 62 pts), NHL Network, 7:00 PM ET.
New York Islanders (17-21-6, 40 pts) at Philadelphia (27-13-4, 58 pts), 7:00 PM ET.
Nashville (26-16-4, 56 pts) at Columbus (13-27-5, 31 pts), 7:00 PM ET.
Edmonton (17-24-4, 38 pts) at St. Louis (27-12-6, 60 pts), 8:00 PM ET.
Buffalo (19-22-5, 43 pts) at Winnipeg (21-20-5, 47 pts), 8:30 PM ET. I guess all those amenities aren’t making much of a difference in Buffalo.
Detroit (30-15-1, 61 pts) at Phoenix (21-19-7, 49 pts), 9:00 PM ET.
Calgary (21-20-6, 48 pts) at Los Angeles (23-15-9, 55 pts), 10:30 PM ET.
Ottawa (26-16-6, 58 pts) at San Jose (26-12-5, 57 pts), 10:30 PM ET.
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