Friday, January 20, 2012

Giants: look ahead to 49ers

I am not going to start waxing nostalgic about the 2007 playoff run and compare it to the this year's because this run has not yet run its course, so complete comparison is not possible. I will say that through two games, the performance this year has been much more impressive. In the first two games in 2007, Giants had a solid, but not overwhelming win against the Buccaneers and a squeaker 4 point win against first seeded Cowboys. By comparison, Giants had a dominant wild card win against the Falcons with the defense shutting out Atlanta and winning 24-2. The second round this year was against a Packers team that was much stronger than the Cowboys who the Giants played in '07. Packers were close to undefeated this year and Giants absolutely spanked them winning going away, while the Cowboys win in 2007 was by the thinnest of margins. I am not saying this forecasts anything for the rest of these playoffs, just pointing things out.

I am really worried about the weather Sunday in San Francisco The forecast seems to change daily. Early in the week, there was near 100% chance that there would be precipitation from Thursday before the game all the way through Sunday. Now the forecast seems to have been revised - there will be rain in the few days prior to the game, but on Sunday itself, there is now a 40% chance of rain. Sloppy field and wet ball makes for unpredictable results. But actually, if the field is covered before the game, if there's not much wind, the offenses may not be too limited. People say that bad weather favors a running game over a passing game. But that may not be true - the thing that affects the passing game the most is bad wind, and the forecast is for only moderate winds. I actually think that passing game is enhanced by bad weather rather than hurt by it and the running game is hurt more. We'll see.

Harbaugh is a very good, creative coach. Giants have to stop the run and I think the inclination to play more man coverage in pass defense will work well this Sunday. For one thing, the TE is the main deep threat on the 49ers, the WRs are less likely to hurt you on deep pass routes. If they can handle Rodgers and his very dangerous deep threat WRs, the Giants should, at least theoretically be able to hold down Smith and his less-talented WRs.

Diehl needs to play a  good game this Sunday, the 49ers RDE Smith abused the Saints LT and caused lots of problems for the offense, frequently disrupting plays.

While the 49ers have a physical, mauling OL that does well in pass blocking, the word is that they do not do particularly well pass blocking. The hope is that the muddy field does not slow down the Giants pass rush and they can do a decent job getting after Smith. In a low scoring game, influenced by a sloppy field, turnovers will be even more important than usual. I said before the Packers game that if Rodgers was on his game, Giants would probably lose. I also said that the Giants had to play a very clean game offensively and clearly win the turnover battle. That turned out to be an accurate forecast - Giants turned the ball over only once to four by the Packers. Rodgers was off his game, due in large measure to Giants defense disrupting it, and Giants won easily. This week, Giants defense can afford to be aggressive with 49ers offense, who are less likely to make a lot of big plays than the Packers were. Giants limited Packers big play offense, giving up only one play greater than 20 yards the entire game. Giants need to do a good job covering and limiting TE Vernon Davis and, if so, will do a decent job limiting the 49ers offense. Everyone is making a big fuss about how well Alex Smith played last week and how he took a big step up as a strong NFL QB. I don't get it - Smith was pretty mediocre through 3 1/2 quarters and made 3 or 4 nice pass plays in the last few minutes to win the game. They were nice passes - I am not taking anything away from him. But still - 4 passes does not a game or a season make.

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