Saturday, January 21, 2012

Giants: NFC Championship game - Last Thoughts

Everyone agrees - all the experts, the analysts, the geniuses on NFL Network that this is a very evenly matched game. The 49ers are a very complete team, well coached, great defense, QB that is coming into his own and with their home field advantage, they are favored by a few points. But it is interesting to rewind the clock and set it back just a week, as we were coming into the Packers game and see how the wind was blowing then. Everyone agreed that the top seeded Packers were the best team in the NFC and most likely in the entire league. They were unanimously at the top of everyone's Power Ranking list and were deemed virtually unbeatable. They had the consensus league MVP in Aaron Rodgers, the best player in the league at the most important position on the field, had a host of elite skill position players around him that made their offense unstoppable, were well coached and were playing at home. It is true that the one chink in their armor was a weak defense, but even that was disregarded because despite the yardage they gave up, they did get a lot of turnovers and were opportunistic. In general, they seemed like a lock to go to the Super Bowl, the only thing they might have been missing was a prophesy from the Oracle of Delphi predicting their victory. So with all of that going for them, wouldn't you think that the team that knocked them out of the playoffs so convincingly would get props for doing so and get some consideration for being the "new" best team.

Apparently, that's not how it works. When a team loses, even a 15-1 team like the Packers, suddenly instead of throwing bouquets at the team that beat them, we reevaluate and discover all of their warts. Now, in retrospect, we say: the Packers are a one dimensional team, with a terrible defense, with an offense that is driven only by its big strike passing game but does not have it balanced with a good running game. Even their passing game, the strength of their team is suddenly exposed because they have diminutive WRs that can be pushed out of their comfort zone if you are physical with them at the line of scrimmage. On top of that, instead of calling them well coached, we are finding all of the mistakes the coaching staff made during this game. So, now the take is that - instead of knocking off the 15-1, top seeded, best team in the NFL, the Giants beat a flawed team, that any decent team should have beaten and they needed a lucky Hail Mary at the end of the half to do it.

The truth is probably somewhere in between - Rodgers is a great player and the Packers rode his back to that 15-1 record. But the Giants are a much better team than they showed during those first 14 games of the regular season and should be given some credit for that.

With all that said, the 49ers are a solid team and have to be given some props for knocking off the high powered Saints. But a simple analysis might be - Giants have a stronger passing game and offense, and if the Giants defense of the last few weeks shows up, they should be able to give a representative showing against the less explosive 49ers offense. I've been saying all along that weather could be a factor because it limits the effectiveness of offenses and could undercut the Giants advantage there. If it becomes a low scoring, field position struggle, special teams could become a factor and the 49ers have an advantage there.

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