With all due respect to the AFC, the most intriguing, thrilling, bone-numbing, anticipated match-up of the mid 1980s annually was when Parcell's New York Giants took on the San Francisco 49ers. Before Dallas' 90s resurrection and the subsequent string of championship games , New York and San Francisco were the class of the NFC. Both squads faced off no less than 9 times between 1985 and 1991, including the playoffs, and showcased some of the NFL's All-Time players, like Ronnie Lott, Joe Montana, Lawrence Taylor, and Mark Bavaro. When it came to this rivalry, their annual meeting was circled on the calendar by August.
But for the better part of two decades the rivalry fell into decay and, even worse, afterthought. Since then, while the Giants and 49ers have had their respective moments of success, no NYG vs SF game has been as equally matched as in the days of Parcells and Walsh. Those bouts lived on only in the memories of the players of those days, the lucky fans who remembered them so well, and on the dusty racks of the NFL film vault.
And 22 years is a long time to wait.
This Sunday, the New York Giants and the San Francisco 49ers will face off in the most widely anticipated meeting since the 1990 NFC Championship game. Both teams have bare-knuckle defenses. Both teams have explosive, offensive weapons. Both teams are leading their respective divisions. Both teams are looking to storm back into the playoffs. And both teams could really play this game out in the parking lot.
For true fans of professional football that should excite you. It's been a long time since a Giants vs. 49ers game has been so equally matched, with much on the line for both teams. The 2002 Wild Card game really was the final stand of the great 49er dynasty of the 80s and the death knell for the Giants 2000 Championship squad. Both franchises underwent major changes shortly thereafter, and pro football in many ways hasn't been the same since.
The San Francisco 49ers once-proud organization has been given new breath by the league's most dynamic new head coach, Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers are 7-1, off to their best start in 15 years while the Giants stormed into New England last week and handed the Patriots another 18-1 record they won't soon forget: the first NFC team to beat them in Foxboro in 19 tries. Both teams are looking to steamroll into the playoffs and a win on Sunday will serve notice to the rest of the league: New York and San Francisco are not to be taken lightly.
The 49ers defensive front seven--McDonald, Sopoaga, Smith, Brooks, Patrick Willis, Bowman, and Aldon Smith--cement San Francisco's defense and have largely contributed to their 7-1 start. The Giants, on the other hand, have the league's most explosive, and ever-rotating, front 4--Osi Umenyiora, Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul, and Chris Canty, and Mathias Kiwanuka; either one can single-handedly wreak havoc on the opposing offense.
49er Quarterback Alex Smith is perhaps the most changed player on the San Francisco roster. His improvement under Harbaugh has been exceptional and presents a tall order for the New York Giants secondary. But for the league's most exciting 4th quarter QB, yet another chance for Eli Manning to climb out of the long shadow of his older brother Peyton and prove just how dangerous he can be. He's been doing just that all season.
In August, no one thought this meeting would carry any importance, or be very intriguing and yet here we are: early November and opportunity enough for these two teams to write another thrilling chapter in the long historic rivalry between two storied franchises. May the best team win.