NFC Championship Game: New York Giants Vs. San Francisco 49ers - Scouting Report

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - JANUARY 08: Justin Tuck #91 of the New York Giants reacts against the Atlanta Falcons during their NFC Wild Card Playoff game at MetLife Stadium on January 8, 2012 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images)

Sunday, January 22, 2012 marks the 42nd NFC Championship Game. It will be the fifth time that the New York Giants have made an appearance. They have never lost in this round of the playoffs and have split the games equally on the road and at home.

The San Francisco 49ers have made the second-most appearances in the Championship game, thirteen to be exact. Their record in this round is 5-7. Their W/L percentage is .500 at home (4-4). The Niners have lost their last four out of five games in this round.

It was 1991 when last these two teams met in the NFC title game. Joe Montana was throwing for the 49ers. Jeff Hostetler was filling in, quite well, for an injured Phil Simms. The Giants came out on top, 15-13. Now, these two teams will square off for the second time this season in, what is beginning to look like, another "Cinderella" story for the Big Blue Wrecking Crew.


Position-By-Position Breakdowns
-- The Offenses
-- The Defenses
-- The Special Teams


Who are the San Francisco 49ers?

They are a team who finished with the third-best record in the regular season, 13-3. They are a team who were one game out of last place in 2010. Sadly enough, they were also one game out of first, housed in a division that could have used a shot of Viagra. They are a team that defeated the Giants earlier in the year. That loss initiated a four game losing streak for Big Blue. They are also a team that has one of the top five defenses in the league and aim to shut down a ridiculously talented New York aerial attack.

Who are the New York Giants?

If you haven't heard by now, these are the same guys who sent the "best football team in history" to bed without any supper. Last week, the Giants bested the best in Lambeau Field, a place that is not easy to win at. They are currently on a four-game winning streak. So are the 49ers, with a week off in between, of course. One of these team's streaks will come to an end this Sunday. One team's journey will continue. Who will be crowned the NFC Champions this Sunday in San Francisco?

Passing:

Alex Smith is not one of the flashier quarterbacks this season. He did not throw for a gazillion yards. He hasn't thrown many touchdowns. He is not even in the top ten. In fact, he was the most sacked quarterback in the league. What he did do is throw the least amount of interceptions this year (5) and make the plays he needed to make that allowed his team to clinch a Bye week in the playoffs and their division.

ATT - 445

Comp - 273

YDS - 3,144

Comp % - 61.3

Yds/CMP - 7.1

TDs - 17

INT - 5

Sack - 44

QB Rating - 90.7

Alex Smith is ranked No. 19 in the league (PASSING YARDS).

His postseason QB Rating is 103.2 (1 game)

Eli Manning has officially finished his training at the Shaolin Temple and has earned his "elite" status. He is averaging 303.5 yards per game in the postseason. That is a nice number but his regular season average is even better. There is no question that this kid will finish his career in New York and his jersey number will be retired.

ATT - 589

Comp - 359

YDS - 4,933

Comp % - 61.0

Yds/CMP - 8.4

TDs - 29

INT - 16

Sack - 28

QB Rating - 92.9

Eli Manning is ranked No. 4 in the league (PASSING YARDS).

His postseason QB Rating is 121.8 (2 games).

Rushing:

Frank Gore finished the year out with 1,211 rushing yards, sixth-most in the NFL. He also got off to a bang-up start last week. He was the league's second-leading rusher with eighty-nine yards. This is where the Niners are most dangerous in their offensive scheme.

San Francisco's running game is ranked 8th in regular season play.

They are ranked 5th in the postseason (1 game).

It was a rough season for the Giants rushing game. The tandem of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw collectively ran for 1,230 yards, just nineteen yards more than Frank Gore. These are small numbers considering that Jacobs and Bradshaw ran for over 2,000 yards last season. Yet, they have picked things up a bit towards the end of the regular season and in the playoffs.

New York's running game is ranked 32nd in regular season play.

They are ranked 7th in the postseason (2 games).

Receiving:

Michael Crabtree led the Niners in reception yards (874) during the regular season. He recorded four touchdowns to boot. Vernon Davis came in second, with 792 receiving yards and six touchdowns. Last week, in the Divisional game, Davis led the league with 180 receiving yards. Those are big numbers when you factor in that he only had seven receptions.

The 49ers are ranked 30th in receiving yards (regular season).

They are ranked 5th in the postseason (1 game).

Victor Cruz was somewhat limited in his play last week. But "limited", as it pertains to Cruz, is not exactly a text book definition of the word. He had seventy-four receiving yards on five receptions. Opposing defenses have figured out that it would be a good idea to double and triple team him. That sort of scheming is not what one would call conducive to shutting down the Giants' offense. Hakeem Nicks is as equal a threat as Cruz is. Nicks has 280 receiving yards this postseason and has the most touchdowns, four. Also coming up big is Mario Manningham, Travis Beckum, Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. This receiving corps is very hard to successfully scheme against.

The Giants are ranked 5th in receiving yards (regular season).

They are ranked 2nd in the postseason (2 games).

Offensive Line:

The Frisco offensive line was able to punch holes in opposing defensive lines to get their running game going. Yet, they were not strong enough to protect Alex Smith throughout the year. Smith was the most sacked quarterback in the NFL. The way the Giants front four have been playing, this group is in for a long day.

San Francisco's Offensive Line is ranked No. 26 (regular season).

They are ranked No. 7 in the postseason (1 game).

The Giants' O-line have been quietly doing well all season long, statistically speaking. They gave up the fifth-least amount of quarterback sacks and the twelfth-least amount of quarterback hits. The running game wasn't prevalent this season. The jury is still out on if they should bear the brunt of the blame.

New York's Offensive Line is ranked No. 7 (regular season).

They are ranked No. 4 in the postseason (2 games).

The 49ers are ranked 26th in TOTAL OFFENSE (regular season).

They are ranked 5th in the postseason (1 game).

The Giants are ranked 8th in TOTAL OFFENSE (regular season).

They are ranked 3rd in the postseason (2 games).

Linebackers:

Frisco's NaVorro Bowman had the seventh most combined tackles (143) out of all the linebackers in the NFL during the regular season. Patrick Willis came in second on the team with ninety-seven combined tackles. Each had two sacks. But the real talent of this backer crew is, first-round Draft pick, Aldon Smith and Ahmad Brooks. Smith finished the year with fourteen sacks. Brooks with seven. The Giants O-line will have their hands full, as the Niners will undoubtedly be bringing the pressure.

The 49ers have the No. 1 ranked rush defense (regular season).

They are ranked No. 1 in the postseason (1 game).

They may have had their struggles earlier in the year. But they have it all together now. Michael Boley, who only had one sack during the regular season, put Aaron Rodgers on the ground twice last week. He ranks third in postseason tackles (14). Chase Blackburn comes in with thirteen tackles and a fumble recovery. Mathias Kiwanuka and Jacquain Williams also have been looking sharp .

The Giants have the 19th ranked rush defense (regular season).

They have the 5th ranked rush defense in the postseason (2 games).

Defensive Line:

The stand-out player on the Niners D-line is Justin Smith. He finished the year with 58 tackles, 7.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Ray McDonald put together 5.5 sacks, two pass deflections and two forced fumbles on the year. Aside from one sack in the postseason, this front three have been neutralized.

Easily the strongest and scariest part of this Giants defense. Jason Pierre-Paul was the leading tackler of all defensive lineman in the NFL. JPP also had the fourth-most sacks in the league. He is second in postseason tackles. In the postseason, they have been equally beastly. Osi Umenyiora has 3.0 sacks, a half sack out of the lead. Rocky Bernard has one postseason sack. Linval Joseph, Chris Canty and Justin Tuck have all amped up their play as well. The Frisco O-line will be feeling the effects of this game for weeks to come.

Secondary:

If you are looking for a vulnerability on this 49ers team, you've found it. The run defense for San Fran has been so good this past year that it escalated them up the stats ladder. Defending the pass is definitely not their forte. Last week they gave up 435 yards and four touchdowns. You can almost hear the crowd chanting now, "CRUUUUUZZZZZZ!"

San Francisco's pass defense is ranked 16th.

They are ranked 11th in the postseason (1 game).

The Giants just took on two of the most potent offenses in the NFL. To break it down a touch further, they just played the Green Bay Packers. This secondary, who had its toils throughout the season, seems to have finally found the wining formula. In the last two postseason games, they have only given up 212 yards per game. Those are pretty good numbers, considering the two teams that they just contained. This is a rejuvenated secondary who are doing it all.

New York's pass defense is ranked 29th (regular season).

They are ranked 5th in the postseason (2 games).

Special Teams:

This is one of the strongest branches of this 49ers team. David Akers is in his thirteenth season and is one of the most accurate kickers in the NFL. Akers made seven 50+ yard field goals this season and was the league's leading kicker. Keep in mind, the more field goals a team has made, the less trips to the end zone did they take. Andy Lee was one of the better punters this year. His 50.9 average led the league. Their return game is nothing to sneeze at. Ted Ginn returned a kickoff for 102 yards earlier in the year. Ginn had 800 kick return yards and 466 punt return yards, including a 55 yard touchdown return.

The Giants weren't overly impressive on Special Teams during the regular season. That trend is continuing, somewhat, in the postseason. Lawrence Tynes is tied for first with four field goals. They don't rank very high in the punting area. That is because they have not had to punt the ball much. Steve Weatherford has only had to punt six times in the last two games. That, in and of itself, tells that tale of this Giants offense.

The San Francisco 49ers total defense is ranked 4th (regular season).

They are ranked 11th in the postseason (1 game).

The New York Giants total defense is ranked 27th (regular season).

They are ranked 4th in the postseason (2 games).

Jim Harbaugh may win coach of the year. He has earned, at the very least, a nomination for how he has turned this 49er team around. Many analysts consider San Francisco to be the most complete team in the playoffs. When you consider that they gave up over four-hundred yards of offense last week, it really does alter that perception.

While their regular season doesn't indicate this, the New York Giants seem to be playing the most well-rounded football this postseason and this is exactly when you want your team's pilot light on high. The Giants are definitely heating things up and doing the impossible once again. They are just one win away from the big game. Can they finish?

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