Time for our NFC Championship Week edition of the 'Friday Five' With Inside Football editor Pat Traina. This week we talk about the weather in San Francisco, some of this week's trash talk, and other items relating to Sunday's game between the 49ers and the New York Giants. Be sure to stop by Pat's site for my answers to her questions.
Ed: It is supposed to rain in San Francisco for four straight days beginning Thursday and going right through the game on Sunday. What impact do you foresee that having on the game? Would bad conditions be an advantage or disadvantage for the Giants?
Pat: Truthfully Ed, I don't see it as being that big a deal. Anyone who thinks it is a big deal is forgetting that the 49ers have to play in it as well. (Also if I'm not mistaken, the 49ers don't have an indoor practice facility so if it does rain toward the end of the week as the forecast has predicted, then it will be interesting to see how they do if they can't have a quality practice.)
I know the Giants equipment staff is going to bring all kinds of cleats and equipment with it and I would think that if the turf becomes a problem, the players will identify that during warm-ups and make the required adjustments in their equipment. Also, Tom Coughlin said if need be, they'll dunk a ball in water to help the skill position players get used to the feel of a wet ball. So I honestly don't think it will put either team at a disadvantage.
What I do worry about, though is that no one slips and pulls a muscle or gets a knee or ankle twisted to the point where it potentially could keep him out of the Super Bowl - and that's regardless of which team advances.
Ed: No predictions, but some bold, brave talk from the Giants so far this week. Is it possible that the Giants have played so well in recent weeks that there is some 'over-confidence' creeping in?
Pat: Interesting question. I know I roll my eyes when the Giants' stadium co-tenants' head coach runs his mouth. And while I'm not a fan of trash talking, I think the difference here is that the Jets offer it up whereas the Giants are responding to a question. And if I'm right in my thinking, then what are they supposed to say if asked if they think they're going to win?
It's a Catch-22 - let's say a player deferred and said, "I think it's going to be a competitive game" or "we'll see." At this point in the playoffs, how do you think that's going to be received?
It's also similar to what happened with Eli back in the summer. He's asked if he's an elite quarterback. What was he supposed to say, no?
I think this team understands that they have to play the game on Sunday and that no trophies are handed out for talking a good game. I also think it's OK to have confidence no matter what your job title. Where I have a problem with the talk is when it's unsolicited because it almost sounds as though a person or team is trying to convince themselves more than anyone else that they're a playoff caliber team. .
Ed: A Mathias Kiwanuka question. He has played very limited snaps in each of the past three weeks, which is somewhat surprising. You have any information as to why, or any theories? You think he plays more this week against the run-first 49ers?
Pat: I think it's been the schemes and game plan. And I do think he will see a little more action this week, especially if the weather dictates that the running game needs to take center stage.
Ed: The Giants biggest advantage over San Francisco this week is ...
Pat: Confidence. They beat the NFC's top seed, and resoundingly at that. They did so with a complete game from all three phases - offense, defense, and special teams. I think that game (as well as the first matchup with Green Bay during the regular season), reinforced that they can stand toe-to-toe with anyone, and I've heard that one of the messages TC preached this week was that he reminded his guys that they also stood toe-to-toe with the 49ers for most of their regular season game.
Ed: San Francisco's biggest advantage over the Giants this week is ...
Pat: The home field. Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home, right? Besides that, a cross-country flight takes a LOT out of a person. A LOT (I speak from experience having made that trip several times over the years). I'm not saying that the Giants aren't well-conditioned, but I wouldn't be shocked if down the lien we find out that the players were instructed to do certain things to "prepare" their bodies for the time zone change and any jet lag.
Ed: [Bonus Question]: If you are up for making a prediction, go right ahead:
Pat: Last week I picked the Giants in one of my very rare predictions, so I was a little reluctant to make another prediction again this week. But you know what? Having studied the two teams, the stats, and the previous game's tape, I feel pretty good about the Giants' chances this week. I can't give you a score because quite frankly I'm not good at that, but I do think it's going to be a low-scoring affair.