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New York Giants News and Notes: NFC Championship Game Face Edition

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Good morning fellow Giants fans. So here we are, about 55 hours from kickoff of the NFC title game, and our Giants are playing for the chance to once again reach the NFL's highest pinnacle--the Super Bowl. However, no game of this magnitude is ever easy, and Big Blue is running into a Big Red chainsaw of a defense on Sunday. It will be difficult to run, it will be difficult to throw, and it will be difficult to catch knowing you're going to get smacked as soon as you do. But it can be done, because the Giants came from one batted down fourth down pass away from tying the Niners in a Week 10 match up at Candlestick. And because the Giants' D is playing lights out as well, with logic being if they can stop Aaron Rodgers, they can surely stop Alex Smith. But again, we must throw logic out the window. Smith played masterfully against the Saints last week and there is no reason to believe he won't be on his game again. So there you have it. Do you have your popcorn ready? Here are a few items of note on the Friday before the Sunday of the NFC championship game:

New York Giants playoff report: Manning back at practice after bout with stomach bug - NFL - Sporting News
Eli Manning never misses a game and almost never misses a practice. So it was not alarming, but was noticeable, when he did not finish practice on Wednesday because of a stomach bug.

Rick’s Cafe: Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close … the New York Giants and the art of trash talking | Off the Bench
"Are the Giants doing drunk interviews? Lol." It would seem so, until you realize that’s how they’ve always approach big games. The trash talking with the Jets in December was fast and furious, as it was with the Cowboys. This is a team that runs on adjectives and spittle, that thrives on working itself into a Henry V, For-he-today-that-sheds-his-blood-with-me -shall-be-my-brother, leather-jerkin lather.

Raise your hand if you saw THAT coming. A TC-led team trash-talking?

The Giants' Pass Defense Has Turned 180 Degrees -
The Giants pass defense has generated fear all season. For most of 2011, horrifying coverage forced local fans to cover their eyes. Lately, though, the scare has been put back where it belongs—into opposing quarterbacks. In a late-season reversal, the Giants pass defense has suddenly turned elite. Last Sunday, it reached new heights in shutting down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers

See if you can find the hidden words in this message: I turned on my radio, and thought instead of finding my favorite station using the tuning button, I would simplify things by pressing the preset, and I had better results. (Was that stupid? Because I feel like my wife would be rolling her eyes at me right now).

Hakeem Nicks Victor Cruz Mario Manningham Giants NFC –
Perhaps a slick Super Bowl branding campaign awaits the vibrant threesome of Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham— if only the Giants step on the gas Sunday at the San Francisco 49ers and win the race to Indianapolis for Super Bowl XLVI on Feb. 5.

New York Giants receivers Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks spell double trouble for opponents - ESPN
According to at least one observer, Cruz has a problem. He takes too long to sign autographs. While most athletes keep their heads down and scribble away, Cruz insists on making eye contact with the fan and carefully swooping through his name. Because of that personal touch, the lines were still backed up past 9 p.m., when the mall was about to close. But Cruz said he was staying. He wasn't going anywhere until everything was signed.

New York Giants playoff report: Look for more running in potentially sloppy conditions - NFL - Sporting News
The Giants can read the weather reports as well as everyone else and realize it is highly likely it is going to be a rainy and wet experience Sunday in the NFC Championship Game. The field at Candlestick Park, below sea level, is likely to be saturated, making for a slower playing surface and perhaps forcing the offenses to spend more time running the ball.

Stopping Frank Gore and not waiting for Eli Manning to bail team out among ways NY Giants can top San Francisco 49ers - NY Daily News
"This is a game against a team that was 7-1 in the NFC," Coughlin said after the 49ers beat the Giants, 27-20. "It’s not that we played poorly. We didn’t play well enough to win. That’s it." That really sums it up. The Giants played a good game against a team that would prove to be one of the best in the NFL this season. It went down to the final seconds, when a potential game-tying pass from Eli Manning — in the direction of a possibly open Victor Cruz — was batted down at the line of scrimmage by 49ers DT Justin Smith.

D'Alessandro: Giants' Osi Umenyiora puts aside contract talk to enjoy playoff experience |
Time flies, eh? And sometimes, cogent football opinions also sprout wings and flee for cover like frightened fruit bats. Here’s one example: It was just five months ago that some geniuses (hello) were suggesting that Osi Umenyiora might be a distraction this season, while other geniuses (hello again) suggested that the Giants would be wise to give the player’s agent enough leash to broker a deal for draft picks.

Giants Own New York, Have Rex Ryan To Thank | Ology
It seems like a long time ago now, but as the NFL season was getting off the ground last fall, you didn't hear too much about the New York Giants. Jets coach Rex Ryan spent most of the preseason yakking about how the Jets owned New York City, how the Jet's were the Giants "big brother," and that was more than enough to keep the tabloids occupied. Well, the Rex Ryan sideshow couldn't have worked out any better for the Giants.

Rex Ryan. I wonder what that guy is up to these days.

Giants' Deon Grant learns firsthand how NFL's concussion test puts safety ahead of winning |
So far this postseason, the Giants have put three players through concussion tests: Grant, Aaron Ross and D.J. Ware. Despite the elevated stakes and the short-handed secondary, they followed proper protocol and held Ross out of the game against the Falcons when they were uncertain he had even suffered a concussion. Grant eventually got back in the game and recorded an interception to help seal the upset -- but not before proving without a doubt he was only temporarily dinged.

I'm glad that talk about the dangers of concussions are coming to the forefront in the NFL, because they are very very scary.

New Orleans Saints reportedly will hire Steve Spagnuolo as defensive coordinator - New Orleans Saints Football NFL News -
The New Orleans Saints have decided to hire former St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo as the team's next defensive coordinator, Fox's Jay Glazer reported Thursday afternoon. Prior to coaching the Rams for the three seasons Spagnuolo was the defensive coordinator for the New York Giants.

Does anyone know where our game against the Saints next year will be? I really hope we don't have to go to that dome again, because in addition to that offense, they will now have to face a Spags-led defense. But hey, that's next season, and this is this season. We have a game to play on Sunday--a game that determines who represents the NFC in the Super Bowl, and a potential rematch with either the Patriots or Ravens.

I think I offered this song by New Jersey native Miggs last season, and I offer it again to get you fired up for both games on Sunday. And hey, dude has Lindsay Lohan in the official video. Not bad. Here is another one that gets me fired up, AC/DC's "Shoot to Thrill." Tell me that doesn't make you want to run through a wall. Shoot me an e-mail if you want a few more mood music suggestions:

And now, it's that time in the Friday notebook where I say, it's GO time. Let's do this thing.