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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Long List of Things to Think About for NYG v. SF

    1) Giants look like the most complete team to me. Tuck and Umenyiora are finally healthy, as is Michael Boley who may be the key player on that defense because he makes all the calls. Giants looked lost without him. He even showed flashes of a pass rush last week. Antrel Rolle doesn't like playing slot corner in the nickel, but they are tough to beat in their nickel.

    2) The 49ers are a very good defense, but they do give up big plays on intermediate catches and runs like last week. The Giants may have two of the best catch and run threats in the NFL with Nicks and Cruz.

    3) Will the rain slow down the speed rushers on the 49ers? David Diehl will need help against Aldon Smith and Justin Smith, the soggy field may play to his favor.

    4) How long will the Giants try to stay with their run. The Saints were a very balanced offense this year, but when they just started throwing late, they were better. The 49ers run defense is probably the best in the NFL.

    5) Despite a poor performance last week, the 49ers LBers can cover about as well as any inside LBers I have seen this year.

    6) The 49ers inside stunts with their defensive line are hard to handle. I still can't believe the Bengals let Justin Smith go. He is much better inside than out. Ahmad Brooks is still a very fast pass rusher and could be the X factor in this one.

    7) Jake Ballard needs to play like he did before the injury. He is the only Giants TE athletic enough to get open and big enough to block. Pascoe lacks athleticism, and Beckum is just a receiver.

    8) Can Alex Smith possibly do that again? The Saints made it easy for him by playing blitz coverage and creating all those 1-1 coverages. Giants will rush with 4 and cover with 7. Much smaller holes for throwing.

    9) 49ers spent a lot of high picks on this OL, this may be the game they become famous.

    Comments 26 Comments
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Good list, Cris, thanks.

      I'm suspect I'm with the majority in thinking that Alex Smith won't look as good this week. He played well and things broke his way last week. I doubt the Giants will help him the way Greg Williams did.

      I'm amused that the 49ers may suffer a home-field disadvantage, if it rains and a wet field slows down their pass rush.

      I'm looking forward to an old-fashioned type of game, a slugfest.
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      This matchup will come down to a numbers game.....first count the players in the tackle box to stop the run. Which the defense will be able to stop the opposing running game without having to drop a safety in the box. He who stops the run consistently with their front 7 gets a leg up. The other key is which team will be able to generate the most consistent pressure just rushing 4 and dropping 7 into coverage. The defensive coordinator that has the luxury of blitzing because he wants to not because he has to has a big edge. As always, matchups at the line of scrimmage will determine if matchups on the perimeter even matter.
    1. phillipmarks5's Avatar
      The main weakness in the Giants defense, or entire team for that matter, is their secondary. They don't get burned deep quite as much as the Saints, though. The Saints DBs have that gambling, ball-hawking mentality, because they know if it works, Drew Brees will score. The Giants have a more disciplined style, where they cover long enough for their monster D-linemen to get the to QB, and don't go for quite as many undercut INTs. The G-men also have the luxury of only rushing 4 and getting pressure, while the Saints had to rush at least 5 to get to the QB. That left one man (Vernon Davis) uncovered many times. Your assessment of Antrel Rolle and the Giants' nickel defense is spot on.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      I agree that a soggy field could slow the 49ers pass rush, but the Giants also have a pass rush that should be equally affected by the weather. The team that better stops the run and prevents the big play will go a long way toward who wins this game.

      The Saints went one on one too much with Vernon Davis and got destroyed. The Giants won't do that. They'll make someone else beat them. That means the interesting X Factor to watch in this game could be Delanie Walker.

      The Giants are more balanced, but Alex Smith is a confident QB right now, and the 49ers defense will be the best unit that hits the field. I really like SF in this matchup.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      The funny thing is that prior tape made it look like Alex Smith would be bothered by the blitz, but I think the Saints decision to blitz the 49ers in preseason really did help them prepare for what Greg Williams would bring. Smith looked totally under control and the blitz rarely got home.
    1. giantsfan97's Avatar
      The thing I will be looking at most in this game is 3rd down distance. In their first matchup (and I am speaking based on memory) the 49ers were able to chip away on 1st and 2nd downs and put themselves into good position on 3rd downs. As we know, the Giants pass rush thrives when they know the opposing QB will need to hold onto the ball for a few extra seconds.

      Therefore, the 49ers 1st and 2nd down plays become even more important. The Giants didn't play many teams this year with an excellent ground game like the 49ers, so it will be very interesting to see who wins that battle.

      I agree with Cris' #4 question. The Giants under Coughlin have been known for (stubbornly?) always running as often as they pass. This year it seemed to often lead to 3rd and long situations (as the Giants were last in rushing yards) and Eli had to bail them out. The 49ers defense is too good for that, so the Giants also really need to figure out a way to gain yards on 1st and 2nd downs.
    1. vancemeek's Avatar
      I also think the RBs might be the keys. Smith is unlikely to play as well as he did last week, but the defense is unlikely to give up as many points as they did last week too.
    1. BuckeyeRidley's Avatar
      The Giants are incredible when put up against pressure. Cris gave us the breakdown but nonetheless, they are a team with one dream. Maybe Rex & crew could bounce over & watch them. It's like Eli & Coughlin band together to prove to people that Eli is Elite [from his comments in the preseason] & Coughlin shouldn't be fired.

      The defense got to Rodgers unlike any other this season. Reminds me of when they got on the Patriots in the 2007 Week 17 & Super Bowl XLII. They studied well to not let Jennings, Driver & crew get too much daylight.

      Offense was able to make consistency happen. Amazed that "Cruuuuuuuuuuuuuuz" was called in Lambeau Stadium! A Twitterer [Packers beat reporter] noted that the Giants fans travelled well. Also, the Goodness of Hakeem Nicks has been on display the last few games in particular. They can use Cruz, Bradshaw, Nicks & Co. to make it work offensive & make teams play to them.

      This 1990 Bowl on SUN will be fun to watch.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      "When in doubt, go with the best quarterback."

      Is there statistical evidence to support that axiom in the playoffs?
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      I just cannot make myself put any faith in Alex Smith. This is doubly true now that it looks like "The Key to the Season" (Ginn) will be out for the game. That leaves the 49ers very, very thin at WR. If the G-Men can contain Vernon Davis and can keep Frank Gore from gashing them, they have a very solid chance to win.
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Can Sf force turnovers and keep Alex smith clean? The game hinges on those 2 factors. No turnovers for the niners equals a loss.. they barely Hung on with a ton last week. The giants have a much better defense than the one they faced last week. One that gets home on skill, not scheme like nolas Greg Williams coached scheme. Thankfully he left already, or my first official move as the saints gm would have been to fire him...

      Giants in a close one. 24-21
    1. iwatt's Avatar
      In a game that will hinge on field position, I'd give a big edge to the best special teams unit in the league in that regard.

      I'm not ready to trust Eli in the rain. We haven't seen Nicks and Cruz try to catch balls in mud either.
    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      The all important 3rd phase....special teams/kicking game certainly favors SF. Looking at a 16 regular season game body of work, the 49ers averaged 12.4 yards per punt return (5) in the NFL, The Giants averaged6.1 (29). SF more than doubled the NYG output. The 49ers averaged 27.2 yards per kickoff return (1) in the NFL. The Giants averaged 23.3 (22). SF was 11th in the NFL covering punts, !3th covering kickoffs. The Giants ranked 17th covering punts, 11th covering kickoffs. Ted Ginn Jr. averaged 12.3 per punt return (4) including a 55 yard TD. He also averaged 27.6 per kickoff return (3) including a 102 yard TD. Having 2 Pro Bowl kickers also gives a hidden yard edge to the 49ers. Lee averaged 50.9 yards per punt with a 44 yard net...both best in the NFL. David Akers led the NFL in scoring with 166 points with a league best 44 made FGs including a 55 yard long. He also has 47 touchbacks tied for 4th most in the NFL. If the NFC Championship game is decided by the kicking game...it looks good for SF.
    1. giantsfan97's Avatar
      Dave, you didn't even mention the surprise onsides kick that SF pulled on NYG in their first meeting! Hopefully the Giants will be ready for it this time.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Speaking of special teams, a very sympathetic AP piece on Trey Junkiin, the long snapper yanked out of retirement by the Giants in 2003 and the fall guy for their playoff loss.

      http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/201...677/index.html
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      I have a question for any former NFL player.

      Last week the 49ers defenders trashed their bodies. They sold out. Physically abused themselves.

      I know pro players are great at moving on and staying focused.

      But how much of a toll did a game like last week's take out of their bodies? Will their performance suffer, even a little bit, because of the physical intensity they brought to the NOLa game?
    1. mikesteelnation1's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      I just cannot make myself put any faith in Alex Smith. This is doubly true now that it looks like "The Key to the Season" (Ginn) will be out for the game. That leaves the 49ers very, very thin at WR. If the G-Men can contain Vernon Davis and can keep Frank Gore from gashing them, they have a very solid chance to win.
      Cris' "key for the season" looks like pure savant genius now, doesnt it? Ginn sits because of injury, and his replacement fumbles 2 balls that probably cost the niners the game. Normally the niners are bullet proof on special teams, not today. And completely because they didn't have their return specialist.

      Now we all wonder, and gaze in awe.. how did Cris foresee ginn being the linchpin in the teams ouster from the playoffs? Kinda eeiry, isn't it? Meanwhile I listened to Joe buck being to least interesting play by play guy ever, as aikman did an admirable job of covering his monotone delivery. This guy didn't get excited at the birth of his first child. Aikman is probably in the best shape of his life carrying this anchor around his neck..

      Now we all wait for Cris' offseason declaration of the next "key for the season" pick of a guy, most consider totally not important...
    1. Polishguy00's Avatar
      Cris first mentioned Ginn as The Key last year, so we need to find the prediction this off-season that was most wrong and assume it will decide a Conference Championship game next year.

      Time for some digging. Then a flight to Vegas. Then betting the mortgage.
    1. wxwax's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by mikesteelnation1 View Post
      Meanwhile I listened to Joe buck being to least interesting play by play guy ever, as aikman did an admirable job of covering his monotone delivery. This guy didn't get excited at the birth of his first child. Aikman is probably in the best shape of his life carrying this anchor around his neck..
      I don't care for Buck but his pounding monotone is partly the result of a lingering nerve problem in a vocal cord. Aikman drove me nuts with "analysis" that consisted of stating the blindingly obvious. I hit the mute button a lot. Again.
    1. Trumpetbdw's Avatar
      Is it safe to assume that Cris would throw out a giant "no comment" when it comes to working with Buck and his {legendary} play by play calls? That had to have been painful working with those two for three years. At least he got a decent Super Bowl out of the deal.

      But what was legendary about that grouping were the old "A" Team commercials they did. Unfortunately, I can't find a video to post, but Cris, were you Murdoch or Face? Didn't they have Aikman trying to pull off B.A. Baracus?