Yes, I’ve been stalling.
I wanted to collect every last bit of information I could before I committed this column to print, as both these games will be close contests. Let’s get started.
I pick the SF 49ers over the NY Giants.
Am I biased? Of course, I’m a Niners fan. But not blindly so. I amassed some key information and analyzed some important match-ups to back up my pick, although I did that after I already made my pick, hence the bias.
Here’s what I learned.
I examined both rosters for age, and gave the edge to the younger team. That would be the 49ers, which come in at a mean average of 26 years old, while the NY Giants came in at 27.
Nine players on the 49ers are 30 years of age or older, compared to 11 on the Giants.
The Giants reported nine players with issues, including Manning’s 24-hour bug. I expect him to be healthy for the game, though.
Running back Ahmad Bradshaw’s foot problems could be a sticking point.
On the 49ers side, there were only six players hobbled, but Ted Ginn Jr., Patrick Willis and Jonathan Goodwin could be major losses if they don’t play. All are listed as questionable.
I’ll call this one a push.
I’ll take Jim Harbaugh over Tom Coughlin. Do I really have to explain why? Okay, I will then.
Harbaugh’s like Tony Robbins. He motivates. Coughlin’s like the guy who won’t give your ball back when it goes on his lawn. He’s cranky.
Candlestick Park looks to be cold, windy and rainy on Sunday, according to weather.com. These conditions favor defense, and I prefer the 49ers fourth-ranked defense over the Giants 26-ranked crew —although I’ll admit they’re playing over their heads in the playoffs.
The weather will also take away any quarterback advantage the Giants have. Eli Manning may be one of the elite quarterbacks in the league, but not when he’s throwing knuckle balls into the winds of Candlestick. But QB Alex Smith should have no problem doing what he does best — short, laser-like passes and handing off to Frank Gore.
I know I said this about last week’s game, but I’m saying it again — Frank Gore must have a great game for the 49ers to win.
The Key Match-up
The 49ers need to stop Manning to win the NFC Championship. And that means 49er pass rushing specialist Justin Smith will have to kick butt on Giants left tackle David Diehl.
Whoever wins that match-up wins the game.
David Akers will continue to be rock solid, as he kicks the 49ers to a one-point win.
While my NFC pick went against conventional wisdom, I’m with most of the ESPN pundits on their AFC predictions—Tom Brady and the New England Patriots will defeat the Baltimore Ravens. Handily.
The key match-up? Ravens safety Ed Reed versus common sense. What kind of idiot criticizes his own quarterback before a big game, thereby creating a distraction for this entire team?
That idiot would be Reed. Idiot.
Still, he’s right. Joe Flacco did look rattled in the game against the Texans, and he’ll look even more rattled in Foxborough.
Tom Brady will pick apart the defense, and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez will run roughshod over the Ravens secondary. Wes Welker will be the usual stone in everyone’s shoe, and just when Baltimore thinks they’ve got the New England offense contained, midget running back Danny Woodhead will come out of nowhere to score.
This game doesn’t need a whole hellofa lot of analysis. Patriots by 14.
(Note: Here’s one idiotic prediction. Ray Lewis will get injured in the game. Why? Because he’s older, he’s a warrior, and he’ll try too hard.)
There. Now go make that phone call to Vegas.
Last Minute Notes
– I just checked, and there is one ex-Penn State player on the 49ers, two on the Giants. If there is a distraction from Joe Pa’s death it favors San Francisco.
– New England 23, Baltimore 20. Why was it so close? Because Flacco played way better than expected. And Brady way worse.
– The game ended in a 17-17 tie, and the Giants won with a field goal in overtime. I was thinking it would be a 49ers win at 17-16. Oh, well.
The late great aftermath of the NFC and AFC Championships
I’m finally ready to discuss the NFC and AFC Championships. In other words, I’m sober now.
It only took 12 days.
Two days ago was National Signing Day, when high school football players commit to colleges. I’m sure I’ll write about that at some point, but if you’re looking for late-breaking news here you’re at the wrong place. I’m more of a bottom-feeder looking for the overlooked morsels.
So. Has anybody talked about special teams yet?
I’m a dyed-in-the-Bay-Area-polyester 49ers fan. I won’t lie. The loss hurt. Here’s how it happened.
First, Eli Manning played tough. He got beat up all day long and still hung in.
Second, on the 49ers last possession they did not dance with who brung dem. They should have given the ball to Frank Gore and let him run, run, run. Beat them in the trenches and tick tock down the damn clock.
Jim Harbaugh made a mistake in game management, in my opinion. Yes, I held that opinion before the call as well as afterward.
The biggest problem? Kyle Williams played. Not his fault. Ted Ginn Jr. was injured, and that turned out to be the difference in the game.
Williams mangled two punt returns, the second one a fumble leading to the game-winning field goal. Enough said.
Still, I feel bad about Williams and all the death threats he’s endured. He doesn’t need that.
He just needs to be traded.
And so does Michael Crabtree. Where was he? He couldn’t get open during the game, not once. Throughout the playoffs, he could barely catch the ball and rarely produced. Who does he think he is, LeBron James?
When Crabtree got drafted, I jumped up and down on the couch like Tom Cruise on a daytime talk show. I saw Crabtree play at Texas Tech, and he was amazing. I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do for San Francisco.
But then he turned diva with his holdout salary demands. And then he went missing during the NFC Championship.
Here’s the plan: Trade Crabtree and pick up Justin Blackmon, a solid first-round draft pick out of Oklahoma State. Like Crabtree, he’s also a two-time Fred Biletnikoff winner for best receiver in college football.
Then cross your fingers and hope to hell he doesn’t go T.O. like Crabtree did.
Tom Brady sucked, but Billy Cundiff sucked more. The end.