Since the New York Giants’ 17-14 win in Super Bowl XLII over the almost-perfect New England Patriots represented the apex of east coast biasism, it’s no surprise that most of the so-called “experts” are dreaming of, and predicting, a rematch in Super Bowl XLVI.
The San Francisco 49ers finished the regular season at 13-3. The Giants, 9-7. The 49ers defeated the Giants 27-20 on Nov. 13, but the injuries the Giants were dealing with (Ahmad Bradshaw, Michael Boley) meant more than the Niners losing Frank Gore to a knee injury in the first half.
But most of all, the theme we see from the high-profile scribes is similar to the one we saw last week: the 49ers’ quarterback just doesn’t measure up to the opposing team’s signal caller. It isn’t any surprise, since Alex Smith will never surpass the memories of Joe Montana or Steve Young either — as stated in a post by Scott Warfe of Posttraumatic Sports Disorder.
It has to be this way. The Giants are the so-called “hotter” team, even though both the 49ers and Giants have won four in a row. If the Niners prevail, most experts will choose the Patriots (Brady > Smith) or Ravens (John already won the first “Harbowl”) in the Super Bowl. But there’s no use worrying about that until the 49ers play on Sunday. Here’s what the famous dudes had to say, starting with
the Pats vs. Giants network ESPN:
Peter King (Sports Illustrated): 49ers 19, Giants 17
“When these teams played in Week 10, Smith and his fellow Missouri product Aldon Smith, the Niners’ pass-rush specialist, pressured Eli Manning 10 times over the Giants’ left side. With how slippery the ball’s going to be Sunday, the ability of Diehl and Boothe and a tight-end helper to hold up is paramount to the Giants’ chances. I like Smith to be able to elude the Giants’ front enough to make a few plays, and I like the pressure of the San Francisco front seven to force a turnover or two, plus some long-yardage situations. As I wrote above, I think it’ll be a good ol’ slugfest.”
Pete Prisco (CBS Sports): Giants 24, 49ers 20
“The 49ers defense was fourth in the NFL in total yards and first in run defense, but it was a unit that was 16th in passing yards. That’s a problem against Manning and his receivers. I think the 49ers safeties excel in the run game, but they can be hit with big plays against the pass. I look for Manning to take advantage of that. The Giants will get a fourth-quarter lead and that pass rush will make sure it holds up. The 49ers just aren’t as good at the quarterback position — and that’s the difference here. The Giants move on to face a familiar Super Bowl foe in the Patriots.”
Prisco isn’t the only CBS “expert” to predict a Giants/Pats Super Bowl.
Gregg Rosenthal (Pro Football Talk): 49ers 24, Giants 20
“Eli Manning has the fourth quarter reputation, but Alex Smith has the seven fourth quarter comebacks. New York’s offensive line is a weakness that hasn’t been exposed the last two weeks, but it will show up on Sunday. San Francisco can get more consistent pressure on Eli Manning with their front seven and they’ll have the more consistent running game. Counting on Eli to keep converting beautiful low percentage third-and-long throws is a difficult way to win week after week. The 49ers magic will continue.”
Mike Florio (Pro Football Talk): 49ers 24, Giants 21
“But there’s something intangible, and special, about the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh. All week long, I believed I’d pick the Giants, and that then the 49ers would win. With rain likely to make it harder for the Giants’ passing game to fire on all cylinders, look for that hard-hitting San Fran defense and a potent-when-it-needs-to-be offense to find a way. Yes, the Giants are the better team. But the 49ers, I believe, will have more points on the scoreboard when the game is finally over.”
Pat Kirwan (NFL.com): Giants 27, 49ers 20
“In my mind, Jim Harbaugh is clearly the coach of the year. And if there were such a thing, Tom Coughlin would win comeback coach of the year. People in New York looked at Coughlin like a dead man walking when a four-game losing streak dropped the Giants to 6-6. But here they are in the NFC Championship Game, with the best quarterback on the field, the better set of receivers and a dominant pass rush. I like the same score as the game in Week 10, but reversed.”
Vinnie Iyer (Sporting News): 49ers 30, Giants 24
“The Giants are the flashier team, but the 49ers are the more complete team—and they’ll complete their amazing NFC turnaround under Jim Harbaugh.”
Bill Barnwell (Grantland): Giants 17, 49ers 13
“Everyone knows that the Giants can’t keep playing at this high of a level, but the fact that they’ve been able to do it two games in a row has to mean something, right? In addition, the Niners were able to recover five fumbles* in the game against the Saints, which went a long way toward establishing the early lead they needed for victory. That sort of fumble recovery rate isn’t likely to happen again. (The Giants, in all fairness, also went 3-for-3 against Green Bay.) But the Niners were the better team during the regular season and outplayed the Giants in this exact matchup! But that was the old Giants! So confused! Fine.”
* The 49ers actually recovered three fumbles. Their other two takeaways were interceptions by Dashon Goldson and Tarell Brown.
Update: Barnwell meant that the 49ers recovered the Saints’ three fumbles as well as two of their own. My apologies to Barnwell and the entire Simmons family.
Andrew Sharp (SB Nation): Giants 28, 49ers 17
“If your team sorta looks like they’re having sex on the cover of Sports Illustrated, does that override the SI Jinx, or compound it? … Our “Alex Smith is terrible” jokes aren’t funny anymore, but all the “Eli is terrible” jokes REALLY aren’t funny anymore. Whatever he’s doing, it’s working, and in crunch time it works better than just about anyone in football. If the Giants line can give him time this weekend, then he’ll give New York one more trip to the Super Bowl.”
Editor’s note: after what Sharp said last week about Alex Smith and the 49ers, it’s pretty safe to assume he’s not a fan. Based on his reasons for the Giants winning (“Eli Manning is just the greatest”), I’m questioning whether I should’ve linked to his “analysis” in the first place.
Mike Tanier (NY Times Fifth Down Blog): Giants over 49ers
“Turnovers are the least consistent, most random aspects of team performance, which is why my efficiency model puts the Giants as the superior team, enough so to make them the favorites on the road Sunday.”
Cris Collinsworth, Phil Simms and Warren Sapp (Inside the NFL): Giants II, 49ers I
I was shocked last week when all three chose the 49ers to beat the Saints. This time the picks went as expected: Collinsworth (who hates the 49ers for beating his Bengals in the Super Bowl twice) and Simms went with the Giants, with Sapp choosing the 49ers. Sapp’s been touting the Niners all year, because as a defensive lineman he’s made clear his appreciation of the physicality and skill the 49ers’ front seven brings.
My take: I tried to stay national with this sampling of picks, since outlets like the NY Daily News (with eight of their nine “experts” picking the Giants) often have ulterior motives because they cover these guys. Counting up all the times the Giants and 49ers were picked to win, and in this unscientific grouping the Giants come out ahead 18-11, and that includes Accuscore and SportsNation picking the Niners.
Again, just like when the majority sided with the Saints last week, this isn’t surprising in the least. Most of the reporters are comfortable with what they know, and they want to see a Giants/Pats rematch. Plus, Eli’s now the best Manning available and there seems to be the notion that the 49ers beat a weaker Giants team back in November.