The NFC produced two stunning games this weekend in the NFL playoffs. First, on Saturday, the San Francisco 49ers beat the New Orleans Saints in one of the most dramatic playoff games in quite some time. Then, on Sunday, the New York Giants upset the Green Bay Packers, which became the first team ever to go 15-1 during the regular season and lose its first playoff game.
Saturday - 49ers 36, Saints 32
Despite turning it over five times, the Saints looked like they were going to pull off a victory in this game. Darren Sproles scored on a 44-yard touchdown pass from Drew Brees with only four minutes to go in the fourth quarter, and with how the 49ers had been unable to do much offensively in the second half, it looked like New Orleans was in pretty good shape.
It was at this point in the game that all hell broke loose. The 49ers answered the Saints' go-ahead touchdown with an amazing drive that was capped off by a 28-yard touchdown run (yes, a run) by Alex Smith. On third down, Smith took off on a designed run and ran down the sideline for a touchdown, giving the 49ers a 29-24 lead. They didn't lead for long, though. It took the Saints less than a minute to answer, as Brees found Jimmy Graham for a 66-yard touchdown on the next drive. Now the Saints were up by a field goal, and once again, it looked like this game was over.
The 49ers weren't about to back down, however. Smith led them down the field once again, and this time he found Vernon Davis for a 14-yard touchdown with only nine seconds left on the clock. The amazing touchdown drive gave the 49ers a 36-32 victory and the first spot in the NFC title game.
Sunday - Giants 37, Packers 20
Coming into the weekend, the New York Giants seemed like the team most likely to pull off an upset. Between how well they played against the Atlanta Falcons and with Green Bay off for a couple weeks (and some starters even longer), this had all the makings of an upset.
Somewhat surprisingly, the upset not only happened, but it happened in convincing fashion. The Giants took it to the Packers, which struggled throughout the day with turnovers (they had four total) and other miscues. Had it not been for some horrendous officiating, this game wouldn't have even been remotely close. Considering the Giants still won by 17, that says a lot about just how poorly the Packers played and just how good New York looked en route to clinching the second spot in the NFC championship game.
This Sunday - Giants at 49ers
The NFC title game will feature the Giants and 49ers in a game that virtually nobody expected to happen just a few weeks ago. The Giants narrowly made the playoffs, and although the 49ers had a great regular season, many expected the Saints to win with ease this past weekend. Instead, the 49ers pulled out the victory and now get to host the NFC title game.
This is a tough game to predict considering both teams have solid defenses and are hitting their stride at the right time, but I think the Giants will win. Their defense is playing as good as it has all season, and the same could really be said about the offense. Not only has the Giants' rushing attack come alive, but Eli Manning is playing outstanding, as are his receivers. The 49ers will put up a fight for sure, but I just don't think Alex Smith will be able to pull off a miracle against the Giants defense.