As the San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants rush to prepare for their NFC Championship Game on Sunday afternoon, there will be one factor neither team can control: the weather. With the forecast potentially calling for rainy and cold conditions, there has been a lot of debate on which team would benefit most from wet playing conditions.
According to NFC West blogger Matt Sando, the 49ers would play better in slick conditions.
Slick conditions at Candlestick Park should favor the 49ers, in my view.
Giants coach Tom Coughlin keeps emphasizing running the ball and stopping the run. To beat the 49ers, however, I think the Giants will need to succeed through the air. Teams with the highest average gains per quarterback dropback against San Francisco -- Dallas, Philadelphia, Arizona in the second meeting, the Giants and Baltimore -- defeated or nearly defeated the 49ers this season.
Eli Manning and his wide receivers are functioning at a high level. Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham each scored touchdowns against the 49ers in Week 10. Both entered the game with injuries that put their availability in question. Nicks has 13 receptions for 280 yards and four touchdowns in the playoffs. Manningham and Victor Cruz have combined for 14 receptions and 201 yards.
The field at Candlestick Park tends to get slick anyway, particularly around the perimeter. That's an area Manning likes to target. He finished the regular season with a league-high 2,647 yards passing outside the yard-line numbers, 471 more than runnerup Aaron Rodgers, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He threw 20 touchdown passes on these throws, tied with Rodgers for second in the league behind Drew Brees (22).
Picture-perfect conditions in the divisional round made for a faster track. The 49ers and Giants can expect slower, less sure footing in the NFC title game.
Whether you agree with the blogger or not, his prediction makes sense, at least when you think about it logically. Running in the rain on a slick surface is tough enough, not to mention what it's like for a receiver when he tries to haul in a ball with defenders draped all over him. As for the 49ers, they are a team that focuses on establishing the run and using quick routes to move the ball through the air, which typically works well when there are sloppy conditions.
The weather report will definitely be something to keep an eye on. Eli Manning has been known to battle the elements and still come away with a victory, and he is playing at a completely different level right now. Regardless if it's sunny and cloud-free or pouring all day long, the 49ers will have a tough game on their hands this weekend.