Two teams piloted by quarterbacks looking for their first Super Bowl appearance head into matchups Sunday with teams headed by QBs who already have rings. Does Alex Smith or Joe Flacco have a better shot at out-dueling a more experienced counterpart and getting to Indy?
Consistency, homefield advantage tip scale to SmithI have to say Alex Smith. Of the two, he has been more consistent all season. Not to mention, he's playing at home, which gives the 49ers an overall edge. Smith also has led six fourth-quarter comebacks, including Saturday's playoff victory over New Orleans.
Joe Flacco has been very good in the playoffs -- while Smith just earned his first postseason win -- but based on the matchups and settings, Smith seems to have a more favorable chance.
Smith proved his worth by outdueling BreesIf Alex Smith can take down Drew Brees, I'm confident he can do the same to Eli Manning. What's funny: Everybody is debating the Hall of Fame credentials of Manning -- nobody seems to be giving much consideration to what Smith accomplished on Sunday. In fact, he was much more impressive than Manning.
The Giants' defense controlled and corralled the Packers to move on to the NFC Championship Game. Smith had to lead his team to scoring drives late in the fourth quarter -- and he did it twice. Smith's winning touchdown pass to Vernon Davis was threaded through the smallest of windows.
Many felt the defense was going to carry the 49ers and Smith was just along for the ride. He showed against the Saints he can make the plays to get it done.
If I had to pick a Harbaugh team to advance, it'd be the 49ersBoth Alex Smith and Joe Flacco are supported by very good defenses that could help get the team to the Super Bowl. Joe Flacco is already 5-3 in playoff games and has a postseason win in Foxboro (even though he only completed four passes in that game). Alex Smith had his finest game as a professional last week and is home once again. I like the Patriots and Giants to advance, but if I had to pick one of the teams coached by a Harbaugh, it would be the 49ers.
Matchups favor 49ers, SmithPart of me says Alex Smith peaked with that TD pass to Vernon Davis that I could hear sizzle through my TV set. That was easily the best throw of his life. But I don't think "outdueling" is the right word for this Giants-49ers bout. I think it's more "outlasting." San Francisco doesn't want to tempt fate by getting into an aerial war for a second straight week. It's not what the Niners do best. They'll control the football by mixing runs and short-to-medium passes and eat up as much of the clock as they can. I see this being a low-scoring game, and the San Francisco defense will live up to what it's been for most of the season. Smith will have more modest stats, but he advances.
Joe Flacco is in a tough spot, but it's because of the Ravens' defense. Teams who can throw the football really well can give Baltimore problems. As we've seen the last couple of years, if you can make plays past the front seven, you can put up big numbers against the Ravens. Their secondary isn't nearly what it used to be, and Ed Reed is banged up. (And alarmingly, Arian Foster ripped Baltimore, while T.J. Yates moved the football before throwing ill-timed interceptions. Tom Brady ain't gonna do that.) The Patriots will be able to score because they can throw the football downfield with great success. They'll also play enough "situational defense" to contain Baltimore. Flacco may be the only one involved in a duel, but he'll lose.