Giants, 49ers revisit rich postseason rivalry

Inside the matchup:

Inside slant:

This game may come down to Eli Manning and his trio of receivers. When the Giants go three-wide with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz, they are tough to defend because they can hit screens, go deep or run effectively with Ahmad Bradshaw, all out of the same formation. If the Niners' best cover guy, Carlos Rogers, gets Cruz, then Nicks could be a handful, especially out of the slot. And if you double both of them, then how many swing passes to Bradshaw do you see? No team has been better against the run than the 49ers, however, particularly in the red zone. Brandon Jacobs is going to have a tough time running over anyone in what many believe is the best linebacking group in the NFL.

And how will the 49ers block the Giants' front four? Teams like Baltimore, who have some push-rush ability, gave the 49ers fits. New York finally has Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul all healthy and on the field together. They can play games, set up stunts and attack inside or out. It's a lot different from a week ago, when the Saints usually had to bring the house and get the secondary involved in the blitz to try to generate a pass rush.

Giants defensive coordinator Perry Fewell can double tight end Vernon Davis and sit back and play some zone coverage on the back end, knowing he has a shot of getting pressure with a four-man rush. Also, besides Davis, there isn't any other Niner to worry about as a vertical threat. If the Giants can play Cover-2 with a man under on Davis, and get to Smith by rushing limited numbers, that's going to cause problems.

New York's secondary may not be great, but with that pass rush it gets better, and Aaron Ross and Kenny Phillips can make plays on the ball. I'd suspect we see an awful lot of Frank Gore early, and Kendall Hunter as well.

The Giants have to find a way to neutralize Justin Smith, if that's possible. Doubling him will present issues elsewhere, and the interior of their line can be suspect at times. Manning seems to be playing on a different level, regardless, and his athleticism in making improvised plays under duress has been a constant on New York's surge to this point.

A week ago the Saints turned the ball over five times, but Manning has cut way down on his turnovers this season. Heaven knows the heavy-hitting 49ers will be hunting for the ball, however, and if they can deliver the kind of game-changing blows they did last week, that will turn the tables.

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