With the New York Giants and San Francisco 49ers set to square off Sunday at Candlestick Park (6:30 p.m. ET/FOX) in the NFC Championship Game let's compare the offenses of each team, position-by-position.
About the only similarity between Eli Manning of the Giants and Alex Smith of the 49ers is that each is a former No. 1 overall pick -- Manning in 2004 and Smith in 2005. For Manning, the question has always been whether or not he would become elite, which he has. For Smith, the question has always been whether or not he was actually a starting caliber NFL quarterback, and he has more than answered that question this season.
The Giants ask much more from Manning than the 49ers do of Smith, and a look at the passing yards (4,933 for Manning, 3,144 for Smith) and attempts (589 to 445) tells you as much. Manning averages 308.3 yards per game passing and Smith a pedestrian 196.5.
Yet, both quarterbacks have done exactly what their teams have needed this season. Manning has won six games for the Giants in the fourth quarter. Smith threw only five interceptions as the 49ers offense revolved around the running game and tried not to get in the way of its top-flight defense. Smith showed in the NFC Divisional Round that he can win big games lates, engineering a game-winning touchdown drive that ended with a 14-yard pass to Vernon Davis with just nine seconds left to propel San Francisco to its title game opportunity.
Advantage: Giants ... Both guys do what their teams need, but there is only one elite quarterback in this game and that is Manning.
|2011 - Eli Manning||16||92.9||359||589||61||4933||308.3||8.4||29||16||35||15||.900||.400||1||28||199|
|2011 - Alex Smith||16||90.7||273||445||61.3||3144||196.5||7.1||17||5||52||179||11.2||3.4||2||44||263|
The 49ers have the league's fifth-ranked rushing attack at 143 yards per game, led by Frank Gore (1,211 yards, 4.3 yards per carry). Gore has surpassed 1,000 yards five of the past six seasons. When the Giants and 49ers played earlier this season an injured Gore carried just six times for zero yards.
The Giants have the two-headed backfield of Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs. While they have been better in recent weeks, and while both are quality backs who are important to the Giants offense, neither is the caliber of Gore. The Giants finished last in the league with just 89.2 yards per game running the ball.
Advantage: 49ers ... Gore will do better than zero yards rushing this time around. The 49ers hope he does significantly better.
|2011 - Frank Gore||16||282||1211||75.7||4.3||55||8||17||114||7.1||6.7||13||0|
|2011 - Ahmad Bradshaw||12||171||659||54.9||3.9||37||9||34||267||22.3||7.9||26||2|
|2011 - Brandon Jacobs||14||152||571||40.8||3.8||28||7||15||128||9.1||8.5||40||1|
Vernon Davis has become a star for the 49ers. He caught 67 passes for run-first San Francisco, and will severely challenge Giants rookie linebacker Jacquian Williams -- who has become the guy the Giants use quite often to cover tight ends.
Jake Ballard had a nice season for New York with 38 catches for 604 yards, averaging 15.9 yards per catch. That's an amazing YPC for a slow 6-foot-6, 270-pound tight end. Ballard has surprisingly good hands and a deceptive ability to get open, but he isn't Davis.
|Vernon Davis||Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
|Jake Ballard||Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
The Giants have the dynamic duo of Victor Cruz (82 receptions, 1.536 yards, nine touchdowns) and Hakeem Nicks (76 catches, 1,192 yards, seven touchdowns) and two incredible 2012 postseason performances. They also have Mario Manningham as their third receiver. Manningham, in fact, might be better than anyone San Francisco has on the outside.
Michael Crabtree (72 catches, 874 yards, four touchdowns) is the closest thing the 49ers have to a weapon on the outside.
Advantage: Giants ... Clearly, the Giants rely on getting big plays from their wide receivers as part of their winning formula. For San Francisco, big plays from the receivers seem like a bonus.
|Victor Cruz||Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
|Hakeem Nicks||Receiving||Kickoff Returns||Punt Returns|
The Giants have clearly struggled to run block all season, while San Francisco's offense is built around power running. The Giants have surrendered only 28 sacks, or a sack on 5.1 percent of pass plays. The 49ers have surrendered 44 sacks, or one every 8.4 percent of pass plays. That's not good when you consider Smith is probably more mobile than Manning.
The Giants have the more explosive offense, averaging 385.1 yards and 24.6 points per game to San Francisco's 380 yards and 17.6 points. The Giants have the better quarterback and more big-play weapons, but Gore could be the equalizer if the 49ers can run on the Giants.