I’m becoming a believer

The 49ers provided the Giants with the blueprints to beat the Packers yesterday. Now it’s up to Eli Manning and Co. to make it happen today in Green Bay.

Get off to a fast start, put pressure on Aaron Rodgers, force a turnover or two, have Eli Manning throw the ball to his receivers downfield and use Ahmad Bradshaw or Brandon Jacobs to break off a big run when least expected.

Problems exist, of course.

San Francisco’s secondary is light years ahead of the Giants in terms of talent. That group played an extraordinary game against Drew Brees and his receivers yesterday and it nearly wasn’t enough.

And you can’t minimize how often and hard their safeties and cornerbacks hit the Saints. The New Orleans receivers heard footsteps all day. I’m not sure the Giants’ secondary can duplicate those conditions. That will be up to the defensive line.

In the end, quarterback Alex Smith played the game of his life, but he needed two touchdowns in the final four minutes to make it so.

Manning has done it before, and he probably will have to do it again today if the Giants are to win. And someone will have to step up and have a moment like Vernon Davis had to win the game. Jake Ballard? Victor Cruz?

I fully expect Rodgers to throw at least four TD passes today. Just like Brees did against the 49ers. But somehow, someway, it won’t be enough.

Giants 31, Packers 28

***

When Matt Schaub was still healthy and quarterbacking Houston this season, the Texans were my pick to represent the AFC in this year’s  Super Bowl.

But November was a long time ago in football years. Today the Texans face the Ravens in Baltimore, where a terrific season probably comes to an end.

The Texans won their first divisional title and won a playoff game last week with third-string quarterback T.J. Yates under center against the Bengals. But now they face a completely different animal in the Ravens.

I considered the Ravens the team to beat once Schaub went down, and I still feel that way. Even after New England’s impressive victory that ended the Broncos’ season last night.

I expect Baltimore’s defense to concentrate on stopping Houston’s running game and force Yates to beat them today. Schaub could do it. I’d be very surprised if Yates can.

Look for quarterback Joe Flacco to keep the Texans’ defense honest, allowing Ray Rice to break a big run or two. On defense, I can see Terrell Suggs wreaking havoc in the Houston backfield and causing multiple turnovers.

If Ray Lewis and Ed Reed are going to get back to the Super Bowl, they had better hurry. They are well aware that their window of opportunity is closing. That’s all the Ravens’ defense needs: a sense of urgency.

Ravens 23, Texans 3   

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