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Monday, January 16, 2012
Will wet conditions favor 49ers vs. Giants?

By Mike Sando

Weather forecasts are calling for rain to hit San Francisco through the weekend, affecting conditions for the 49ers' NFC Championship Game against the New York Giants.

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.

Officials do cover the field with tarps when it rains (thanks for asking). The NFL seeks to maximize playing conditions by sending a representative to observe and work with team groundskeepers in the days leading up to playoff games. Water still gets onto the field when it rains. This is what it looked like two months ago when workers removed tarps field before warmups. Water spills off the tarps onto the visitor's sideline, where workers then use giant brooms to sweep away the water.

Relative to the Giants, the 49ers rely less on their passing game in general and their wide receivers in particular. They are stronger than the Giants on defense and special teams. They are also accustomed to the conditions at Candlestick. Those are among the reasons I think wet conditions could help the 49ers more than they help the Giants. Your thoughts?