The San Francisco 49ers play violent defense. They dominate on special teams. They limit turnovers by design and through impeccable decision making. They are good enough on offense to win close games against teams with flawed defenses.
Put it all together and the 49ers are a clear choice to win at home against a less consistent New York Giants team in the NFC Championship Game.
Sure, lots of things can send a football game heading in unexpected directions. Those things are less reliable than the 49ers have been.
Last week, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh told his players to trust their instincts heading into the team's first playoff appearance since January 2003. Good advice for all of us. I wasn't sure the 49ers could outscore New Orleans, but my instincts said they would win at home and a certain tight end would play a leading role in the outcome.
This week, Harbaugh's warning against "overcooking" things comes to mind.
The Giants were 9-7 this season. They lost by double digits at home to Washington a month ago in a game they needed to win. Their victory over 15-1 Green Bay last week served notice they're dangerous. But as well as the Giants played at Lambeau Field, the Packers were at least as horrendous.
The 49ers, 13-3 during the regular season, would have beaten the Packers, too. They put a physical beating on Drew Brees and the Saints, a team that finished the season strong and was playing better than the Packers were playing lately. When Brees hit for two big plays late in the game, the 49ers never flinched. They fired back and won.
Saints-49ers felt like a 50-50 call. Giants-49ers feels more like 60-40 in favor of San Francisco. You want a final score? Let's go with 27-17 and let's see if Frank Gore has something to say about the outcome.