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Original Issue

DR. Z'S FORECAST: NFC Championship Game



THE GIANTS were adesperate team after they were beaten by the Packers 35--13 in September. Theywere 0--2, and their defense had cost them both games. Their coach, TomCoughlin, wasn't expected to finish the season. They seemed lost.

How thingschange. New York's defense rose up and overran the Cowboys in Dallas on Sunday,and now the Giants are in the NFC title game against those same Packers.Coughlin is the toast of New York, and defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo ison head-coach interview lists around the league. All because the Giants' rushkicked in at the end of the Dallas game, and Tony Romo found himself inside abox from which there was no escape.

Bill Walsh oncesaid, "A late pass rush is the key to NFL football." Well, if theGiants want to have a chance against the Pack, they'd better come up with someexotic ways to get to Brett Favre. The problem is that Green Bay, which was apass-only team in September, has since balanced its attack nicely. And if Favrefeels too much heat, he can always throw short, on rhythm. He didn't last 17years in the NFL by standing tall and challenging the rush.

Frigid weather ispredicted, and a frozen field would be a problem for the Giants. A slipperyLambeau blunted the Seahawks' rush last Saturday, but it helped Green Bay'simpressive ground game. Ryan Grant (above, 25) is a skilled cutback runner, andhe got a lot of yardage by stretching the front side and cutting back weak. Thedefense was slow to react. "The weather is the same for both teams,"Coughlin says, which is like watching a guy fighting a shark and saying,"Well, it's wet for both of them."

I like theGiants' offense. I like the running back tandem of Brandon Jacobs andespecially Ahmad Bradshaw. The New York secondary is banged up, but it's betteroff with Corey Webster taking over for Sam Madison at one corner. I'm sure thePackers will attack that unit with multiple wideouts and fill the air withpasses. The Giants will make it close, before bowing to superior firepower.