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AccuScore simulation: NFC championship game

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AccuScore.com has run more than 10,000 simulations for Yahoo! Sports, calculating how each team's performance changes in response to game conditions, opponent's abilities, roster moves, weather and more. Each game is simulated one play at a time and the game is replayed a minimum of 10,000 times to generate forecasted winning percentages, player statistics and a variety of game-changing scenarios. Here's AccuScore.com's analysis of the NFC championship game.

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME

The Packers are winning 65 percent of simulations in a fairly close game by an average score of Packers 25, Giants 20.

It looks like it will be less than 10 degrees on Sunday with a chance of snow. Eli Manning is playing the best ball of his career and his simulation numbers are good (210 passing yards, 1.3 TDs per sim) and not that much lower than Brett Favre, who averages 240 yards and 1.6 TDs per sim. However, Favre is averaging less than 1 interception while Manning is averaging more than 1 interception and that is a key difference in the game.

Both teams run the ball well. Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw combine for 140 yards and well over five yards per carry while Ryan Grant averages over 5.5 ypc and 100-plus yards. The game is close with 25 percent of simulations coming down to a field goal or less. For the Giants to win, Eli manning needs to outplay another QB. In Giants simulation wins, Manning averages more passing yards, 0.6 more TD passes and fewer INTs than Favre.

How important is home-field advantage?

The Giants have lost just one road game this year and Manning's passer rating has been higher on the road than at home for the past two seasons. Not surprisingly, home-field advantage is not nearly as meaningful in this game as other games. Green Bay easily won its regular-season matchup vs. the Giants and in a re-match simulation, the Packers win 51 percent against the improved Giants. The Giants' winning percentage improves by 14 percentage points. For comparisons sake, the Chargers' winning percentage improves by nearly 19 percentage points if their game vs. New England were at home.

Scenarios GB NYG Score
New York at Green Bay 64.8% 35.2% 25-20
Green Bay at New York 50.8% 49.2% 23-22
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Is Grant more valuable than Favre?

Grant is forecasted for 100-plus yards on over 5 ypc. In simulations where Grant is not playing, and Green Bay starts Brandon Jackson with Vernand Morency as a backup, the Packers win 54 percent of simulations – a decline of eight percentage points!

GB Rushing Stats Win% Rush YD YPC TD
W/ Ryan Grant 64.8% 24 119 5.0 1.1
W/O Ryan Grant 56.1% 20 76 3.8 0.4
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Favre is also forecasted for an excellent game – 62 completion percentage, 240 yards, 1.6 TD passes per sim vs. just 0.8 INTs. However, Aaron Rodgers played well in limited action this year. Most of his numbers were generated vs. the Cowboys where Rodgers played well. If (and this is a huge if) Rodgers could play like he did vs the Cowboys, he averages 229 yards passing, 1.4 TD passes and 0.8 INTs and the Packers still win 59 percent of simulations (a six percentage point decline from when Favre starts). The problem with this analysis is it is difficult to measure the intangible leadership quality that Favre brings, but from a purely statistical standpoint, Grant is more valuable to the Packers than Favre!

Green Bay Win% CMP ATT % YD TD INT
Brett Favre 64.8% 21.1 33.8 62.4% 239 1.6 0.8
Aaron Rodgers 59.2% 20.1 32.4 62.0% 229 1.4 0.8
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Do the Giants miss Shockey?

It does not look like they do. Without Jeremy Shockey, the Giants TE Kevin Boss and rookie WR Steve Smith have gotten more passes thrown to them. Manning's completion percentage, touchdown rate and first-down conversion rate are slightly higher passing to Boss and Smith combined than it was to Shockey. In simulations with Shockey playing, the Giants still won 35 percent of simulations confirming that the team can continue to win without their star TE.

NY Giants Win% REC YD YPR TD
Jeremy Shockey 35.2% 3.8 41 10.8 0.22
Boss / Smith 35.1% 3.3 39 11.8 0.21
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Can Giants' pass rush disrupt Packers passing game?

The Giants are sacking Favre twice per simulation. In simulations, AccuScore doubled the number of times the Giants sack Favre. While the Giants' winning percentage does improve from 35 percent to 40 percent, the improvement is not as much as one would expect. The reason is, the Packers throw a lot of short slant passes and even if the Giants blitz a ton, Favre can still complete a high percentage of these passes to keep the ball moving.

Brett Favre Win% CMP ATT % YD TD INT FUML SACK
Baseline 64.8% 21.1 33.8 62.4% 239 1.6 0.8 0.4 1.9
W/ 2X Sacks 59.2% 19.5 31.5 61.9% 221 1.5 0.8 0.6 3.9
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For more information on AccuScore’s NFL Predictions, visit www.Accuscore.com.