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    Jim Harbaugh warned his players that the Giants would be in no short supply of
    bulletin board material this week. So when Antrel Rolle declared that his team
    could not be beat, it seemed right on cue.

    They expected things to go this way, fully anticipating a "****y" team.

    "I would say yes (they're ****y), even watching them when they were going to
    play the New York Jets, I don't know if that's their philosophy, I don't know if
    their psychologist up there is trying to get into our head or something but we
    don't plan on taking the bait," safety Donte Whitner said. "We plan on going out
    there, working, preparing the same way and when we get out there at the end of
    the fourth quarter, let the chips fall where they may."

    On Monday, the same day Rolle's comments were made, Whitner posted this on
    his Twitter page: “Out here in San Fran we'll let our Shoulder Pads do all the
    talking … haha.”

    Added tackle Anthony Davis: “Are the Giants doing drunk interviews? Lol.”

    But they were determined to leave it at that, predicting that Sunday, any
    bravado will be answered on the field. Whitner, for example, was the one who
    knocked out Saints running back Pierre Thomas last Saturday with a devastating
    blow that knocked him out for the remainder of the game.

    "If you watch film and you see secondary guys out there getting physical
    sometimes it gets into offensive guys' minds, sometimes they pay more attention
    to the defender than they do to the football and that causes some drops, some
    tips, some overthrows so hopefully that's why we do it," he said. "Because we
    want that to be in their head."

    * * *

    It wasn't all tough talk here in Saints camp, though. Here's what Whitner had
    to say about the trio of Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks and Mario Manningham:

    "I compare these guys to the receiving group up in Pittsburgh, the Saints and
    Green Bay. They're all the same, they're all the same guys. These guys are
    really good, they can all play the slot, they can all play the X or the Z, which
    gives them opportunities to move guys around so that you can't double one guy or
    get a beat on what they're doing. So, I would say these guys are at the top of
    the league."

    "Now (instead of Victor Cruz) it's Hakeem Nicks, he's out there, he's making
    a lot of plays, he's trying to set records for receiving yards and touchdowns in
    the first couple games of the playoffs and that's the guy we're really going to
    have to understand where he's at at all times."

    * * *

    Harbaugh said that TE Delanie Walker (jaw) would practice today but that he
    wasn't sure about Sunday. He said he needed to see how Walker responded to
    treatment and some extended work in practice.

    * * *
    Harbaugh said that he's heard from Ronnie Lott and Steve Young this
    week already.

    "Very very positive, very excited for the fellas," he said.

    * * *

    When asked what the biggest difference in the Giants now and when he beat
    them back in Week 10, Harbaugh said:

    "Well, they were playing really good at that time and they're playing really
    good now. I think they're a healthier team, then when we played them, but this
    is a Super Bowl contending team and that's who they are, offensively,
    defensively, special teams, a class team. They don't give you things, they don't
    let you have what they want, they don't make mistakes."


    "As the Giants began their week of preparation for the NFC Championship Game,
    quarterback Eli Manning left today's practice early with what coach Tom Coughlin
    called "a stomach bug."

    "Hopefully it is just a 24-hour deal," Coughlin said, "and he’ll feel better

    Manning was in meetings all morning, and he participated in the jog-thru
    period of practice and took a few reps, but was sent inside when he felt ill.
    Back-up David Carr took over and said he took about 75 percent of today's

    Manning was scratched from his usual Wednesday media availability. He has not
    missed practice all season, but Carr said Manning's reduced reps shouldn't
    affect the team during a critical week.

    "If he didn’t have the red-belt mastery of the offense then maybe, but he
    does," Carr said. "It's not something that is going to affect him. The biggest
    thing would be the players, the rest of the guys. So what I try to do is go in
    and do exactly what he would do, keep it consistent, so their practice and their
    Wednesday was as normal as possible, and I think that it was."

    Guard Chris Snee was also not overly concerned, saying that if anyone could
    miss practice and play well Sunday, it is Manning. He said Manning was at the
    facility Monday and Tuesday and has the game plan down.

    "I'm actually going to bring him some soup tomorrow," Snee said. "I’ll do
    whatever it takes to make sure he is at full strength."


    Late last week LB Mark Herzlich said if the Giants beat the Packers on Sunday
    he hoped to return to practice this week. It wasn't a certainty, but Herzlich,
    who was the only Giant not to make the trip to Lambeau, was optimistic after
    working on his ankle pain-free.

    Today he's practicing for the first time since fracturing his ankle against
    the Saints on Nov. 28, which forced him to miss the last seven games. Herzlich,
    who had earned a starting spot when he was injured, was participating in the
    routine drills with his fellow linebackers without any sign of hindrance during
    the portion of the session open to the media.

    Herzlich's return left RB Ahmad Bradshaw as the only player sitting out
    today, but that's to be expected -- Bradshaw only has only practiced on Fridays
    since he has returned from a foot injury. Bradshaw was watching practicing from
    a stationary bike.

    That means the Giants have everyone as healthy as they can get for this late
    in a season and the healthiest they've been all season.

    The three other players on the Giants pre-practice injury report -- Justin
    Tuck (shoulder), Osi Umenyiora (ankle/knee) and Corey Webster (hamstring) --
    were also practicing during the portion open to the media."


    Excerpt: "
    Lynch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : The Giants have history stacked against them
    as they look to finish this year's postseason run with two more victories: No
    team to finish the regular season 9-7
    has ever won the Super Bowl. But
    Sunday's opponent will also be swimming against an historical current. The San
    Francisco 49ers entered the postseason with the No. 26 ranked offense in the
    NFL, by total offense. The lowest a Super Bowl champion's offense has been
    ranked by that metric has been No. 24, when the Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the
    Oakland Raiders in 2003. The 49ers have maneuvered around their shortcomings,
    though, compensating with an insatiably forceful defense and razor-edged special
    teams units. The 49ers finished No. 11 in the NFL in scoring -- thanks to the
    defensive and special teams phases who provided starting field position in
    opponents' territory an NFL-high 37 times -- while reaching 14 wins this

    Cam Inman, San Jose
    Mercury News
    : The 49ers turned opponents over 38 times during the regular
    season, an NFL high that continued last weekend when they registered a plus-four
    in turnover differential against the New Orleans Saints. The stat is
    historically a predictor of success for NFL teams, but particularly for the
    49ers. In postseason games in which they have the higher turnover differential,
    the 49ers are 19-1.

    Branch, San Francisco Chronicle
    : The Giants' confident declarations about
    their level of play have been answered by the 49ers via Twitter. Donte Whitner,
    the veteran
    safety who has helped set San Francisco's confidence and physicality with his
    hard hits and hissing barbs leveled at opponents
    , responded by tweeting,
    "Out here in San Fran we let our Shoulder Pads do all the talking….haha.”
    Anthony Davis, formerly Rutgers' left tackle and outspoken tweeter, asked, "Are
    the Giants doing drunk interviews? Lol.”



    Excerpt: "
    Nine years after the infamous climax to a historic collapse, you still blame
    one guy. Go ahead, you can admit it: Around your household, which probably
    hasn’t been the same since, you probably refer to it as Junkin’s Blunder or
    Junkin’s Folly or anything that might describe a 7-yard snap that only travels 5
    yards, vulgarities optional.

    “All I know is,” Jim Fassel says now, “if anyone can blame that game on one
    player, they didn’t watch the whole game.”

    Perhaps that’s the problem with the events of Jan. 5, 2003 — it wasn’t just
    one game.

    It was an NFL playoff encounter with multiple subplots, an implausible
    momentum shift, an unprecedented officiating blunder, and one scapegoat. His
    name was Trey Junkin, a 41-year-old long snapper who contributed in a small but
    profound way during the Giants’ last
    postseason visit to San Francisco — an epic, wild-card meltdown that punched the
    ticket of a team that had a 24-point lead and a dormant death wish.

    And when the Giants’ litany of screw-ups resulted in a head-banging, 39-38
    defeat, Planet Blue had its Bill Buckner.

    We always found that somewhat amusing — you blow a 38-14 lead with 20 minutes
    to play and you blame the deep snapper? — and wondered whether Fassel shared
    our, uh, amusement. Short answer: He does not, because you can’t find jollity in
    the most agonizing defeat of a venerable career — especially one that defiled
    his sturdy, seven-year tenure as Giants head coach.

    But he doesn’t share the dim-bulb cant that it’s Junkin’s fault, either.

    “People forget, Trey was our fourth long snapper that year,” the former
    Giants coach said Tuesday from his home outside Vegas. “I didn’t cut any of ’em,
    either — they were all injured. So the week before that game, I brought Trey in
    because I knew him to be the consummate pro when I had him in Arizona (in
    1996).”


    "There’s no doubt Terrell Thomas would’ve rather been getting a jump on film
    study of the 49ers Tuesday instead of running on an AlterG anti-gravity

    However, considering it was the first time he ran since undergoing surgery to
    repair a torn anterior cruciate ligament in late September, it was a pretty good
    day after all.

    “This is where the fun starts right now,” the Giants cornerback said by phone from
    California before his workout. He had been placed on injured reserve before the
    regular season even began after tearing
    the ACL in his right knee
    for the second time.

    “This is when you start bending and really seeing the progression in the
    knee,” he said. “Before, it was just working on the stability and getting
    everything stronger around it.

    “The first time I tore my ACL, I never had any setbacks. Everything is going
    to accordance so I’m just staying positive and trying to progress.”

    It’s a challenge for Thomas to stay upbeat these days. While the Giants are
    two games into a potential Super Bowl run and on their way to his home state for
    Sunday’s NFC Championship Game in San Francisco, Thomas is “in his own season,”
    as he put it.

    The free-agent-to-be stayed away most of the past few months after his injury
    in a preseason game against the Bears so he could focus on his rehab. But he
    made an appearance at the team’s facility a few days before the wild-card game
    against the Falcons. That Sunday, he was on the sideline during the pregame
    before heading upstairs to the booth so he wouldn’t be a “distraction.”

    Though he claims it “wasn’t that tough” because he was there to provide
    support, Thomas is dealing with the same issues many injured players experience
    — they’re part of the team but can’t help but feel a bit detached.

    “The way they really came together this year, obviously we had our ups and
    downs and struggled at times, but we played together. That’s the main thing I
    missed most and the hardest part,” he said. “Last year, we were a roller
    coaster. Sometimes we played as a team and sometimes we were all individuals out
    there. But they’re all playing together right now. From offense, defense and
    special teams and it’s working for them.

    “They had two (playoff) games to win and they did what they had to do.
    They’re jelling and they’re hot right now.”

    Thomas says he never had a doubt this defense would get its act together,
    even as he was sitting at home and watching the breakdowns against the Cowboys.
    To him, they were mental issues, not physical ones, so he had a feeling they’d
    be ironed out — and they have.

    “Not to say my teammates (stink), but just to make a comparison, if a guy
    (stinks) or a team (stinks) but they get hot and they believe in themselves,
    that’s all that matters,” he said. “They got that mental process out of the way,
    they believe in themselves, they’re playing good ball right now and
    communicating and having fun. You see that confidence just like it was when they
    were winning in the beginning of the season.

    “The swagger is back and I don’t think they’re going to lose it.”

    Speaking of things Thomas doesn’t expect to be lost, he believes he’ll
    maintain the speed and “spring” he had before the surgery. He’s been through
    this rehab process before, went to the same surgeon and once again opted for the
    cadaver ligament instead of the hamstring tendon as a replacement. Plus, he’s
    seeing positive signs early on that have him believing he’ll be as good as

    “When you’re able to do things three weeks ahead of schedule like I have,
    it’s definitely a positive,” he said, adding this about the two rehabs:
    “Comparing my knee from then to now it feels the same way.”

    The only question is whether the Giants will be the ones to potentially
    benefit from such a recovery.

    In a little less than two months, he’ll hit the market as an unrestricted
    free agent. If he’d stayed healthy, Thomas would’ve been in line for a big
    payday, especially since he was working to make more plays on the ball and was
    having an outstanding training camp before Jason Pierre-Paul collided with him
    with 22 seconds left in the first half against Chicago. Now, it’s a bit
    trickier, as the Giants or another team will have to make an offer based on the
    projected recovery.

    So far, there have been no contract talks. The team is focused on the current
    season, and Thomas is providing support.

    But pretty soon, he’ll get to feel included once again.

    “I’m getting excited. It’s my time now,” he said. “I got hurt and had my
    surgery and now it’s my time. Once they win this game and go to the Super Bowl,
    once the season’s over, it’s all about me hopefully re-signing with the Giants
    and moving forward.”

    Thomas thanked the fans for lifting his spirits during his recovery, which is
    why he's tried to keep them in the loop on his recovery via the blog on his website.

    "My Twitter family and
    all my followers have made me feel appreciated and never made me feel lost," he
    said. "I get countless tweets about, 'We miss you out there, can’t wait to see
    you back on the field,' and so on and so on. I definitely appreciate it. I know
    the truth behind it, I’m out here in LA rehabbing and in my own season but I
    definitely feel and appreciate the support from my team and the Giants fans."


    Excerpt: "He was walking down the red carpet at the Golden Globes, a march with the
    Hollywood elite that millions would die to make. And all Chris Mara wanted was a
    better glimpse of that damn TV monitor.

    There it was, so frustratingly close, outside the velvet ropes. Mara could
    see that it had the Giants game on. But,
    thanks to his poor eyesight and all those view-blocking celebrities — Hey,
    Tom Hanks, down in front!
    — he could barely make out what was happening a
    few thousand miles away in slightly less glamorous Green Bay.

    “Did we just intercept that?!” Mara asked his wife.

    No, he was told. Giants cornerback Aaron Ross had just knocked down a pass.
    It was still in the third quarter, the divisional playoff game between the
    Packers and Giants still in doubt, and his talented daughter Rooney was wowing
    the papar***i in a black Nina Ricci gown. But she was stopping every 10 feet for
    another interview, and her dad was running out of patience.

    Rooney, the breakout star from “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo,” was
    nominated for best actress in a drama — a field that included superstars Meryl
    Streep and Glenn Close. Her father had missed his first Giants playoff game in
    40 years to be at her side, a decision that ranked among the easiest in his

    “Somebody said, ‘Jeez, you’re missing the Giants game,’?” Mara said, who
    replied, “Yeah, this isn’t exactly a piano recital.”

    But he warned Rooney: He would not linger on the red carpet. It wasn’t
    exactly like the photographers were waiting to se what the Giants’ senior vice
    president of player evaluation was wearing (which, for the record, was a vintage
    Brooks Brothers suit with a Johnny-O tie).

    So, as soon as he had an opening, Mara made like Victor Cruz and broke away
    from the crowd. He hustled down the carpet and up to a suite in the Beverly
    Hilton, where a couple of Sony executives told him that they’d be watching the

    This is how Sunday went for Mara. If 45.1 million people watched the
    Packers-Giants game, and another 16.8 million watched the Golden Globes, then
    about a quarter of the country had some interest in what his family was doing.

    Mara was desperate to watch both, and this led to one of the wildest days of
    his life. He caught the first quarter in his hotel room, then watched most of
    the second quarter in his daughter’s room."


    If the Giants march on to win the Super Bowl next month in Indianapolis, they
    will bring glory to their blue jerseys and gild the careers of Eli
    and Tom Coughlin. They
    also will make history, and not necessarily the good kind, by becoming the worst
    team ever to capture an NFL championship in any form.

    Since the Super Bowl era began in 1967, no team has won a Super Bowl with
    such a lousy regular-season record, 9-7.

    In fact, there is only one NFL champion that had a comparably mediocre mark,
    and that was the 1934 Giants (8-5), who upset the undefeated Chicago Bears in
    the title game by wearing sneakers in the freezing rain at the Polo Grounds –
    arguably more of a miracle than the 2008 win over the Pats. And even those ’34
    Giants had a winning percentage of .615, compared to the .563 percentage of the
    2011 version.

    Three champions – the 1988 Niners, the 2007 Giants and the
    2010 Packers – had 10-6 marks. Two Super Bowl losers, the ’79 Los Angeles Rams
    and the ’08 Arizona Cardinals, were 9-7. The Cards came within 35 seconds of
    beating Pittsburgh for the title, but then they didn’t. If the Giants win in San
    Francisco and Indy, this would be fresh, sodden ground, a negative breakthrough
    of sorts.

    Should it come to pass, don’t expect much hand-wringing or
    teeth gnashing over the feat. For one thing, no 10-6 team or 9-7 team was
    cheated out of the playoffs this season in the NFC. The only possible
    realignment that might have denied the Giants a spot would have been a combined
    16-team conference with four berths, no wild cards.

    From a competitive
    perspective, the Giants clearly belong in the postseason. They’re healthy now,
    on the upswing. They have the quarterback and pass rush to beat anyone. They
    dismantled the 15-1 Packers at Lambeau. They’ve already beaten the Pats this
    season and played the Niners tough.

    But then there is the philosophical
    question, one that no local fan in his right mind will stop for a moment to
    consider: Do the Giants really deserve this shot?

    They were particularly lucky that the Eagles had a terrible start. Their
    early opponents were soft. The Giants dropped four straight in the heart of
    their schedule, from Nov. 20 to Dec. 4, and should have been buried.

    “We lost four in a row and still own our own destiny,” Justin Tuck said, after
    the Giants turned themselves back around. “In this league, that’s

    Extremely fortunate. Far worthier teams in the recent past –
    the 11-5, fast-closing Patriots of 2008 come immediately to mind – were shut out
    of the playoffs by a series of unfortunate tiebreaker scenarios.

    So where
    does that leave the NFL, a league that prides itself on the importance of each
    and every regular-season game and has made a broadcasting fortune by milking
    that 17-week concept?

    No doubt, just fine.

    League governors knew exactly what they were doing with this multi-layered
    playoff system. Maybe the best team doesn’t always win the title anymore, yet
    all but a few stragglers maintain postseason dreams and high Nielsen ratings
    right up to the final Sunday. Then come the playoffs, where there is always a
    place at the table for Cinderella among her more accomplished stepsisters,
    particularly if Cinderella hails from a major market.

    It no longer
    appears such a long-shot notion that the Giants will become the worst team in
    history to win an NFL championship. If they succeed, the NFL moves another step
    further from the NBA, closer to Major League Baseball, in terms of the
    randomness of its champions.

    The system may not be fair, but it sells
    like nobody’s business."


    Excerpt: "
    The change in the San Francisco 49ers' attitude this season might be most
    evident when the defensive backs gather in a team meeting room each week to
    watch the highlight video from the previous game.

    Secondary coach Ed Donatell counts and compares the number of "domination
    hits" in a fierce and friendly competition among players. The challenge is for
    each to deliver at least one crushing -- but legal -- blow on an opponent every

    "We're not really trying to hurt people," safety Donte Whitner said. "But
    when we play physical, people get hurt."

    The hard-hitting, ball-hawking secondary has created its share of imposing
    images for San Francisco (14-3) this season, part of a defense that has carried
    the franchise back to the NFC Championship Game for the first time in 14 years
    to face the Giants (11-7) on Sunday at Candlestick Park.

    Whitner and fellow safety Dashon Goldson were a last-minute pairing in
    training camp. Goldson seemed certain he wouldn't return after Whitner signed as
    a free agent from the Buffalo Bills, even tweeting goodbye to 49ers fans only to
    have the franchise re-sign him days later.

    The same might've been said for cornerbacks Carlos Rogers and Tarell Brown.
    San Francisco cut high-priced cornerback Nate Clements -- who received an $80
    million, eight-year contract in March 2007 but never met expectations -- just
    before training camp in favor of a duo that had its share of problems picking
    off passes.

    Not anymore.

    General manager Trent Baalke's decisions in the secondary have turned into
    49ers gold, building the back-end of a defense that led the NFL with 38
    takeaways -- including a half-dozen interceptions each for Rogers and Goldson --
    with a physical foursome that is drawing comparisons to the Pittsburgh Steelers
    and Baltimore Ravens of recent years.

    "They really bring a tone-setting physicality to their tackling," 49ers coach
    Jim Harbaugh said.

    Take last week for instance.

    Setting the stage for a collision-filled 36-32 victory over the New Orleans
    Saints, Goldson walked out for the team's first practice wearing his game-day
    eye black. Whitner put in his mouthpiece for the full-padded practice -- rare
    for NFL teams this late in the season -- and warned his teammates about what to

    "I told them, 'Get out of my way, because I'm going to hit everything that's
    moving,'" Whitner said.

    He delivered on his promise."



    Excerpt: "Curses!

    The Giants now have more than just the 49ers and a soggy forecast in San
    Francisco to worry about in advance of Sunday's NFC championship game at
    Candlestick Park.

    Sports Illustrated, which has jinxed more than a few playoff runs during its
    history, sent panic through the Big Blue faithful Wednesday morning when they
    released this week's cover.

    Hakeem Nicks' Hail
    Mary grab at the end of the first half that helped spark the Giants' stunning
    37-20 dismantling of the 15-1 Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field Sunday graces
    this week's cover with the headline 'SURPRISE! SURPRISE! It's Giants vs. Niners
    for a Ticket to Indy' set to hit newsstands Wednesday afternoon.

    According to SI, this is the first time the Giants have appeared on the cover
    since Aug. 4, 2008. David Tyree got the nod
    back then for the magazine's NFL Training Camp preview issue coming off his
    unforgettable catch to help Big Blue upset the Patriots in Super Bowl
    XLII."



    "When 49ers tight end Vernon Davis
    was watching the Giants-Packers game on Sunday, he admitted he “prayed” for the
    Giants to win, so the NFC Championship Game would be played in San

    His prayers were obviously answered. But Antrel Rolle warned
    Davis that might not be a good thing for his team.

    “They better be careful what they ask for,” Rolle said. “Because their wish
    has been granted.”

    During his weekly paid spot on WFAN Rolle said, “I can only hope he was
    saying that because they wanted to get a home game,” and that did appear to be
    the case. Davis wasn’t the only one praying for a specific outcome last weekend
    either. On Monday, Giants receiver Victor Cruz admitted
    that San Francisco’s win over the New Orleans Saints “definitely works out in
    our favor a little bit.”

    The Giants narrowly lost to the 49ers in San Francisco, 27-20, on Nov. 13.
    Two weeks later they got hammered in New Orleans, 49-24.

    Not that Rolle really cared who the Giants would face — as long as they were
    playing in the NFC title game.

    “I don’t give a damn who we’re playing, man,” Rolle said. “That’s my take.
    I’ll take any opponent, any given day. That’s my attitude. If someone has a
    problem with it, oh well. But that’s how I am. That’s how I was raised. I don’t
    shy away from any opponent. My heart doesn’t pump any Kool-Aid, only blood. I’m
    ready for whenever, however, whatever, however it gets to me. I’m ready for

    So, since Rolle said “We can’t be beat” on Monday, who does he want the
    Giants to face in Super Bowl XLVI — the Patriots or the Ravens?

    “I want the San Francisco 49ers,” Rolle said. “And we’re going to get them
    this Sunday.”


    "When Tom Coughlin and Eli
    walked off the field after a terrible home loss to the Redskins in
    December, nobody was comparing them to Vince Lombardi and
    , or Bill Walsh
    and Joe Montana. Some still
    wanted Coughlin fired. Others argued Manning still wasn’t “elite.”

    Now, exactly one month later, the idea of Coughlin and Manning as football
    immortals may not be as absurd as it once seemed. They are two wins away from
    earning their second Super Bowl title together.

    And if they do, they might just cement future spots for themselves in the Pro
    Football Hall of Fame.

    It’s not quite that automatic and it’s definitely premature, according to
    several of the 44 members of the Hall of Fame’s selection committee who spoke to
    the Daily News on Tuesday. But a second championship would go a long, long way
    toward earning both men and eventual bust in Canton. Only one eligible
    quarterback has ever won two Super Bowls and not been elected to the Hall — Jim
    . Six of the nine eligible coaches with two Super Bowl rings are in,

    Coughlin and Manning have built impressive — but not quite immortal —
    resumes, said the voters. A second title could make the difference when their
    names eventually come up.

    “I think it does matter,” said Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, a long-time
    member of the selection committee. “Historically it has. But I don’t think
    historically it’s meant that it makes them a lock.”

    “It can push a guy over the top,” added Vinny DiTrani, a
    former long-time Giants writer and Hall of Fame voter for The Record (Bergen
    County, N.J.). “If a guy has phenomenal numbers, it’s not going to hurt him. But
    if you’re a guy on the edge, that’ll push you over.

    “How many winning teams did that guy play on or coach for? How many
    championship teams? That comes into play.”

    It always has come into play as part of a larger equation when the selection
    committee meets the day before each Super Bowl to whittle down a list of
    finalists into that year’s Hall of Fame class. How much it matters is hard to
    say, since the committee has changed many times over the years.

    The odds clearly go way up, though, for candidates with multiple titles —
    especially for coaches and quarterbacks who almost always get historical credit
    for those wins. The only quarterback to win two Super Bowls and not make the
    Hall when eligible was the former Raider Plunkett.
    Among the eligible coaches, the Raiders’ Tom Flores, Dallas’ Jimmy
    and San Francisco’s George Seifert (two
    each) have missed. Bill Parcells is a
    finalist this year.

    So even if the Giants win Super Bowl XLVI it’s too early to plan any trips to
    Canton. About the only thing another ring will guarantee is that both men will
    someday get a very serious look.

    “If they can pull this off, it will certainly add to their legacy and make
    them serious candidates,” said David Elfin, a
    seven-year member of the committee who works for WUSA in Washington, D.C. “But
    it’s not just about the rings.”

    “Two Super Bowls is one way to look at something, and it’s significant,” King
    added. “But you have to look at more than that. This isn’t baseball where if you
    hit 500 homers or you have 3,000 hits, you’re in. There isn’t a gold standard
    you can reach as a player or coach. That’s why I hate to sit here and say ‘If
    Eli wins a second Super Bowl he’s in.’ ”

    Even without the rings, Coughlin and Manning have built pretty good resumes.
    Coughlin has a career winning percentage of only .557 (152-121, including
    playoffs), but he ranks 19th in wins in NFL history. This will be his fourth
    conference championship game, including one in his second year with an expansion
    franchise. If the Giants win on Sunday, the 65-year-old Coughlin would tie Tom
    for most road playoff wins of all time.

    Manning threw for nearly 5,000 yards this season, is well on his way to
    re-writing the Giants’ record book and has already surpassed 27,000 career
    yards. He won a Super Bowl MVP and engineered arguably the greatest final drive
    in Super Bowl history. And at age 31, he could still have another 4-5 good years
    left — maybe more.

    It’s possible both men would get Hall of Fame consideration some day even
    without a second ring. King said the Giants’ wild run to Super Bowl XLII was
    “one of the great playoff runs by a quarterback in NFL history” and Manning will
    likely get “extra credit for that because of how ridiculous an accomplishment
    that was.” That goes on Coughlin’s list of accomplishments, too.

    Their candidacies also may hinge on what happens next. If Coughlin doesn’t
    retire, he could coach another 2-3 years and pick up 20-30 wins that King said
    would put him “in the Hall of Fame stratosphere.” Manning’s numbers could come
    close to those of his Hall of Fame-bound brother Peyton.

    Then again, maybe none of that would matter if they were both two-time
    champions when their names were presented to the board of selectors. Maybe they
    will have already done enough.

    “Championships do matter,” said Dave Goldberg, a
    former Associated Press writer who has been on the selection committee for more
    than 20 years. “They do to the point there are certain guys in the Hall that
    have never won one, and people say ‘Why are these guys in there if they never
    won a title?’

    “It’s not an automatic thing, but it can be a factor to people who might be
    on the bubble a little bit,” DiTrani added. “If you have great stats you’re
    going to get in. If you have really, really good stats, that might put you over
    the top. But if you have those two rings and not the body of work to back it up,
    it doesn’t matter at all."


    "The question to the Giants general manager, Jerry Reese, was about
    defensive pressure on Eli Manning, the kind
    he didn’t get from the Packers on Sunday at Lambeau Field, which is why he
    seemed to have all day every time he needed to throw the ball down the field, no
    matter how many yards he needed.

    Me: “What game this season do you feel Eli faced the most pressure?” Just
    because he is going to get more of that from the 49ers in San Francisco than he
    ever got in Green Bay.

    Reese: “All of them. He’s the QB of the New York Giants. You know what I

    When it was pointed out to Reese that I really did mean defensive pressure,
    his answer came back this way: “Hard call. Most teams blitz us like crazy
    because it is hard to get pressure in this league with four-man fronts

    The better response, though, was the first one from Jerry Reese, about all
    the pressure Eli has faced since he got to the Giants, since he wanted the
    Giants coming out of Ole Miss, once it became clear that he didn’t want to go
    play for the Chargers, that he wanted to come to the Giants, wanted the big
    stage and big football history. Wasn’t afraid of the spotlight that came with
    being the quarterback of the Giants.

    Eli’s agent, Tom Condon, couldn’t
    come out and say it in the winter and spring of 2004. But he sure wanted the
    Giants all along, even knowing the Chargers had the first pick in the draft.
    Condon knew how much Ernie Accorsi, the
    Giants general manager at the time, wanted Eli Manning. Still: No one was sure
    until it was the Giants’ turn to draft that day in April of ’04 that the trade
    with the Chargers, who had already taken Eli with that first pick, would

    But it did happen. Of course Accorsi will always get his props for pulling
    the whole thing off. But everybody in the league knows what one general manager
    told me yesterday: “It doesn’t happen without Condon.”
    If Condon wanted the
    Giants all along, so did the Manning family. Which means Eli did. So the kid is
    the great Giant who chose New York as much as it chose him. The other legendary
    quarterbacks from Giants history were either drafted, or got traded here.

    Eli Manning wanted it all. Four years after he was drafted, he won it all,
    won the Giants as famous a Super Bowl as anybody ever played. Four years later
    he tries to beat the 49ers on Sunday and go back to the Super Bowl, maybe to
    play the Patriots again. If it happens this time, it surprises nobody, certainly
    not Eli himself.

    Nobody was surprised that he went into Lambeau Field in January and beat the
    Packers again. And nobody should have been surprised that he and Victor
    got together for that 99-yard touchdown on the day when the Giants
    couldn’t lose to the Jets. Or that when the Cowboys game seemed to be going the
    wrong way in the last game of the regular season, he got out of the pocket on
    third down and threw one over 40 yards to Cruz like he was throwing it to David
    in the Super Bowl.

    And when the Packers foolishly gave him a few extra seconds at the end of the
    first half on Sunday at Lambeau, he threw his perfect “Flood Tip” jump ball pass
    to Hakeem Nicks, put that
    ball exactly where he had to, as if it was on some kind of string. He saves his
    best for the biggest moments. He has that kind of game. You either do or you
    don’t. He is the quiet one out of the Manning quarterbacks, and he is the one
    who ends up being this kind of star in New York.

    “Sometimes it’s as if he doesn’t exist until he shows up on Sunday to be
    quarterback of the Giants,” Phil Simms told me
    yesterday. “Eight years in New York and his biggest controversy is saying he’s
    elite. Unbelievable.”

    It wasn’t just that he didn’t want to go play for the Chargers, that Archie Manning was
    scared his youngest son would get stuck on a dead-end team the way he had gotten
    stuck on one in New Orleans. Eli wanted to come here. He wanted to take his shot
    here. Then his agent and Ernie Accorsi made it happen.

    Accorsi was on board with the trade. So was John Mara. So were John’s
    brothers, Chris and Frank. But the late Wellington Mara
    wasn’t so sure. It wasn’t because he wasn’t sure about Eli Manning. It was
    because of Mr. Mara’s immense loyalty, because Kerry Collins had
    taken the Giants to a Super Bowl a few years before, and he knew that drafting
    Eli would be the end of Collins.

    But finally on draft day, in the room with Accorsi and his sons, John Mara
    said his father finally “weakened.”

    “He saw that we all had a conviction,” John said.

    The rest is history. Mr. Mara died in 2005. He did not see the Super Bowl
    against the Patriots, did not see Eli honor the conviction of the people in the
    draft room that day, April of ’04, did not see the pass to Tyree or the one to
    Plaxico Burress in
    the corner of the end zone that won it for the Giants, won what John Mara called
    that night “the greatest victory in the history of this franchise.”

    They were all right, all the ones who thought Eli was made for the job, for
    New York. He didn’t come to be a celebrity, just quarterback of the



    Excerpt: "There is zero percent chance the Giants will be able to operate their
    high-flying passing attack at peak efficiency Sunday against the 49ers in the
    NFC Championship. Anyone who thinks they can is all wet.

    The cohesive, rugged, old-school (think defense first) 49ers would be a
    challenge no matter where and no matter what the conditions, but looming up
    ahead is the true test whether or not the Giants are an all-weather team. After
    a rousing 37-20 Divisional beatdown of the defending champion Packers in the
    cold at Lambeau Field, go figure that a trip to northern California could be
    fraught with soggy peril for the Giants.

    It is supposed to start raining on Thursday in San Francisco and not stop
    until Tuesday. That’s five straight days of build-an-ark inducing precipitation.
    The forecast for game day is 56 degrees and 70 percent chance of rain.

    This is not good news for the Giants, by far the more explosive team on
    offense, a team that loves a fast track and has shown little ability to grind it
    out on a slow surface. The natural bluegrass field at Candlestick Park is below
    sea level and notorious for dampness when the sun goes down — even when it’s not
    damp outside. No doubt it will be covered up all week but, the Giants and 49ers
    can’t play on a tarp.

    The Giants, most specifically Eli Manning, usually thrive in domes, but to
    get to Indianapolis and Lucas Oil Stadium for Super Bowl XLVI, he and his
    teammates will have to survive in the muck and mire, which adversely could
    affect their big-play passing prowess. The Niners, built to pound away, were one
    of just four teams this season to run it more than they passed it.

    First-year NFL coach Jim Harbaugh took a look at the quarterback he
    inherited, Alex Smith, and determined that handing the ball to Frank Gore and
    rookie Kendall Hunter and allowing Smith to manage a low-risk offense was the
    way to go.

    It has produced sensational results. Smith threw 446 passes in the regular
    season and the 49ers ran the ball 497 times. By contrast, Manning put it in the
    air 589 times and the Giants ran it 411 times.

    Playing with a lead in their two playoff games, the Giants have balanced
    themselves out, with 65 passes and 58 rushing attempts. The 49ers, knocked out
    of their comfort zone and engaged in a shootout last week with the Saints, had
    to lean on Smith for 42 passes. He completed 24 of them and made all of the
    plays with his arm and legs down the stretch for a dynamic 36-32 victory to send
    Drew Brees, and all of his passing records, home early." Read more...


    Excerpt: "It was halftime of the NFC Championship game, Jan. 20, 1991, and and this was
    the moment the Giants — 30 minutes from turning a 6-6 halftime score into a
    15-13 win and a berth in Super Bowl XXV — vowed to separate the men from the

    There had been bad blood between the teams, dating back to a postgame melee
    following a 7-3 49ers Monday night victory a month earlier in which feisty
    placekicker Matt Bahr, noticing Phil Simms engulfed by angry 49ers, rushed in to
    help protect his quarterback.

    “I remember the guys were saying if they had a chance to initiate some pain
    on the 49er players, they were gonna do it,” Leonard Marshall recalled. “’If you
    get a chance to stroke one of them, stroke ’em, and let ’em know

    That essentially had been the message from coach Bill Parcells and defensive
    coordinator Bill Belichick.

    “The first time they get the ball,” Parcells told his defensive players, “we
    gotta knock this Montana down right away.”

    With the 49ers leading 13-9 and a little more than nine minutes standing
    between San Francisco and a third straight Super Bowl, Marshall’s predatory
    instincts were directed at Joe Montana. Marshall beat left tackle Bubba Paris
    with a swim move, then was cut by fullback Tom Rathman. Marshall began crawling
    toward Montana, who had to step up to avoid a charging Lawrence Taylor.

    “[Montana] threw his left hand forward to tell [Jerry] Rice to keep running,”
    Marshall recalled.

    Unfortunately for Montana, Marshall had gotten to his feet, and pulverized
    him with a violent blindside hit.

    “By the time he extended his left hand, “ Marshall said, “it was ‘Lights Out

    And the start of the Steve Young Era, because it was Lights Out on the
    Montana Era in San Francisco.

    “He had a big damn chunk of grass in his facemask,” Marshall said. And a
    bruised sternum and fractured little finger on his throwing hand.

    “I could hear him wincing,” Marshall said, “?‘Like, ‘Ohh, I’m in a lot of
    pain,’ almost like he couldn’t breathe.”

    Still trailing 13-9, Parcells gave upback Gary Reasons the green light to try
    a fake punt.

    “Bill,” Reasons had told Parcells, “this is there. What are we waiting
    for?”


    "A word of warning for the Giants: Phil Simms said he thinks it’s ridiculous
    to try to run on the 49ers’ defense.

    “The 49ers, to think that you’re going to line up and say, ‘We’re going to
    run the ball and get it done,’ it’s crazy,” the CBS analyst and former Giants
    quarterback said yesterday on a conference call. “I don’t think you can.”

    This season, the 49ers held teams to an NFL-low 77.3 rushing yards per game
    (the next-best team allowed 92.6) and limited the Saints to 37 yards rushing in
    Saturday’s playoff win.

    The Giants, who will meet the 49ers on Sunday for the NFC Championship,
    rushed for a league-worst 89.2 yards per game before gaining 172 in their 24-2
    Wild Card win over the Falcons and 95 in their 37-20 Divisional romp over the
    Packers.Simms s

    aid he is impressed with the 49ers’ physical conditioning.

    “I think it’s what everybody says about them all year long is true: The
    49ers, getting off the bus, they might be the best-looking team in the NFL,” he
    said. “It’s incredible when I watch them. Everybody just looks like everybody
    just came out of the weight room and they’re ready to go.

    “It says a lot about what they’ve done drafting-wise and how they train them
    out there. But that defense, it’s going to be hard to run [against].”

    But Simms sounded hopeful about the Giants’ chances of moving the ball
    through the air and had high praise for Eli Manning and receivers Hakeem Nicks,
    Victor Cruz and Mario Manningham.

    “Really the strength of this Giants team is strictly the play-calling, Eli
    Manning and I think a group of receivers that is top-notch in the NFL,” Simms
    said. “The 49ers I think this week are going to face a better group of receivers
    than they faced last week [against the Saints]. Just because we’ve seen it all
    year long: When the Giant receivers catch it, look out. They’ve been tremendous
    with the football in their hands.”

    Simms played in four Giants-49ers playoff games, winning two at the
    Meadowlands and losing two in San Francisco. A 44-3 Divisional round defeat to
    the 49ers in 1993 was the last game of his career.

    He was hurt for the Giants’ 15-13 NFC Championship win in San Francisco in
    1991, when Jeff Hostetler was the quarterback.

    “I remember our playoff victories in our stadium, and of course I remember
    the playoff losses out there too, which were pretty rough,” he said. “When we
    lost out there, we took beatings, and we knew when the game was over, they were
    the better team.”


    Excerpt: "David Baas was drafted out of Michigan in the second round of the 2005 NFL
    Draft by the 49ers, one round after San Francisco, with the No. 1 overall pick,
    selected Alex Smith, figuring he would be their franchise quarterback for the
    next decade.

    In the past six years, Baas played in 92 games for San Francisco, starting
    54. He knows quite a bit about Smith and the 49ers.

    This week, Baas hopes some of that knowledge can be imparted to his Giants
    teammates, who on Sunday face the 49ers in the NFC Championship at Candlestick

    “Absolutely,’’ Baas said. “It’s nothing crazy, but like I did last time,
    remind guys of what some of the personnel there is. Anything I can do to help, I
    will. With me, personally, knowing those guys it’s still kind of always fresh in
    your mind. You can remind people who these guys are and how they play.’’

    Based on their time together, Baas said he is not surprised Smith has helped
    bring the 49ers this far.

    “With Alex I’ve always believed he’s had it in him,’’ Baas said. “He just
    needed a lot more guys to believe him and I feel like he’s got that.’’

    Baas, 30, already has been in this position this season, having schooled his
    first-year teammates the week leading up to the 27-20 loss to the 49ers on Nov.
    13. Before that game, guard Chris Snee noticed Baas “hugging guys and having
    that little cuddle-fest they have on the field.’’ Snee rolled his eyes but then
    said, “He spent six years there. I would imagine if I ever leave here and come
    back it would be the same thing.’’

    Admittedly, Baas felt something different before that game, a 27-20 loss in
    San Francisco.

    “I usually don’t go out early on the field, but I went out early before
    warm-ups. It was nice to see some of the guys and everything,’’ he said. “That
    was that, kind of got all the emotions out that time, and this is a business

    Baas has never expressed any hard feelings about the 49ers not making a big
    play for him in free agency, making it easy for him to accept the Giants’
    five-year, $27.5 million contract offer."


    "Bill Parcells likes this 49ers team, says it reminds him of his 1990 Giants
    who charged into Candlestick Park and ruined the three-peat dreams of the Joe
    Montana 49ers in the NFC Championship Game and went on to win their second Super
    Bowl against the Bills.

    But he also likes this Giants team better than this 49ers team.

    “I’m expecting them to win,” Parcells told The Post. “Why wouldn’t I be? You
    forget the game last week already?”

    What does he base this on?

    “I think the Giants have a better quarterback. I think the Giants have the
    better receivers. The Giants have a better overall pressure defense. ... That’s
    what I think,” Parcells said.

    Parcells is told about the rainy, windy forecast that could mean the Giants’
    version of the Mud Bowl that sabotaged the 1982 Jets in Miami.

    “If I got a good team, where do you want to play? You want to play in the
    Bronx Zoo? We’ll play,” Parcells said. “Good teams are good teams because
    they’re adaptable.”

    But wouldn’t adverse conditions favor the power-running 49ers?

    “If they are better, it favors ’em,” Parcells said. “If the Giants are
    better, it favors them. That’s football. We’re all playing in the same place,
    aren’t we?”

    But what about the Giants’ speed advantage with Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz?
    With Osi Umenyiora? Eli Manning’s edge over Alex Smith?

    “Listen,” Parcells began. “The elements have historically always been a great
    equalizer. But that doesn’t mean it’s to one team’s advantage or the other. I
    always looked at it: The worse the weather was, the better it was for my team. I
    practiced in it. We were ready for it. We knew how to play in it. We tried to
    minimize mistakes in our territory and try to play the game in the other team’s
    territory. You gotta teach your players how to play in those kind of games.
    That’s coaching.”

    Indeed, the Tuna is Hall of Fame worthy because he was never a fish out of
    water when confronted by a wet (or windy) forecast.

    “I might do wet-ball drills with my quarterback. ... I would do that during
    the season anyway,” Parcells said. “I’d do some wet-ball drills with my kickers
    and snappers ... and I would make sure everybody wears the right shoes.”

    He is certain Tom Coughlin, his receivers coach on the Super Bowl XXV Giants,
    will be ready.

    “No doubt,” Parcells said. “Absolutely no doubt.” Parcells paused and added:
    “This is not Tom’s first rodeo, you know.”

    Nor is it Manning’s.

    “He’s got good genes,” Parcells said. I ask Parcells, whom I have known since
    1984, if he is surprised that Manning is playing at this (elite) level.

    “Were you around in 07,” Parcells said, “or were you just starting out?”

    Parcells always has liked Manning.

    “Listen,” he said, “what’s not to like? He stays on the field first off,
    which separates him from half of these guys playing. He hits what he’s throwing
    at. He’s a good leader. When the game’s tight and on the line, he’s at his best.
    What do you want from the guy?”

    Parcells was thoroughly impressed with the Giants’ 37-20 win over the
    Packers. He parroted the concern in Apollo Creed’s corner at the end of a brutal
    first round with Rocky Balboa in the first “Rocky” movie: “That sonova***** over
    there doesn’t know it’s a show!” Parcells recalled. “He thinks it’s a fight!”
    Then he added: “That’s what I think a little bit about the Packer-Giant game.
    The Packers found out the Giants knew that wasn’t a
    “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1

  • #2

    Git ya hands off that Lombardi,,,,it's reserved for NYG. Thanks RF!


    • #3

      [quote user="lttaylor56"]Git ya hands off that Lombardi,,,,it's reserved for NYG. Thanks RF![/quote]

      “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


      • #4

        Gosh, how I look forward to and love reading your daily reports, RF. Thanks again and again.


        • #5
          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 9:13 A.M.

          [quote user="ashleymarie"]Gosh, how I look forward to and love reading your daily reports, RF. Thanks again and again.[/quote]

          “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


          • #6
            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

            Thanks for posting Roaknoke, Enjoyed the Junkin Pieces. Bondy from the daily news writes some garbage about how we'll be the worst team to win a championship? He seriously couldnt write a better story 5 Days before an NFC Championship game? SMH....


            • #7
              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

              Great article on Parcells ! Thanks RF !
              " Success is never final, but failure can be " B.P.


              • #8
                Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                [quote user="G-Men Surg."]Great article on Parcells ! Thanks RF ![/quote]

                “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                • #9
                  Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                  [quote user="NYG4ME"]Thanks for posting Roaknoke, Enjoyed the Junkin Pieces. Bondy from the daily news writes some garbage about how we'll be the worst team to win a championship? He seriously couldnt write a better story 5 Days before an NFC Championship game? SMH....

                  “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                  • #10
                    Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                    thank you for these articles. I admit, the rule of "3" has come into effect. I now can say that we
                    a. beat 3 Ryans
                    b. have had 3 "helmut on the head" catches
                    c. the last 3 opponents to beat the Falcons
                    went onto the Super Bowl
                    please correct me if I am wrong


                    • #11
                      Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                      [quote user="Cindy in INdy"]thank you for these articles. I admit, the rule of "3" has come into effect. I now can say that we
                      a. beat 3 Ryans
                      b. have had 3 "helmut on the head" catches
                      c. the last 3 opponents to beat the Falcons
                      went onto the Super Bowl
                      please correct me if I am wrong[/quote]

                      Sounds right to me. We've beaten the Patriots and Packers at home, where "they never lose." So now we're going to San Francisco where" they never lose." Sound familiar?
                      “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                      • #12
                        Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                        so excited, trying to buy tickets to Media Day at Lucas Oil, first time you can sit in the stands and watch interviews. What do you think?


                        • #13
                          Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                          [quote user="Cindy in INdy"]so excited, trying to buy tickets to Media Day at Lucas Oil, first time you can sit in the stands and watch interviews. What do you think?[/quote]

                          I think you should buy some tickets since the GIANTS players you adore will be there []
                          “Never argue with an idiot. They will only bring you down to their level and beat you with experience.” MB Rule # 1


                          • #14
                            Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                            Speaking of Indianapolis - has anyone heard anything abouthow and when the Giants will distribute tickets should they advance to the SuperBowl?I have received zero communications from the Giants since an email regarding the home playoff game tickets, a few weeks ago.Why are season ticket holders being left in the dark?


                            • #15
                              Re: NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS, AND GOSSIP: WEDNESDAY, JANUARY 18, 2012 - 10:54 A.M.

                              [quote user="YaleBowlFan"]Speaking of Indianapolis - has anyone heard anything abouthow and when the Giants will distribute tickets should they advance to the SuperBowl?I have received zero communications from the Giants since an email regarding the home playoff game tickets, a few weeks ago.Why are season ticket holders being left in the dark?[/quote]

                              It might be that it would be seen as presumptuous to discuss Super Bowl tickets before we win on Sunday. There will be plenty of time after Sunday for the information to flow and tickets to be purchased. Don't we normally use a lottery system anyway?