By Larry Fine
(Reuters) - The San Francisco 49ers and New York Giants both wanted to play each other and the two teams will be granted their wish as they get set for a Sunday showdown with a Super Bowl berth at stake.
But it might be a case of "be careful what you wish for" when the quick-strike Giants featuring receivers Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz face a heavy hitting 49ers defense to determine which team advances to the February 5 Super Bowl in Indianapolis.
San Francisco tight end Vernon Davis, who had 180 receiving yards and two touchdowns, including the game-winner in a 36-32 victory over the New Orleans Saints last week, said he had been pulling for the Giants to beat the Green Bay Packers.
New York's 37-20 win eliminated the top seeded Packers and booked their spot in the NFC title game in San Francisco.
The NFC West champion Niners beat the NFC East-winning Giants when the teams met in San Francisco last November but New York is riding a hot streak with four straight wins and a belief they can ride that momentum to the Super Bowl.
"It's fun when you're playing good football, when everybody is executing, when the team is playing well together," said Giants quarterback Eli Manning.
"Offense doing our part - scoring points, third-down conversions, making big plays. Defensively, they're getting after the quarterback, they're getting stops. When things are clicking as a team it's a great feeling."
The Giants could not help but be cheered that they would not have to travel to play the NFC title game in New Orleans, where they were routed 49-24 by the Saints in November.
Giants safety Antrel Rolle, however, got his dander up when told Davis was happy to see New York advance.
"They better be careful what they ask for," Rolle told WFAN radio in New York. "Because their wish has been granted."
Rolle said the Giants were ready to take on all challenges.
"I don't give a damn who we're playing, man," he 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."
Where the 49ers have relied on the running game this season, the Giants have excelled in the air attack, with little-known Cruz turning short catches into long touchdowns to galvanize the offense and former first-round draft pick Nicks taking charge in the last couple of weeks.
"We all make plays and when we see one make a play or the other make a play we want to come out and we want to make some plays too," Cruz, who turned the tide in a late-season win over the New York Jets with a 99-yard touchdown play, told reporters on Wednesday.
"We understand each other's strengths and we play to that. We come to the sideline and tell each other different coverages, how they're playing us and you know we like to make plays all over the field."
Nicks acknowledged the Niners' toughness that forced four turnovers by the Saints in their divisional clash but remained confident.
"We know what we're capable of doing. We've seen this team before," said Nicks, who raced 66 yards for a touchdown against Green Bay and then hauled in a Hail Mary pass for another score as time expired in the first half.
"It was a physical game last time, down to the wire. It's something that we're looking forward to this week."
(Reporting by Larry Fine; Editing by Frank Pingue)