We’re lined up for what should be a great Championship weekend. Pop your corn and get ready – here’s how it’s gonna shake out!
AFC Championship: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
I love the “no one believes in us” theory. I think it plays into games more than people estimate. Generally it applies better when the teams are evenly matched. I think the Ravens are overmatched here. Both teams have to do one thing to win this game. Let me tell you what those things are.
New England: Play good defense. That may seem like a short order. Play good defense against a team that didn’t have much of an offense last season. New England isn’t the Houston Texans. Ray Rice should be able to run a little bit more against New England. Unfortunately for New England, that opens up the down field for throws Joe Flacco.
Baltimore: Play good offense. (Now you see why there’s one thing. They sort of offset.) This is the tall order for the game. The Patriots defense is playing much better than it did all season. Patrick Chung is healthy and should help with that down field game that the Ravens do so well.
So there you have it, coaching staffs. This game will be win or lost on Joe Flacco’s ability to exploit a bad Patriots pass defense. Or on New England’s secondary’s ability to keep the Ravens wide receivers in check.
I’ll admit that these things probably cancel each other out, when making a pick. There must be a difference maker to help me decide, right? Right. His name is Rob Gronkowski. He is the best tight end in the league and there’s no one on the field (or in the NFL) who can cover him. Moving Ed Reed into the box won’t work. Double teaming him won’t work because it opens up the field for Wes Welker. I just don’t think the Ravens defense can stop the Patriots. Anything over 30 points for New England puts this game out of reach.
Pick: Patriots 33, Ravens 24
NFC Championship: New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
I like to stick to my guns, and that’s exactly what I’m going to do. For the NFC Championship, we’ll look at how you beat each of these teams.
49ers: This answer is going to be two-fold. You have to slow down their pass rush and make their cornerbacks beat you. The Giants offensive line is going to have to play the best game of the year. If the 49ers can’t get a pass rush, they’re vulnerable. If they do get a pass rush, a few well-timed runs should help back them off. The other aspect will be shutting down the running game. If Frank Gore and company can’t establish the running game early, or if the 49ers fall behind, Alex Smith will have to have another magical game.
Giants: This one is a little more simple. Don’t let the wide receivers beat you after the catch. It’s just that easy. I don’t think any sane person thinks the Giants are going to be able to run the ball on this 49ers defense. That leaves it up to Eli Manning and (mainly) Victor Cruz.
Here’s where I stick to my guns. I think Eli Manning is a great quarterback and I think the Giants are playing out of their minds. I think Harbaugh has the 49ers in a better place and I think he’s a better coach. The 49ers defense is tough as nails and will be all over Manning all day. That, coupled with what I expect will be a big game from Vernon Davis, should be the difference maker.
Pick: 49ers 24, Giants 21
There you have it folks. Start placing those bets! This should be an interesting week!