The script got flipped on me during the Divisional round of the NFL playoffs last weekend as I not only saw my hometown NFL ballers drop their second playoff game to the Ravens, I limped into Championship Sunday with a 1-3 record after going 3-1 the previous week
Only game I picked correctly was the New England Patriots 45-10 blowout over the Denver Broncos.
So now we’re down to the NFL Final Four and we will witness which teams get to punch their tickets to go to Indianapolis. Mike’s picks will be here and here we go with mine.
AFC Championship Game
The number 2 seeded Ravens know they are lucky to be in Massachusetts playing this game as badly as their offense stunk up M&T Bank Stadium and was manhandled last weekend by the Bulls on Parade defense.
Flacco and the boys know they need to step it up and produce more than the 227 yards of total offense they did last week, but can they?
These were the two best teams in the AFC all season and the number one seeded New England Patriots are clicking on all offensive cylinders right now.
The good news is that they are coming off a 45-10 divisional round blowout of the Broncos The bad news is that they also have the league’s 31st ranked defense.
They are also keenly aware that a team that’s built similarly to them, last year’s Super Bowl champions is now sitting at home watching Championship Weekend.
Can they avoid the Packers fate? Maybe. The Ravens defense, great as it has been for the last decade is also aging and is compensating for a team with a so-so offense that was served two touchdowns on a short field platter by the Texans.
The proud Ravens defense knows this is possibly their last chance as a unit to get to a Super Bowl and they are tantalizingly close to doing so for the first time since the knocked off the New York Giants in their 2001 Super Bowl appearance. Inquiring minds wanna know how much did last week’s playoff game take out of them, do they have one or two more shutdown defense performances left in them and can their offense score points without being aided by the opposing team?
I say the clock strikes midnight on them because the Ravens offense lets them down again.
The Ravens defense bothers Tom Brady and company at times but don’t forget New England’s O-line has two All Pro’s on it. Even if they force some three and outs and sack Brady, it may not be enough to slow down the Patriots potent point producing passing attack especially if the Ravens offense can’t keep up.
The Patriots defense has a problem stopping the run, but managed to do it against Denver last week.
However, Baltimore isn’t the Broncos and has one of the best all purpose backs in the league in Ray Rice.
If the All-Pro Ray Rice shows up and Baltimore turns it into an ugly, boring grind it out game they have a chance since the Patriots don’t have much of a rushing attack. If the divisional round Ray Rice makes an appearance and the New England run defense has some success slowing him down while the Patriot offense turns this game into a big play laden shootout the Ravens are doomed.
Who wins the AFC Championship game? The New England Patriots in a close one will pick up the Lamar Hunt trophy.
NFC Championship Game
This game is a rematch of a November 13 regular season one in which the number four seeded Giants traveled to San Francisco and fell 27-20 to the 49ers. Bear in mind that Ahmad Bradshaw didn’t make the trip to the west coast for that game due to an injury and much of the now healthy Giants defensive front four was nursing nagging injuries as well.
Ever since Bradshaw reentered the lineup the Giants have been on fire offensively. He is Manning’s safety valve receiver in their passing game and their offense since the playoffs started has been more efficient in the running game.
Eli Manning has had the best season of his career throwing for almost 5000 yards. The Giants are also a week removed from a confidence boosting playoff win in which they manhandled the 15-1 defending Super Bowl champions 37-20 last week at Lambeau Field.
The 49er defense is known for forcing turnovers, and the Giants forced four in their demolition of the Green Bay Packers..
However, the number 2 seeded 49ers are also coming off a major confidence boosting win of their own in which they withstood a late burst of offensive fireworks from Drew Brees and got a dramatic Alex Smith to Vernon Davis 14 yard touchdown catch with 9 seconds left to subdue the NFC South champion New Orleans Saints
The Niners top 5 ranked defense like the Giants forced four Saints turnovers in that wild 36-32 game and are seeking to return to the Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.
The Giants believe that like that 2007 championship team they are a team of destiny as well and a better squad than the struggling team they were when they last made an appearance in Candlestick Park
So who walks away with the George Halas Trophy and the trip to Indianapolis?
It will be a close game, but as Green Bay painfully discovered last week, it’s hard to beat a team twice in the same season, especially one that’s got some momentum built up. The New York Giants in a close one.