Saturday, January 21, 2012
NFL Conference Championship Picks
Well, here we are facing the penultimate weekend of the NFL season. Oftentimes, these are the best games of the year (even better than the Super Bowl, though we have been blessed with some great Super Bowls these past couple of years)- although it's going to be tough to match last week's bonkers 49ers-Saints matchup. In case you missed it, Alex Smith out dueled Drew Brees in the final two minutes, including an insane touchdown run on a third and short quarterback sweep. Brees responded, but somehow Smith led another drive and hit Vernon Davis for an improbable touchdown, shattering my prediction that if the game came down to quarterback play, it would be Brees who came out on top. The other pick I got wrong was believing in the Packers against the destiny juggernaut that is the Giants, and picking Tebow to cover. Freakin' Tebow. With all that being said, I finished 2-2 Overall and 2-2 ATS, putting me at 5-3 overall and 4-4 ATS. Overwhelmingly decent!
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7)
I've thought about taking the Ravens here, and have even thought out the arguments why- the Patriots have a horrible defense, and the Ravens horrible offensive showing last week was forced by Houston's suddenly elite defense. The Ravens should be able to put pressure on Tom Brady and move the ball on the Patriots sieve like defense. Unfortunately, should doesn't quite cut it. Joe Flacco has been increasingly decent as the season goes on, becoming more and more of a "don't make any mistakes and we'll win" kind of quarterback. Add on to that Cam Cameron's horrible playcalling, and you have to doubt whether the Ravens will truly be able to take advantage of the awful pass defense of the Patriots. On the other side of the ball, the Ravens defense truly is elite- but Tom Brady has been outstanding lately. He'll be limited somewhat by this defense, but they won't be able to keep him down for the whole game, and it's unclear whether the Ravens will keep up on the scoreboard. If a team like the Steelers had been fully healthy going into the playoffs (or hadn't defended Tim Tebow idiotically), they could've beat the Patriots, since they have the defense to slow down Tom Brady and the offense to punish their defense. The Ravens are missing one half of that equation.
Pick: Patriots win, cover
New York Giants at San Francisco (-2)
I've gone back and forth on this one too many times. The 49ers have the best defense in the league, while the Giants passing attack and pass rush are among the league's best. The 49ers forced five turnovers last week and still had to score in the final seconds to beat the Saints; the Giants intimidated the Packers physically and forced Aaron Rodgers into a bad game (well, a lot of blame could be put on the Packers receivers, who might find themselves with a Butterfingers sponsorship soon (ba dum pshhh!!! I'm here all night!). But something in me says the Niners are going to win this one. They've got the defense and the run game to be successful in this game, and they've got some motivation now that everyone is jumping on the Giants bandwagon. Plus, they'll be playing in front of a rowdy San Francisco crowd that hasn't been this close to the Super Bowl since the glory days. The Giants are the hot team, the team of destiny, right now- but that wouldn't be a real surprise. The Niners stingy defense and middling offense will take down the Giants. Maybe I'm just saying this because I couldn't stand two weeks of "Giants-Patriots REMATCH!" stories, but it's just a gut feeling. The 49ers, not the Giants, are the 'miracle' team.
Pick: 49ers win, Giants cover (fine, I'm not that confident in this Niners pick).