I’m not going to bore you with mindless statistics and blather. The fact is that last week was a tough week to pick and statistics did not lie. 75% of the home teams won, but not the 75% I picked. By the time the Giants v Packers game started, three home teams had won. So I loudly declared to pretty much one person that the Giants were going to win the game. They did, and the Packers, who had a monumental season all for naught, are done. Now we have four teams left and picking the winners is toughest it’s been all season.
That being said, it is only two games so I have to fill up this space with something. So in personal news, I’ll be in Chicago this week (Friday – Sunday) attending a Kenmore event at their bequest. If you are around, or just on Twitter, come hang out downtown Chicago. CC will be there with me as well, killing some deep dish. On with the picks!
AFC Championship: Baltimore at New England
Sunday, 3:00 PM ET
Line: 50.0 O/U -7.5
This game is the proof – does defense win championships? The Patriots have a bottom ranked defense, yet they sure came alive against the Broncos – but the Broncos defense was also terrible, so there’s that. The Patriots have won games with offense all year long, and I don’t expect that strategy to totally turn around in a week. They are going to come into this game firing and looking to rack up the score against the defensive minded Ravens. It’s not going to happen. The Ravens held the Texans, who in effect – held the Ravens. The Ravens offensive line didn’t perform as well as they should have, but really have nothing to worry about with the weak pass rush of the Patriots. Sure, they managed to fluster Tebow a couple times, but that was a fluke. Most of the time he had all day and then some to throw. The Ravens are going to force the Patriots hand on offense, as their defense will be swarming Brady and throwing off his timing. This is what I said the Broncos needed to do, but failed to do. Everything about the Patriots offense is timing, especially with the routes run by the tight ends. On the offensive side of the ball for the Ravens, they’ll have to tighten up their protection a bit and re-establish the running game, which should be easy against the Patriots poor run defense. Bottom line, the Patriots don’t have the defense to stop the Ravens mediocre offense, and they might have a powerful offense, but defense wins championships. Bottom line. On championship weekend the statistics state that 50% of the home teams win. So in this one, I’m taking the Ravens to overcome and get into the Superbowl, against (obviously) the Niners, and I’ll tell you why in the next paragraph.
NFC Championship: New York at San Francisco
Sunday, 6:30 PM ET
Line: 44.0 O/U -2.0
Everyone loves the Giants in this game, because they can’t believe that the Niners are restoring their franchise to glory. Where Singletary coached with negative enforcement, Harbaugh coaches with positive reinforcement, something that was evident in Vernon Davis’ tears and hug after he scored the winning touchdown last week. That was the Saints game to lose, and they made sure to lose, especially on that last drive when their secondary seemed to forget they were still playing a game and gave the Niners the whole field. So now the Niners welcome the hot and cold Giants to town, who turn it on when they need to. And they needed to last week and they damn sure did. They ran the Packers right off their own field, dominating on offense and on defense. They made it look easy. Part of that might have been the Packers offense not playing up to par with all the drops, but the pressure on Rodgers helped as well. Against the Niners, they are going up against probably the best fundamental defense in the league. Rather than go for the flashy Sportscenter play, the Niners just plain cover and tackle well. They bump receivers at the line to throw off timing, they get the pressure on with their front four, rarely running a crazy eight man blitz and almost always win the turnover game. Their defense will stifle Manning and his receivers, so the Giants will have to rely on their own defense. They might have a slight edge over the Niners offense in that case, but Alex Smith is a legit playmaker, but he gets no love for it. Right now, his report with his receivers is the best it’s ever been. I’m taking the Niners to win at home, and for this game to become a new classic. Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh in the Superbowl. You want to know who I’m going to pick to win that game? You’ll have to wait two weeks.
Next week: Pro Bowl Idiocy and where I went wrong with my pre-season picks.