NFC & AFC Championship Game Picks
Conference championship Sunday is tomorrow and that means it’s time for my picks. Last week we saw the most exciting and high scoring divisional weekend in NFL history since the current playoff format was put into place. On Saturday afternoon, the Baltimore Ravens shocked the world and went to Denver and upset the #1 seeded Denver Broncos, 38-35 in double overtime. It would end up being the first ever double overtime game in NFL history also. In the Saturday nightcap, we would see a fun first half between the San Francisco 49ers and Green Bay Packers before the Niners would pull away and handle the Packers 45-31. In the first game on Sunday we had what many people, including I, are calling the best game of the weekend, as we saw the Atlanta Falcons squeak by the Seattle Seahawks 30-28, after blowing a 27-7 lead all in the fourth quarter to go down 28-27 with :57 seconds remaining, only to watch Matt Ryan drive the Falcons down to around the 30 yard line and see Matt Bryant blast a perfect 49 yard field goal for the game winner and push the Falcons into their first ever NFC Championship game in the Georgia Dome. When everyone saw the score was 27-7 in favor of the Falcons entering the fourth quarter, a lot of people moved on from the game but immediately came back when the Seahawks were inside the red zone, down 27-21 with under 2:00 minutes remaining. What a fine game it was. Finally, in the fourth and final game from divisional weekend, we saw a less competitive game as the Patriots would handle their business and pound the Texans for the second time this season with the final score this time being 41-28, although the score doesn’t indicate how much the Pats dominated.
So the conference title games were set. In the NFC, the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons will host the #2 seeded San Francisco 49ers. In the AFC, the #2 seeded New England Patriots will host the #4 seeded Baltimore Ravens. In week 3 of the regular season the Ravens beat the Patriots in Baltimore, 31-30. This is also a rematch of last years AFC Title game in which the Pats would win it 23-20 as former Ravens kicker Billy Cundiff would miss a 32 yard field goal wide left with :11 seconds remaining. It broke the hearts of Ravens fans everywhere to see their kicker miss a relatively short game tying field goal that would’ve sent the game to overtime with a birth to the Super Bowl on the line. The heartbreak would ease a bit two weeks later when the Ravens and their fans would watch the Patriots fall to the Giants in the Super Bowl for the second time in two years, 21-17. Now that we have recapped everything, let’s get to my picks.
NFC Championship Game: San Francisco 49ers 34 Atlanta Falcons 30 – The Falcons run game is bad and the 49ers run defense is top-notch and that’ll be the difference. There’s only so much Matt Ryan can do in the passing game before this 49ers top passing defense begins to stop him. Colin Kaepernick will also confuse this Falcons defense and make the plays needed to win this game. I say the Niners pull away in the second half like last week against the Packers but get a scare at the end when the Falcons try to pull of the comeback win but just fall short. I’m more excited for this game then the AFC Championship game.
AFC Championship Game: Baltimore Ravens 27 New England Patriots 24 – The Ravens are suddenly hot after shocking the Broncos in Denver and man handling the Colts in Baltimore in the Wildcard round. In week three the Ravens beat the Pats 31-30 down in Baltimore but the Pats beat the Ravens in last years AFC Title game 23-20. Is it the Patriots turn to win this time? I don’t think so. Although Joe Flacco had a great game last week in Denver, I really think Flacco has his huge coming out party this week and leads his team to the Super Bowl. I think Flacco does what Matt Schaub couldn’t and throws all over the Patriots defense as Torrey Smith and Anquan Boldin have big games. Ray Rice ran for 101 yards and a touchdown in the teams’ first meeting this year and I think he repeats that. As always, I think Tom Brady is Tom Brady and throws for lots of yards and a couple touchdowns. Although I wouldn’t be surprised if Brady coughs up a costly turnover at some point. This Ravens team is on point, motivated, and will make sure Ray Lewis ends his career with a ring. Like the first time around, I think the Pats run game is contained, putting all the pressure on Brady. Tom Brady is an all time great quarterback but the Ravens defense is the toughest defense for him.This is going to be a fantastic rematch.