NFL Championship Weekend Picks
No intro this week, let’s get right to the picks (done with my friend Ryan)
Playoffs: 3-5Baltimore @ New England (-7)
I swear that I didn’t sports hateTom Brady until a week ago, but these things are fickle. Last Saturday, there was a ~10-minute special on ESPN’s Sunday NFL Countdown in honor of the 10-year anniversary of the Tuck Rule game. Instead of being gracious about it and acknowledging that it was a fortuitously correct interpretation of a pretty dumb rule, Brady had a smug smirk on his face and arrogant condescension in his tone that left me yearning for somebody to SMACK them off and out of him. And then he went out and absolutely destroyified the Broncos.I’m a big believer in sports karma but sometimes it takes its sweet time in manifesting itself. Unfortunately, I think we’re going to have to wait a little bit longer before Brady’s deal with the devil comes due. He was methodical last week and I expect the Patriots to continue marching this week.
Part of the reason that Joe Flacco and the Ravens offense looked so bad last week was the staunch Texans defense. But another part of the reason they looked so bad is that they are so bad. If the Texans defense was the only reason that Flacco struggled, legendary Ravens safety Ed Reed would have recognized the brilliance of the unit and refrained from calling out Flacco: “I think Joe was kind of rattled a little bit,” Reed said Monday. “(The Texans) had a lot of guys in the box on him. And, I mean, they were getting to him. I think a couple times he needed to get rid of the ball. It just didn’t look like he had a hold on the offense.” No bueno.
I’m not buying the idea that Joe Flacco is the second coming of Trent Dilfer; despite being less physically gifted, Dilfer didn’t miss some of the throws that Flacco does quite often. If the Ravens win the Super Bowl with Flacco this season, I will be shocked.
As much as I would love to see the Ravens win this one outright, I just don’t think they can come close to scoring as many points as the Patriots. Patriots cover.
Asif:I thought this line would be a little higher, even though the Patriots haven’t beaten a quality opponent (we’re not counting the Broncos after last week) all season. Did everyone in Vegas miss how bad Joe Flacco was against the Texans? Seriously, if not for a couple of spectacular catches by Anquan Boldin and Lee Evans, the story of that game would have been how woefully incompetent Flacco is. Jacoby Jones turned in perhaps the single worst performance of the season by a special teams player and TJ Yates threw a couple picks, yet Flacco and Ray Rice still almost derped the game the game away.
The Pats defense may not be as good as the Texans’, but it looked pretty good against Tim Tebow, who is probably better than Flacco (at least he can run a little). Ray Rice hasn’t looked that great as of late. New England covers.
NY Giants @ San Francisco (-2.5)
Ryan:This is the week that it all comes crashing down for the Giants. They’ve shifted from scrappy, We Believe in Ourselves underdog to a team that everybody else now believes is one of destiny.
Sort of lost in the destruction of Tebowmania and the Giants’ upset victory over the Packers is that the 49ers are very, very good. They have the 4th-ranked defense and 2nd-ranked special teams in Football Outsiders DVOA. The defense is buoyed by lineman Justin Smith and linebacker Patrick Willis, who are quite possibly the best at their respective positions in the NFL. On offense, they won’t turn the ball over–certainly not the four times that the Packers did–and will keep the clock moving to shorten the game and make their abundance of field goals comparatively more valuable.
The Giants are hot right now and if they channel their confidence productively I could end up being very wrong and this could be a very long game for the 49ers. I’m not necessarily basing it on anything but I just think we are due for one of those atrocious Eli Manning games that makes us question ourselves for believing in him unconditionally. It’s been a little while–since Week 15 when he threw three INTs in a 23-10 loss to the Redskins–since we’ve seen the bad Eli. He always pops up when you least expect it. In a hard-fought, low scoring game, 49ers cover.
Asif: My Giants-related confidence level is through the roof right now, but I’ll refrain from gloating. Eyes on the prize, Giants cover.