NFL Conference Championship Recaps
Here’s a recap of the picks along with some quick thoughts:
My Pick: NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Baltimore: Reality: Ravens 20 – Patriots 23:
Vince Wilfork is a beast: Ravens center Matt Birk is a seven-time Pro-Bowler nearing the end of a very good career. It’s not surprising that he may be considering retirement after the way Wilfork abused him on Sunday. The Ravens sometimes had to devote three blockers to Wilfork and when Birk didn’t have help, Vince simply pushed him 10-yards straight back into Joe Flacco. I guess Wilfork has been eating his Super Birds:
Flacco outplayed Tom Brady, but that doesn’t mean he’s actually good. Don’t be convinced by all the talk that Joe Flacco has taken the next step, or is somehow “elite” (whatever that means) after this game. He played very well against the worst pass defense in the NFL, and he still missed a couple deep throws as well as an easy TD pass to Vonta Leach. Brady on the other hand was flat-out bad. Both of his interceptions came on very athletic defensive plays, but they were also on throws that didn’t need to be made. If he plays that way against the Giants, the Superbowl will be a lopsided affair.
Billy Cundiff and Lee Evans are the goats, but Ray Rice shouldn’t skate free either. Cundiff’s comical missed field goal will go down as one of the worst plays in AFC Championship history and Lee Evans basically did what he’s been doing his entire career (be a huge disappointment, yes I’m still bitter about that time he was on my fantasy team a few years ago). That said, Rice came into the postseason as one of the NFL’s premier running backs and put up these stat lines: 21 rushes for 60 yards against Houston and 21 rushes for 67 yards against New England. The performance against Houston can be chalked up to facing a great defense, but the Pats run defense is decidedly average, so unless he’s hurt Rice really has no excuse for being a no show in this years’ playoffs.
Superbowl Favorites: The Patriots are favored by 3 points in the early Superbowl lines. I have no idea why.
My Pick: NY Giants (+2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO; Reality: Giants 20 – 49ers 17;
Who would’ve guessed that Ted Ginn Jr. would be the deciding factor in the NFC Championship game? Ginn is an unremarkable receiver and an excellent return man. That said, no one really thought that his absence would have a huge impact on this game. In the end, it was critical as replacement return man Kyle Williams committed two costly special teams turnovers that lead directly to Giants scores. At the same time, the Niners could have used another receiver, as their wideouts caught exactly 1 pass, for 3 yards.
The Niners may be back, but they need to find some receivers. It was pretty clear all game that the only threat that San Francisco had in the passing game was Vernon Davis. Corey Webster is a very good veteran corner, who was projected to be the Giants’ 2nd corner before Terrell Thomas got hurt in the offseason. Aaron Ross is garbage. The 49ers made Webster and Ross look like Darelle Revis and Champ Bailey. It’s amazing that the Niners even had a shot at this game given how inept their passing offense looked.
San Francisco is the best defensive team in the league. The 49ers were as good as advertised. Sure tackling, relentless pursuit and a good pass rush made it a long day for the Giants on offense. Victor Cruz had a big 1st half, picking up 125 receiving yards then the 49ers adjusted and he had 15 yards the rest of the way.
Alex Smith reverted to, “We want David Carr,” mode. Smith was under duress most of the evening, and he didn’t get any help from any of his wideouts, but 12-26 for 196 yds (76 of which came on Davis’ 1st TD) isn’t going to get it done. For more proof that QB rating is the most useless stat this side of the RBI, Smith had a higher rating (97.6) than Eli Manning (32-58 316 82.3), anyone watching the game could have told you who the better QB was.
Underdogs: I don’t think the Giants are too worried about being Superbowl underdogs. They’ve been in that position throughout the playoffs and have thrived. They’re also certainly not intimidated by the Patriots, who they beat in Foxboro in Week 9. The Giants were able to make some plays in the passing game despite the challenge that the 49ers defense presented. It’s hard to imagine the Patriots shutting down Victor Cruz, Hakeem Nicks, and Mario Manningham. Expect a Superbowl shootout.