Championship weekend in the NFL: Previews and picks
It should be a great Sunday of football. Here are some previews and picks:
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 3 p.m. ET, CBS
Pat: The Patriots will do their best to avoid a debacle similar to last time the Ravens visited Gillette in the playoffs. I remember that game distinctly, because I took a couple extra minutes to tailgate before the game, and the Patriots were already losing by 14 by the time I got to my seat inside the stadium. Ray Rice was the key to the Ravens' success in that game, but the Patriots will focus on shutting him down this time and they'll let Joe Flacco try to beat them with his arm. He's not as bad as Tebow, but there's no way he wins a shootout with Tom Brady.
Pick: Patriots 27, Ravens 20
Carlo: I’m not sure there’s a team in the NFL that can stop the Patriots offense. But Baltimore is one of the very few that has a decent chance. They’ll need to figure out a way to contain the three-headed monster that is Gronkowski, Welker, and Hernandez, while forcing some turnovers. On offense. They’ll have to control the clock with Ray Rice against a pretty tough Patriots rushing defense and Joe Flacco will have to make some big throws against a weak secondary. I think Flacco will surprise by making some key throws down the stretch.
Pick: Ravens 34, Patriots 31
Dan: This is a classic matchup of a mega-talented offense (New England) facing an equally talented defense (Baltimore). Can Ray Lewis and co. slow down Tom Brady and co.? The real x-factor might be Joe Flacco. Baltimore likely will (and should) feed the ball to Ray Rice--but Baltimore doesn't win unless Flacco makes a big throw or two.
Pick: Ravens 24, Patriots 21
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, 6:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Pat: This should be a solid defensive battle, and for once, I have the feeling that Eli Manning won't pull off a crazy miracle win. As good as he has been in the clutch, his luck has to run out at some point. Not that Alex Smith is capable of similar miracles, but the 49ers defense should be able to shut down the Giants as much as anyone. Alex Smith will make it to the Super Bowl, following in the footsteps of great 49ers QBs like Montana and Young.
Pick: 49ers 20, Giants 17
Carlo: I’ve basically backed myself into a corner by picking the Ravens, in that a Ravens – 49ers Super Bowl would likely be one of the ugliest. But I do believe the Giants come into this game as the better team. I don’t see the 49ers defense forcing as many turnovers as it did against the Saints - five, and even then, they barely won – and despite last week’s heroics, I still don’t believe in Alex Smith.
Pick: Giants 24, 49ers 20
Dan: This is a serious rooting crisis for me. I'm from New York, but live in San Francisco now, but am not a fan of either team. Do I want the 49ers to win, so partying in San Fran will be more fun? Or do I want them to lose so I don't have to listen to them gloat? I'm confused. Anyways, about the game--I'm equally lost on who will win. The Niners have surprised me all season, and if Alex Smith continues to play like he has of late, San Francisco is incredibly dangerous. However, the Giants manhandled the 15-1 Packers last week, so it's hard to doubt them either.
Pick: 49ers 24, Giants 23