Previewing the Championship Games
By Patrik Nohe
We’ll take a quick break from coaching coverage and draft scouting to talk some playoffs for a second. Josh and I already discussed the games a little bit on this week’s podcast (we’ll be recording a new one tonight or tomorrow) but things change over the course of a week and it’s also fun to talk about successful teams occasionally.
AFC Championship Game, 3 PM CBS
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
The Game: Baltimore is a formidable team with a great run game and a stout defense. That’s typically a good model in the playoffs and the Ravens are also a team that features the ability to attack with the passing game. Though it seems to have been lying dormant for most of the season, all it takes is one game and the Patriots are a defense that gives up points and chunk yardage regularly. It’s possible the Ravens could explode for a huge game and waylay the Patriots. It isn’t likely though. Bill Belichick is the best coach in football and in games where his pride is on the line he is nearly unbeatable. His pride is on the line here, New England has made several early playoff exits since their Super Bowl loss, once to the Ravens, so this one is personal.
The Pick: I think New England handles the Ravens. The Patriot defense may not be the caliber of the Ravens but they will win on technique and attack the Ravens so that Joe Flacco has to beat them. Throw out any precedents for this one, the Patriot defense Belichick draws up for this game will be effective in all the ways it needs to be and the Patriots offense is far superior to its counterparts. I think it’s the Pats by a couple scores.
The Prediction: 31-17, Patriots
NFC Championship Game, 6:30 PM FOX
New York Giants at San Franscisco 49ers
The Game: The 49ers have been a very consistent, successful team all year. In a lot ways they mirror the other Harbaugh’s team, the Ravens in that they are built around a great ground game and an elite defensive unit. Bucs fans know what the ‘Niners can do, the Bucs ran into that buzzsaw earlier this season and it wasn’t pretty. But the Giants are a wily group of veterans who have been in this position before and know how to win on the road in the playoffs. Right now the Giants are riding high, they have a lot of confidence and frankly they are built in a way that can give the 49ers problems. This one is likely to be close.
The Pick: I like the Giants here. The 49ers are a great team that will cause trouble for the next few years, but they’re young. I watched them beat the Saints last year and saw a team that to me, looked like they popped emotionally. They spent a ton of energy and exerted a lot of emotion beating the Saints and afterwards they looked like they had won something already. They hadn’t though, and you juxtapose that with the Giants who while celebrating, still made it well known they had a lot of work left to do. That’s a veteran attitude. I think New York comes in and handles its business. I think Eli plays a great game and I think the Giants win a close game.
The Prediction: 24-20, Giants