It is finally here.
Conference Championship Sunday
I think this is one of the best Sundays of football next to opening Sunday and the Super Bowl.
This is it.
This is the last game where homefield advantage matters. For the 49ers and Patriots this is their final home game of the season.
Are their fans going to go home happy, or will they have to wait until the season starts in 2012? For the Ravens and Giants, this could be their next to the last road trip they take before heading to Indianapolis…
So… what seems to be the story that we are going to look back on for the 2011 NFL Season?
KICKOFF TIMES ARE CENTRAL TIME
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots, 2 PM CBS
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers, 5:30 PM Fox
Ravens at Patriots, 2 PM CBS
I don’t think we need to do in depth season reviews of the teams at this point and the breaking down of stats and key players. I’m just going to keep it simple.
Last week the Ravens defeated the Texans. It looked like the Ravens were going to run the Texans into the Chesapeake Bay, but Houston was able to hold their own and almost made the comeback.
A late interception by safety Ed Reed sealed the 20-13 win and sent the Ravens to Massachusetts for a date with the Patriots.
The day before the Ravens win, the Patriots dispatched of the
Tebows Broncos in a quick manner.
Quarterback Tom Brady passed for 363 yards and 6 touchdowns. 5 of those
touchdowns were in the first half; three of them were caught by tight end Rob
Gronkowski. New England led 35-7 at the half. Final score: Patriots 45, Broncos
The Ravens cannot defeat the Patriots with the same offensive performance they had against the Texans. They are going to have to expect more from running back Ray Rice and quarterback Joe Flacco. New England’s defense looked awesome last weekend… but so can anyone when they are playing against Tim Tebow.
This is going to be a challenge for Baltimore’s defense. If you remove Gronkowski, then you have to worry about receiver Wes Welker and the other tight end, Aaron Hernandez, burning you. Their only chance is to get after Brady early and often and utilize their running game to keep the Patriots offense off the field.
I admit that Baltimore was my pick to win the AFC but since my NFC pick fell apart last Sunday, I’ve decided to say… to hell with it. As the Founder and Lead Contributor of this blog, I can do what I want/
In the end, New England’s offense is just too much. They seem to be on a mission since their lost to the Giants back in November. Since then, they have won 9 in a row. I believe they make it number 10.
THE PICK: Patriots 30-16
Giants at 49ers, 5:30 PM Fox
The 49ers did everything right against the Saints. They got physical with them. They matched the Saints score for score in the final five minutes of the game and pulled off one of the biggest wins in 49ers history. Quarterback Alex Smith and tight end Vernon Davis, who have faced criticisms in their time with San Francisco, hooked up for the game winning score.
Even though Vernon Davis had an outstanding game, San Francisco is going to need more production from their receivers
Meanwhile the New York Football Giants ended the Packers Title Defense, and did so in convincing fashion. Quarterback Eli Manning is proving that he is elite status by throwing for 330 yards and 3 touchdowns while wide receiver Hakeem Nicks collected 165 yards and 2 touchdowns. The defining moment in the game was the 37-yard touchdown pass that Nicks caught at the end of the first half.
I think it just sucked the life out of the Packers home crowd and they were in shock.
So, did anyone really expect these teams to be in the NFC Title Game?
I don’t think so at the start of the playoffs and not even at the start of the season. Both of these teams seem to be feeding off of the “Nobody-believes-in-us” factor. But, which one is going to feed off of that energy more?
Eli Manning’s 2011 playoff season compared to his 2007 playoff season is worth mentioning. He has matched his 2007 playoffs touchdown to interception ratio with 6-to-1. He is completing 67.7% of his passes compared to in 2007 Manning completed 60.5% of his passes. Manning is averaging just north of 300 yards per game versus 214 yards per game in 2007. So far the Giants are 2-0 in the playoffs. 2007 was capped with the Giants finishing as Super Bowl Champions.
Since 1980, the Giants are 3-11 when traveling to San Francisco to play the 49ers. It’s also worth mentioning that the Giants are 4-0 in NFC Title Games, including the 1990 NFC Title Game where the Giants won a physical game 15-13 and ended the 49ers chances at a three-peat.
This is tough…
Well, the 49ers did beat the Giants at home in Week 10, 27-20, in what could be argued as the 49ers coming out game. You know, that one game where everyone finally recognizes that this team is actually good? In that game the 49ers held their own pretty well.
I am looking at the weather forecast for this game. 52 at kickoff with a 40% chance of rain. Rain chances increasing at the game goes on. Running the football effectively is going to be important in this game, and the 49ers have the running back that can do that in Frank Gore.
However, Eli Manning is the hot quarterback. He has playoff experience and this run through the playoffs is looking like their 2007 run.
OK… I’ve talked myself into it. This is not a ringing endorsement, but it is the most logical pick I can make. The time for talk is over… (sounds like an essay I wrote…)
THE PICK: Giants 23-19