The Final Four…NFL-style. We have finally gotten to the conference championships. The AFC Championship Game is on first and then we have the NFC Championship Game. Let’s jump right in to what promises to be a great day of some pigskin!
AFC Championship Game - Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots, 3pm on CBS
This should be a great game. You have the Ravens with the #3 defense versus the Patriots and their #2 offense (#3 in pts.). Then on the other side you have the Ravens struggling #15 (#12 pts.) offense versus the Patriots atrocious #31 (#15 pts.) defense. It’s going to be a treat to see if Tom Brady can out play the Ravens suffocating defense or if Ray Lewis & Co. will shut down Brady and their prolific offense. The Ravens have to be physical on the line with the Patriots’ two TE’s. They cannot let Gronkowski and Hernandez beat them like they did the Broncos. For obvious reasons, Joe Flacco’s time is now. He has to have a big game. He has to come up big in the end. Mark this down, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Ravens pick up a QB in the draft if Flacco struggles again. I just don’t know where I sit with Flacco. I like him and see a lot of talent in him, but I also think, for some reason, he has reached a wall. Will he bust through it today or will he jeopardize Baltimore’s best chance at winning a Super Bowl in years? Ray Rice and the offensive lineman are going to have to get the running game going to take the pressure off of Flacco. Another matchup some are talking about is John Harbaugh coaching against Bill Belicheat. I think it’s funny that Belicheat is viewed as a defensive genius and since 2007 that has been the achilles heel of this team. I do believe that Belicheat is a great defensive coordinator, but he is a Tom Brady, video camera and the tuck rule away from being a failed head coach and seen as just a defensive mind. Harbaugh, on the other hand, has been a solid coach in Baltimore. I don’t think he’s been great, but it’s hard to get more out of another head coach, short of a Hall of Famer. I am going with the away team, but have extreme hesitance with this pick. Ravens 31 Patriots 28
NFC Championship Game – New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers, 6:30pm on FOX
Hello, 1990…where have you been? Does this game feel like this or what? I can remember that game like it was yesterday. I remember being in our side room in the house I grew up in during the first half of my childhood. I remember hoping Matt Bahr would make that field goal. You see, the 49ers the week before beat my beloved Redskins 28-10 the week before to knock them out of the playoffs. So, in turn I had to root for the Giants to exact revenge on them for what they did. And it happened! Believe me when I say that a certain 8 going on 9 yr. old was very happy that day. And for you Niners fans, maybe we’ll get to see another game like the one we saw here. Outside of the infamous heads-tails miscall, this has got to be the worse officiating ever! But it’s 2012 and we have a hard-nosed 49ers squad against a very hot Giants squad. Will Eli Manning continue his great play? Will Alex Smith continue his magical season? Both teams love to run the ball and both teams have great passers (as long as Alex Smith continues to look like he has all season). This one is going to come down to the defenses. Believe the old adage “defenses win championships” because it will come true today in this game. If the Giants can continue their hot run I believe they will rattle Alex Smith into being the old Alex Smith. Either way you know you are going to get great play from the Niners D. The only question for them will be: is Patrick Willis playing or not? I like Eli better than Alex. I like Frank Gore but the combo of Bradshaw and Jacobs is bruising…believe me, as a fan on an NFC East team, I know!! I love the Giants wideouts more. I like the Niners defense more, but the Giants are playing like their D of old. I say that continues and Eli shows why he’s one of the games’ best. Giants 15 49ers 13 (that’s right…a little 1990 for you)
So, that does it. Enjoy the games today but I do ask you for one thing. No matter where you come down on the (horribly & disgusting) child sex abuse scandal at Penn St…I ask for all to say a prayer for Joe Paterno who is in failing health and might be seeing his last days here on earth. Pray for his family to have strength in this difficult time. Thanks and enjoy the pigskin! I’ll see you guys back here tomorrow for recaps on the day’s games.