Sunday, January 22, 2012

NFL Conference Championship Picks

We have two of the best offenses and quarterbacks in the league (Tom Brady/Eli Manning) and two teams with high powered defenses(Ravens/49ers). Oh yeah, don't forget there are two brothers who are each one win away from creating the "Sibling Bowl" in Indianapolis.There are storylines in both of those situations...any other combination (i.e Patriots v 49ers) would lack the ultimate storyline. I'll be 2-0 or 0-2 this week...I refuse to take a split.

New York Giants (9-7, 5-3 away) @ San Francisco 49ers (13-3, 7-1 home)
Sunday, 6:30 PM ET

It's Eli Manning and Alex Smith in San Francisco -- a rematch of the Nov. 11 game won by the 49ers, 27-20. But this is now and the Giants are the most balanced team playing right now (at this moment). They are playing well on both sides of the ball. NY finally has Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora, Mathias Kiwanuka,and JasonPierre-Paul all healthy and on the field together. Those four guys have 37 sacks between them this year.

Eli is effectively spreading the ball around to his WR's and they are running the ball equally as well. When the Giants go three-wide with Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and Victor Cruz, they are tough to defend. There are two very effective ways to slow down a passing attack: 1) put relentless pressure on the quarterback and 2) play tight coverage on the receivers. The last time these teams met, San Francisco got to Manning only ONCE. They have to get to Eli more if they want to stay in this game. The 49ers' pass-rush pressure is a big key to their success on defense. They are a group of ballhawks that know how to go get a turnover and deliver blows that can send a message early and often. SF beat NY back in November by winning the turnover battle. The Niners led the league in turnover ratio this season with a +28. That's a large part of who they are as a team.

With rain pouring down in San Fran, the running game of both teams are going to play a huge role in this game. Ahmad Bradshaw didn't play in the Week 10 matchup against SF and that made a difference in the game. When Bradshaw has 60 or more rushing yards in a game, the Giants are 21-4. The 49ers' run defense is extremely stubborn, giving up 76 yards per game in the last seven games. For the season, they've allowed a grand total of three rushing touchdowns….none at home.

The thing that has to change for SF is they have to score some TD”s and not a game full of field goals. Yes, every point matters, but in critical matchups as this one, Alex Smith has got to find a way to get the ball in the end zone. As last week’s game showed, the 49ers offense has the potential to flatline…..and that is why the Saints were able to turn the ball over 5 times and remain in the game. Losing by only 4 points. On the last two drives, Smith was 7-of-9 for 135 yard and a touchdown. He came through in the end but it shouldn’t have had to come down to that. The defense had played too well. SF has to figure out how to score touchdowns -- not field goals -- if they want to advance to the Super Bowl.

Beauties pick: San Francisco
Score: 30-24
Confidence rating: 7

Baltimore Ravens (12-4, 4-4 away) @ New England Patriots (13-3, 7-1 home)
Sunday, 3:00 PM ET

The Ravens live and die with defense, while the Patriots got here with offense. It's a classic matchup of good d vs. good o, but don't be surprised if the Ravens' offense or Patriots' defense ends up being the difference in this game

Brady and Co. average 32 points a game and are ranked 2nd in offense in the league. Baltimore allowed an average of 16.6 points and ranked 3rd against the run and 4th against the pass. NE will most likely go no huddle throughout this game. Five of New England's six touchdowns last week came from the no-huddle. If they catch the Ravens in a defensive personnel group they want to exploit, they will continue in the no-huddle to prevent substitutions and limit the defensive calls. The Ravens are gonna have to adapt...and do it quickly and often.

Ray Rice HAS GOT TO TOUCH THE BALL MORE….I REPEAT…RAY RICE HAS TO TOUCH THE BALL MORE! It doesn't matter that New England has the 31st-ranked defense in the league. Baltimore's best chance to win is if Rice can be successful running the ball, which will make it easier for Flacco to pass and, even more importantly, keep Tom Brady's offense on the sideline. When the Ravens played NE last year in the regular season, they only managed 99 yards on 34 carries with no touchdowns. Predictably, the result was an “L” for the Ravens. Flacco went down five times last week at home against Houston. If that's an indication of things to come, then the near last New England defense should get to Flacco more than once or twice. The Patriots defense gets a hard rap for being ranked 31st in defense. They may give up 362 yards per game at home, but they only allow 18 points per game. Oh yeah, and Flacco has never thrown more than two TD passes in a playoff game.

Turnovers have been critical in the playoffs and they will continue to be a major factor in this game. If Baltimore doesn't force a few turnovers and limit New England’s possessions, we could see a repeat of last week’s game..only enter Ravens in place of Broncos. Wanna know how many times the Ravens got to T.J. Yates last week? None, nada, zilch, zip, zero and they will struggle to get to Brady, who wasn't sacked at all last week.

Beauties pick: Baltimore Ravens

Score: 27-23
Confidence rating: 5 (yup i know that's low....I'm torn, but gotta make a pick!)


Kenneth said...

your a cowboy fan. you wouldnt pick the Giants no matter what!

Anonymous said...

Better luck next time! At least your storylines turned out correct.