The NFL season has come down to this great conference championship weekend with New England Patriots hosting the Baltimore Ravens for the AFC title and the San Francisco 49ers hosting the New York Giants for the NFL. Gone are favorites and power ranking darlings the Green Bay Packers and New Orleans Saints with the MVP candidate quarterbacks Aaron Rodgers and Drew Brees.
Gone are the miracles of Tim Tebow and all that's left are the boring proven heroics of Tom Brady and Eli Manning and game manager extraordinaires, Alex Smith and Joe Flacco. Here's our picks and predictions for the penultimate weekend of NFL football. We didn't do too well last week, but who did?
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7): It's a classic case of two teams who know exactly who they are and are complete opposites on the football scale. The Patriots average 32.1 points per game behind the incredible passing game of Tom Brady. Defensively, New England relies on their offense. The Ravens allow just 16.6 points per game and offensively rely on their defense. Classic.
We've heard for the last few years how the NFL has become a passing league and that what matters most is the ability to put points on the board. The Niners and Giants both showed the flaws in that thinking when they beat Brees and Rodgers with defense. The Ravens will do the same on Sunday to the Patriots.
New England has played a ridiculously easy schedule and are only slightly better than the team that lost at home to the Jets in the playoffs last year. Pick: Ravens
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (-3): This game should be even more fun than the AFC contest. The Niners and Giants both played fantastic football to surprise everyone and reach this point. Alex Smith was able to do something that eluded him all season long and find the end zone and make big plays with his arm. The Giants secondary showed they were up to the task against the best in the game.
These two teams feature the best rushing front lines in the game which will put both quarterbacks under pressure all game. A trip to the Super Bowl will come down to which QB handles the rush better and while Smith did well against the generous Saints defense, the Giants are a much tougher nut to crack. Add in Eli Manning's championship experience and the G-men should be headed back to the promised land. Pick: Giants