NFL: Conference Championship Games
The conference title games have been known to produce some classics. New Orleans 31, Minnesota 28 in the 2009 season. Giants 23, Packers 20 in overtime in the 2007 season. Colts 38, Patriots 34 (2006); Falcons 30, Vikings 27 (1998). The Broncos’ back-to-back thrillers over the Browns, 38-33 (1987) and 23-20 (1986), and let’s not forget 49ers 28, Cowboys 27 (1981), which launched the San Francisco dynasty.
Some big games about to go down today. Metta Chronicles got a few of our experts (Colin Kennedy, Animesh Basu, Akash Pandey) together from Cal Berkeley, and they were kind enough to write down their thoughts. Always an interesting read…
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Colin Kennedy: Let me ask you a question: do you trust Flacco? I certainly do not, I don’t believe he is capable of making a crucial game-winning drive and can’t handle pressure. He has a fantastic defense, but their run game is too up and down. No much is asked of Flacco, and while he has decent offensive weapons in Boldin and Torrey Smith, I just don’t see it happening when he’s going against the supposed Anti-Chris in Bill Bellichick. I also never bet against Thomas. Why you may ask? Because he’s married to Gisele and his baby momma is a hottie. More importantly he has 3 superbowl rings that says he’s better than you. He’s better than all of us. 35-24 NE
Animesh Basu: The Patriots will be playing in the comfort of their home field in Foxboro. The Patriots offense is in sync, and I believe will be too much for the vaunted Ravens D. The Ravens struggled against the not-so-mighty Texans at home, so it’s tough to believe they can pull off the upset against the top seed on the road. We’ve seen the Ravens get pummeled by high powered offenses when they were steam rolled by the inconsistent San Diego Chargers. With the Patriots rolling it should be more of the same. Pats: 31-16
Akash Pandey: The Pats have been on an offensive tear this year, dominating defense after defense with their relentless aerial attack. The Ravens, on the other hand, have had a slew of unimpressive victories against mediocre quarterbacks (see T.J. Yates and Colt McCoy). The Ravens, as always, thrive on their ferocious front seven and their ball-hawking secondary. The Pats really haven’t had many tests this year: they have zero wins against teams with winning records and they were held to 20 against two of the better defenses they played in the Cowboys and Giants – both at home. Just like the Giants showed in ’07 and the Jets showed last year, Brady can be slowed down if the front four bring the heat. And I believe T-Sizzle and Ngata can do just that. Also, let’s not forget that the Pats defensive is atrocious and the Ravens have the weapons to may them pay (Rice, Boldin, Evans, etc.). I sense an Alex Smith-esque performance by Flacco and a win in what may be Ray Lewis’ last stand. Ravens 23-20
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
Colin Kennedy: This is a tough one for me to pick. Do I want to see the 49ers winning this game and advancing to the Super Bowl? Yes. Do I think it can happen? Yes. Do I think it WILL happen? No. Why you may find yourself asking? I don’t trust Alex Smith; I’m wasn’t brainwashed by his performance last week. When you give him time in the pocket and protection, he can find the open man and make those nice 7-15 yard throws. The saints D played horrible last week, unable to put pressure on Smith. I think the Giants will be able to do so come Sunday with that insane pass-rush. I see them getting 4-6 sacks on Smith and containing the run D. But at the same time, I think the 49ers have a stout Run defense that is also capable of getting turnovers. The problem though, is that the Giants have moved away from the ground-n-pound identity, and while they are capable of turning out the occasional 1st down run, they don’t NEED to do it because of their WR core and Eli. This is a tough one to call, but I got to go with my gut on this one: 24-17 NYG
Animesh Basu: The Niners are on a roll and the fans are loving it. The city spoiled with success in the past is looking to reclaim throne after a long playoff drought. The atmosphere at Candlestick was rocking last week and will be rocking just as hard or harder this week. On paper this looks to be a defensive battle, but if turns out to be a shootout the Niners proved last week they are more than capable of pulling out the victory. Niners 24 – 17
Akash Pandey: The Giants are coming in hot, fresh off a road win against the league’s top team (and that’s I’m going to say about them). And my – I mean the – Niners just outlasted the best offensive squad in NFL history, beating them in their own damn game. As I watched ESPN this week, I welcomed back the haters, listened to the Giants smack talk, and wondered why Harbaugh has so few backers in the mainstream media? In our Week 10 meeting, Harbaugh called a successful onside kick, made Alex Smith the focal point of our offense with Gore hurt, and watched as his team used special teams, defense, and a little offense to net our seventh straight win. For all I care, he’s the next Bill Walsh. And just as Walsh did in 1981, he needs to get past a menacing NY Giants team.
Two of my favorites images from last weekend’s game were not of Harbaugh, not of Vernon, but of Alex Smith. After throwing the game winning TD he didn’t go gorillas (a la Brett Favre on any TD) he didn’t point his fingers to the heavens (a la any other QB), he just barked some choice words at the Saints’ defense – as if to say respect me now bitch? The other came after the game when a rather subdued Alex Smith took the podium in a blue collar shirt with his name embroidered on it – as if to say “We ain’t done yet”. Niners 30-20