A season that began with a lockout and a shortened season has reached its championships. It is Championship Sunday. Two games and four teams that will determine who will be going to Indianapolis to play in Super Bowl 46. There are a few interesting storylines with the Super Bowl being in Indy this year with three of the four teams. The team that doesn’t have much of a connection with Indy is San Francisco so I’ll leave them out for the time being. First, the Giants connection is the fact their QB’s brother, a fellow named Peyton Manning, plays (or perhaps played) his games in Indy. It could be an interesting scenario if Eli were to surpass Peyton’s Super Bowl total in his home stadium. Next for the Patriots, they have been bitter rivals with the Colts for most of the decade so it could be a nice to stick to them if the Pats were to win the Super Bowl in Peyton’s stadium in the season when his team went 2-14. Finally, the Ravens were the franchise that took the place of the Colts after they relocated from Baltimore to Indianapolis. So this could be a nice F-U to the franchise that deserted them oh so many years ago.
Onto the weekend’s picks. Last week I went 3-1 again to bring my postseason total to 6-2. However I have picked the winners in all 8 games with picking the Lions and Broncos to cover the double digit spreads in their respective games. Time to figure out who will be playing for the Lombardi Trophy in two weeks time.
Spreads courtesy of sportsbook.com. Home team in CAPS.
Ravens +7 over PATRIOTS
Very torn about this game. The motto in the playoffs with spreads should always be, don’t worry about the points and just pick who you think will win this game. After all, teams that have covered this postseason are 7-1 straight up, with just the Texans not winning outright (but with a competent QB they win that game). But to me, this spread feels a couple points too high. It was just a few weeks ago that everyone was debating where this Patriots secondary ranks in the all time worst. They are starting WR Julian Edelman. As much as I love Tebow, he isn’t actually the prototype for a QB to exploit a secondary. Not don’t get me wrong, Joe Flacco isn’t a great QB either but he has put together strong games before. He has four 300 yard passing games last year. They have a speedy wide receiver in Torrey Smith that I don’t think the Pats will be able to contain. Anquan Boldin is a physical receiver that I don’t think the Patriots will be able to match up against. But the biggest key will once again be Ray Rice.
Rice is the straw that stirs the drink for the Ravens offense. Flacco has never been the biggest postseason performer but against the Pats secondary he should have success. For the Ravens to win they will need Rice to have top game. In their last postseason game he broke an 80 yard TD run on the first play and the Ravens ran the ball over 50 times. Now this will be unlikely to happen again on Sunday but the goal for Baltimore should be 25 touches for Rice. That is a path to success. I think there also might a bit of an overreaction to the Patriots blowout victory against the Broncos. Brady and company looked so dominant that I am a little skeptical. I don’t think it’ll be that easy against this stingy Ravens defense. This is a group with Ray Lewis and Ed Reed that might be going through this for the last time. I think they will put together their top performance to send the Ravens to the Super Bowl for the first time since 2000.
Prediction: Ravens 31 – Patriots 28
Giants +2.5 over 49ERS
Now if you know me and know my fandom this pick really shouldn’t be much of a surprise. With the Giants on a big roll the last four weeks there’s no way I can go against them now. But let’s go through all the matchups anyway. Now back in Week 10 the 49ers beat the Giants 27-20 in a close battle. One of the biggest injuries the Giants suffered in that game was a hamstring injury to Michael Boley that knocked him out. This opened up Vernon Davis for the second half where a busted coverage led to his touchdown. Now Boley is back and is playing at the top of his game. He should be able to cover Davis who torched New Orleans in the final four minutes in their playoff game last week.
A big difference in the game was a play the Packers tried in the game last week; a surprise onside. The Giants were ready for it last week perhaps because they were already burned by it earlier in the season. This helped set up a field goal that gave the 49ers a 9-6 first half lead. Another big key in their last matchup was the turnovers; more so the turnover in the second half. After the Vernon Davis touchdown gave the 49ers the lead, Eli forced a pass that was picked that turned into the eventual game winning score by Kendall Hunter. The way Eli has been playing lately these are the mistakes he is going to have to avoid. The 49ers beat the Saints, before the renaissance of Alex Smith, because of turnovers. That is what the Giants will have to avoid; hold onto the ball. I just think the Giants are on such a roll right now that their front line will be able to shut down Joe Montana—I mean Alex Smith. I think Eli will be headed to see his big brother come February.
Prediction: Giants 27 – 49ers 23
Last Week: 3-1
Best Bets: 43-37-5
Regular Season: 126-118-12