We have now reached the final four teams of the NFL postseason. The teams that are left are the Baltimore Ravens, the New England Patriots, New York Giants, and the San Francisco 49ers. There will only be two games played on Sunday, Jan. 22. I will make my predictions for each championship game. Keep in mind the winners of these games will play in the Super Bowl.
Baltimore Ravens 24 @ New England Patriots 21: Defense wins championships. The Baltimore Ravens have the 3rd best defense in the NFL. New England has the worst defense in the NFL. Tom Brady and this offense might be carrying the Patriots to this point, but they’ll have to slow down eventually. In their only ever playoff meeting before this one, the Ravens defeated New England 33-14 in the Wild Card round a few years ago. Those same four that led that defense in 2010 (Suggs, Lewis, Reed, Ngata) are playing just as good maybe even better. All the Ravens would have to do to let QB Joe Flacco settle down is hand off the ball to Ray Rice. Rice should be able to run all over the worst defense in the league.
Why I think this game will be close is because the Ravens offense is inconsistent. There will be moments when Flacco looks like a good quarterback, but also moments when he will look “rattled,” like teammate Ed Reed said earlier in the week. Once again, the Ravens defense will carry this team all the way to their first Super Bowl since the early 2000′s.
New York Giants 31 @ San Francisco 49ers 17: So what the Giants lost at San Francisco earlier in the season? So what the 49ers are 8-1 at home this season? There’s only one stat that matters at this point: 4-0. That’s the record the Giants have in the NFC Championship Game. This team has the momentum more than ever at the right time. I said last week don’t be surprised if they upset Green Bay and sure enough they destroyed them. Now 2007 seems like it’s repeating itself all over again, but this team is better. Antrel Rolle is the lead talker of this team, and unlike the Jets, the Giants back it up. Jason Pierre-Paul has emerged into a Pro Bowler and makes this pass rush scary with Tuck, Osi, and Kiwanuka. The secondary is solid all around. Most importantly, Eli Manning is finally playing like an elite quarterback. This is the most complete team in the postseason.
There is one thing the 49ers have that the Giants don’t and that is the running game. San Francisco has one of the best running backs in the league in Frank Gore. Let’s not forget they also have the best rushing defense as well, only allowing two touchdowns on the run ALL SEASON. Alex Smith has become a reliable (and clutch) quarterback who won’t make the bad mistakes. Their receiving core is solid, and so is their secondary. The 49ers also have a great linebacking core, lead by Patrick Willis and Navarro Bowman.
Momentum will be the reason why the Giants win this game. They’re coming in more confident than ever and have played like the team we expected them to be. I understand the 49ers are home, but Eli Manning is tied for most road playoff games than any other quarterback in NFL history (tied with Mark Sanchez.) The Giants are built to win on the road, and that is what will happen in this game.