Then There Were Four…New England Patriots, Baltimore Ravens, San Francisco 49ers, New York Giants…Who Will It Be?
After nearly an entire NFL season that came close to not happening in the first place, we have just four teams remaining with a chance to win it all. The winners of this Sunday’s games will face off in Super Bowl XXVILMNOP or whatever number they’re on. And no matter what happens, neither team will be the Saints or the Packers.
This time of the year has always been bitter-sweet for me. On one hand, I know in my gut that football is almost over and that the longest eight months of the year are just around the corner. I also know that I will soon have to acquire a life again.
On the other hand, I get to enjoy the most intense football of the season. I’ve always felt the conference championship yielded better “football” games than the Super Bowl. Don’t get me wrong, we’ve had some great Super Bowls over the last decade, but the final four teams that play for the conference championships are always playing at a top-notch level. The week of constant media hoopla between the conference championships and the Super Bowl seems to drag the participating teams down. One of my favorite bets I ever made was betting the under in the first half (24.5) of Super Bowl XXVLMXYZ (the one when the Saints beat the Colts). Even though both those teams had high-powered offenses, I knew the time off was going to effect the flow of the game from an offensive standpoint. The score was 10-6 at halftime.
But that bet was in the past…just like the picks from last weeks column! After an atrocious week of picks during the Wild Card round, I came back strong last week by going 6-2, bringing my picks record to 8-8 this postseason. Going 0-4 on over/under picks that first weekend, I did the complete opposite in the Divisional round by going a perfect 4-0. So what does this mean? It means I used up all of my gambling luck last weekends and all of these new picks will probably be wrong. Enjoy!!
My pick is in bold, and my opinion is fact:
RAVENS (+9) and UNDER 50.5
This Sunday’s games were not easy to pick. I can see both teams winning, both teams covering, and it being over and under…in both games. Having said that, if I had to pick only one NFL bet this weekend to wager my entire life’s savings on, I would put all $878.46 on Baltimore plus the nine points. I see this game being very similar to last weekend’s Giants/Packers game. I’m upset at myself for not seeing it last weekend (I bet the Packers), and I’m not going to make the same mistake twice.
This game is the classic case of one team’s strength being the perfect counter for the other team’s strength. And vice-versa. (You get what I’m saying.) Baltimore has a stout defense (strength), and New England’s offense is running at maximum efficiency right now (strength). And on the other side, you have a (relatively) weak Ravens pass offense squaring off against an (actually) unassuming Patriot pass defense. The same way Green Bay’s offense (strength) was shut down by the Giants D (str…you get the point), Baltimore will do the exact same thing to Tom Brady and company. Combine that with Joe Flacco facing an opponent with a defense that even he can look great against, and you have yourself a Baltimore Ravens victory.
That’s right, folks. Not only do I think the Ravens will cover the 9, I think they will win the game outright. I know, I know; Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, home-field advantage, and Tom Brady. I get it. But everyone was saying the same thing last week about the Packers, too. (Well, maybe not the McCarthy/Belichick part.) This game will play out as a slightly closer version of this matchup in the 2009 playoffs. And even if Baltimore does find a way to choke the game away at the end, they will at least cover the spread. And then I will have $1,756.92.
49’ers (-3) and OVER 42
This is the game I went back and forth on all week. When the dust settled, I went with the Niners. Honestly, I have a strong feeling that this bet will be a push, as I have San Fransisco winning this game on a late field goal. Here’s why:
Everyone thinks the Giants are going to win. I used this exact logic last weekend when New York played the Pack in Lambeau (and I incorrectly picked Green Bay). But that philosophy was flawed last week, for you see, not everyone thought the Giants would win that game. Granted, a lot of people were riding big on the G-men last week (the line moved 1.5 points), and they did look impressive the previous week at home against Atlanta, but that was at home against Atlanta. Deep down, I think a lot of us felt Green Bay would win last week, no matter how good the Giants looked the week before.
Which leads us to where we are now; everyone is officially on the New York (football) Giants bandwagon! All aboard!!! This game, as opposed to last week’s game, now officially matches the description of “one the Giants should win.” Therefore, the Giants will lose. It’s nearly a science at this point.
And if my hocus pocus, magic voodoo theories aren’t enough to convince you to wager your money and you want a real reason as to why the Giants will fall short this weekend, here it goes: The 49’ers know how to tackle. I can’t tell you how many times New York has thrown a 12-yard pass that has ended up being an 80-yard touchdown over the last month and a half. It’s unreal. Somehow, every safety and corner the Giants faced down the stretch completely forgot how to tackle. Not this week, though. San Fransisco knows how to tackle, they know how to cover, and they know how to win in the playoffs (I still can’t believe they won last week). Take all of that, and add Eli playing in a 3,000-mile-away-from-home road game, and…yeah. I’ll give up three points with a smile on my face.
So there you have it, I’m predicting the Harbaughs will face each other in the Super Bowl. Given the choice, I promise you this would not be the matchup I would choose. However, I have a feeling it’s the one we’ll end up watching 16 days from now. And even if I’m right and this is the Super Bowl matchup, the two weeks of non-stop Harbaugh brothers coverage will be a living hell for the Ryan brothers to watch. So at least we’ll have that.