Thursday, January 19, 2012

NFL Championship Game Predictions

The NFL playoffs this season have been nothing short of...amazing.  From the Broncos upset in the wild-card week, to the San Francisco shootout win over New Orleans last Saturday and the Giants upset of the defending champion Green Bay Packers on Sunday.  The four teams that are left standing this weekend are not the four teams that I chose in September and probably not the final four that very many people would have predicted.  In the end here we are, Baltimore at New England and New York at San Francisco, both unexpected in the beginning but both great match ups in the now.

Baltimore @ New England Sunday 3:00 PM

Classic offense vs defense and finesse vs aggression.  To compare offense vs offense and defense vs defense would be a waste of time.  The story line here is Baltimore's number three ranked defense against New England's number two ranked offense, isn't it?  Tom Brady's 137.5 passer rating vs Baltimore's 196.3 passing yards allowed a game, right?  If you listen to the media those would be the topics being focused on in this game, but there is one thing people are down playing and under appreciating, Joe Flacco.  Last week ESPN's Sal Paolantonio brought up a great stat regarding Joe Flacco, up until last week Flacco had faced 11 top ten defenses in the NFL and was 9-2 and last weeks win brought that record to 10-2.  After hearing that stat I decided to see how Flacco performed against the other five non top defenses that the Ravens faced this season.  His stats in those games were: 61% completion percentage, 1,375 yards 8 TD 6 INT and the Ravens averaged 23.6 points per game, right on their season average.  On the flip side, Tom Brady and the Patriots only faced four top ten defenses all season, going 3-1 in those games.  The fact that the Ravens faced 11 top ten defenses during the regular season, six of those games being in the division where they finished 6-0 and still finished the season ranked 15th in the league in total offense has led me to believe that the Ravens offense is being overlooked, especially going up against the 31st ranked defense in the NFL.  No one is giving Flacco and the Ravens offense the credit they deserve.  Tom Brady and the Patriots have a great offense, but the Ravens have the defense to slow them down enough for their undervalued offense to win the game.  Ravens 31 Patriots 21.

New York Giants @ San Francisco Sunday 6:30 PM

Both of these teams pulled out great wins last week and if they were playing anyone else this might be considered a let down game even though it's the NFC Championship.  Neither one can let up or make mistakes in this game.  Alex Smith has resurrected his career and last weeks game winning drive might be the spring board to stardom that Smith has lacked.  Eli Manning has become an elite quarterback in the NFL and is considered to be overlooked even though everyone in sports media talks about him all of the time.  The Giants secondary remains suspect and they rely heavily on their front four to get pressure on the quarterback.  The 49ers will counter that with what they do best, three step drops and quick passes along with a great running attack.  Both will neutralize the Giants defensive front.  In the end the 49ers have the better defense and have proven that their offense can score when it has to and New York's offense is good, but it's not New Orleans.  New York is 7-14 all time in playoff road games and that stat will go to 7-15 after Sunday night.  49ers 21 Giants 17.

That's it, the NFL will rename the 2012 Vince Lombardi Trophy the Harbaugh Ball.  49ers vs Ravens, not the game everyone thinks they will see, but in my eyes the game that will happen.  John Harbaugh has done a great job in Baltimore and his brother Jim may win coach of the year in San Francisco.  Both deserve greatness and after this week one of them will achieve it, look for the Disney movie in a few years.

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