Conference Championship Picks

Posted: January 20, 2012 by vindanton in Pro Sports

AFC Championship: Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots: Sunday 3:00 CBS


Vin D’Anton: So, I am going to do something that a want-to-be sports broadcaster/journalist shouldn’t do…and that is go against their preseason Super Bowl pick. I use to think Joe Flacco had something special, but just getting by might not do it, but you never know. With the careers of Ed Reed and Ray Lewis nearing the end, they have all the motivation in the world. But, and this is a very BIG BUT…Tom Brady has been out for blood all year. The guy is on a mission and will stop at nothing to win (hence why Joshie by is back). Don’t expect the Pats to put up amazing numbers, but they should prevail. Could this be Flacco’s “Eli Manning 2007” type week, sure, but not likely. I’m calling typical Belichick BS on the Brady shoulder injury. Pick: Patriots


Shaun Smith: No matter what we are getting a Super Bowl rematch, either Baltimore or NE vs. NYG (Picks spoiler alert!). The look in Joe Flacco’s eyes from last week worries me when it comes to the Ravens putting up points. Even Ed Reed agrees and you never doubt Mr. Reed. The Patriots defense tries but just aren’t good. There’s no way they will be getting the kind of pressure on Flacco that Houston was able to apply. We also need to take into consideration Brady’s health. With a shoulder in rough shape, a decent hit from T-Sizzle will destroy the Pats attacks. I’m really on the fence for either team but if I needed to flip a coin to pick a winner it would be NE. And yes I did flip a coin. Pick: Patriots


Brandon Tuzio: I know it was against the Denver Tebows, but Tom Brady was scary last week. He had that fire inside where he just would not lose to this scrappy team and create media frenzy. That is a very dangerous formula, and now he is coming for the Ravens. Baltimore has a lot of the same personnel as the game in Foxboro in 2010, but they are definitely different guys than they were. If Reed, Suggs and Lewis can contain Gronk and Hernandez, and if Joe Flacco can light up the field, then this can turn out in their favor. But that is a lot to ask based on their performance against Houston. New England seals the deal by the end of the third quarter. Pick: Patriots


Preston Kennedy: Last time these two teams played in the playoffs the Ravens demolished the Patriots with a combination of Ray Rice and defense. I think if they have any hope of winning this week they need to do the same thing. Ray Rice needs to get going in this one against the front line of the Patriots, which seems to be the only good part of that defense. Contain Tom Brady and force him to make quick decisions and have good coverage, they can get it done. I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Ravens are going to get this done and knock out the best offense in the NFL. Pick: Ravens


Nick Scerbo: I’ll tell you what I want-I want the Ravens to win, because I don’t believe any of this nonsense about “winning the big one”-Joe Flacco has won big games to get to “the big ones” that he supposedly can’t win.  I’d like him and the Ravens defense to win just to stick another dagger into that ridiculous theory…all that aside, this is a tough matchup for the Ravens.  Their defense is very, very good, but the Patriots have an almost absurd number of legitimate deep threats, which is going to stretch Baltimore’s defense to the breaking point.  New England’s defense is underrated-yards do not equal points, and they aren’t bad at avoiding giving up the big play, which is very important.
The key for Baltimore is doing the same thing.  They can let the Patriots drive, they can let them get into the red zone-but they have to hold the score down.  I don’t believe that the Ravens can go into New England and win a shootout-it’d be too hard to keep up with the Patriots offense.  Much has been made of the age of Baltimore’s defense; not enough has been made of their canniness.  You have some wily veterans on that defense, and they seem to have New England’s number (remember, they came closer than anyone else to ruining the perfect season a few years back, and they were horrible that season…5-11).  So I’m expecting a good game.  I want the Ravens to win-but it will be tough. I see a close game: Pick: Patriots


Glenn Schulz: Flacco or Brady….OK that is not even a question. However can the Ravens’ D contain the Patriots offensive attack which has two tight ends that give opposing defensive coronations nightmares? Not to mention a future Hall of Fame QB who is playing great. As important as it is for the Ravens’ D to try and contain the Pats and pressure Brady, I think it is even MORE important for the Ravens’ offense to have its best game of the year against an average defense. This is the game where Mr. Joe Flacco can silence the critics…including his own teammates. Is it me or does it seem like Flacco lets the criticism get to him? Needs thicker skin….that being said, Flacco has a good game, but Ravens fall short. Pick: Patriots


NFC Championship: New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers: Sunday 6:00 FOX


Vin: Ugh, this one is emotionally and personally tough for me to pick…I almost didn’t bother. Look, no one thought these teams would smell the playoffs, never mind the conference title game. These teams are warriors and have huge hearts. The Monday after Thanksgiving, ESPN analyst and Hall of Fame 49ers quarterback Steve Young said before the Giants vs. Saints Monday Night game was “I don’t really care what the Giants do, I just want to see if the Saints can matchup well with the Packers for the NFC Title game”…jackass. Disregarded the Giants and his former team.

Here they are. The Giants beat the crap out the Packers and those two Packer touchdowns were because of criminal calls by the refs. The Saints pass defense was actually worse than the Giants during the regular season, but regardless that Alex Smith performance was special. The weather bothers me a lot. How are the Giants edge pass rushers going to keep their feet? Can this pass happy offense keep their feet too? Will Eli still have the flu? Going to be tough. Candlestick has been waiting a long time. Also, I’m waiting for the Giants to have their bipolar game, and that can come at anytime. Oh yeah, Rooney Mara might be there! Pick: 49ers


Shaun: Here we are, the Giants are making a run we haven’t seen since, well last year with the team they just beat. NY was the hottest team going into the playoffs and like in MLB nowadays, the hottest team at the end of the season goes on a good run. Luckily they don’t have to play at home which they have been known to lose at MetLife. I believe the 49ers have a defensive advantage but you could make the argument that NY’s D is just as good. Here is the kicker, the Niners can’t touch Eli’s offense. Even against the horrid Saints defense, Alex Smith looked rattled and lost from the second quarter onto about 5 minutes left in the fourth quarter. I can’t see Smith getting points on the board and I’m sure the Giants will prevent Gore from running over them. I’m taking the hot hand. Pick: Giants


Brandon: In a season where David Akers made 44 of 52 field goal attempts (In 12 seasons with the Eagles he never had more than 40 attempts), I can’t believe that he didn’t score all of San Francisco’s 36 points last week (It’s an NFL record too). Alex Smith just planted a seed of hope in younglings throughout the Bay Area that he may be their late blooming quarterback of the future. Even though these teams played in week 10, the Giants are a much stronger team than they were that day, and Eli was still able to march down the field in the fourth quarter (save the outstretched arm of Justin Smith). Sorry to those seeking a Harbaugh-Superbowl, I believe we’re going back to Super Bowl XLII. Pick: Giants


Preston: This is going to be the better of the two games this week in my eyes. Both teams have a defense who can get to the quarterback and force turnovers. The deciding factor in this one is all offense. Which offense can get things going? Will Bradshaw and Jacobs keep playing the way they have been the last few weeks? Does Alex Smith make good decisions like he has all season? I think the Giants D-Line gets to smith, Frank Gore will have a solid game, but with not many options for Smith I think Eli and that running game will ultimately win this one and head back to the Super Bowl. Pick: Giants


Nick: Let’s talk about an irrelevant stat first-in their history, the New York Giants have never been stopped in a Super Bowl era semi-final game. They’ve also beaten the San Francisco 49ers once before at this stage, in what was probably a top five all-time NFC Championship game.  That means less than nothing.
Here is a statistic that does mean something-the 49ers have the worst red zone offense in the league.  They get there plenty, but they seem to stop themselves.  To me that says they have trouble getting sixty yard touchdowns, no matter how good Vernon Davis is.  Its hard to go 12 plays, 80 yards without getting a holding penalty or a negative play.  And that is where the Giants seem to be finally doing well-no big plays.  That’s how they stopped the Packers-take a look at how many times during that game Aaron Rodgers pumped, pumped, and then dumped off for a four yard swing pass.  They weren’t getting tremendous pressure, and they gave up some twenty-thirty yard pass plays, but they weren’t getting torched deep.  Do that, and you can stop the 49ers.  I think that the Giants can do that.  Also, their Achilles heel all season long (that bomb scare of a defensive backfield) actually held up against the Packers.
Alex Smith, while he has improved tremendously, does not have that remarkable quality.  That makes him slightly more vulnerable to the Giants pass rush.  So I think that the G-Men can stop the 49ers; but can they score?  Maybe not consistently-I can’t see them mounting any 85 yard, 10 play drives, but they do have big play ability out of Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks, who have come up with some big home run plays down the stretch.  And you only need one or two of those plays to result in touchdowns to put some points on the board (I don’t have too much faith in the Giants running game for this one-Brandon Jacobs runs exactly as well as his offensive line is playing, and Ahmad Bradshaw scares me to death with the way he carries the football).
The Giants went on the road earlier in the season, took San Francisco to within six yards of winning, and are a better team now than they were then.  Call me a believer. Pick: Giants


Glenn: Wow, this game is extremely hard for me to pick. I feel like both these teams are playing at an excellent level at this point in the season. Alex Smith…well…welcome to the National Football League Good Sir. The Giants…what a statement win for them against the Packers. This game should be a hard hitting, slug-fest that should go down to the final drive. I really think the biggest key to the game is turnovers. Yes, both teams can get to the QB, but whoever does not turn the ball over will win this game. It is all about limiting the possessions of the opposing team….ask the Saints and Packers. I think this comes down to late in the fourth quarter and I trust Eli more than Alex on the basis of a bigger resume in Manning’s name. Pick: Giants










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