It was a pretty fun divisional round of the NFL playoffs last weekend. Outside of the New England Vs. Denver games all the games were pretty competitive and in that held a high level of entertainment value.
The Green Bay loss to the New York Giants was nothing but shocking to me. I was well aware of the Packers deficiencies on defense this year and also knew that Eli Manning can and has been able to get hot late in seasons and then into the playoffs before but I just didn't see the Giants defense, which really wasn't all that great, outside of JPP and pass rush, through the season, holding Aaron Rodgers and company down like they did. Perhaps the resting of the players hurt more than anyone could have foreseen?
The Baltimore Ravens win was impressive because it got them to the AFC championship game, but it was a sloppy game and if the Texans hadn't turned the ball over 4 times in this game I am thinking that it could have been a different outcome altogether. But a good deal of credit must be given to the Ravens defense as they did create the takeaways, but not enough was shown offensively in this one, nor during the season for that matter, to show me that they can seriously vie for the AFC's representation in the Super Bowl.
The game of the week, hands down, was the San Francisco 49ers last second win against New Orleans. This game was fun and exciting. It showed Alex Smith as a QB that can be the reason his team wins instead of a team that wins in spite of their lackluster QB. The action at the end of the game was great TV.
AFC Championship Game
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
If this was any other team facing the Patriots I'd feel a little better about their odds going against this maligned bunch of New England defenders, but the Ravens are by far, not an offensive juggernaut, which they'll need to be highly effective to keep pace with Tom Brady, his TE's and his offense this week, because they certainly can be that type of powerhouse offensive unit. I see this game as close, because of the Ravens defense, through 3 quarters but with the Patriots pulling away early in the fourth and making the score look worse than it actually was for 4 quarters. NE 35 Baltimore 17
NFC Championship Game
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
The niners have the defense and last week, when so many naysayers, including myself, didn't think they could muster the offense to keep up with Drew Brees, were proved oh, so wrong, it looks like they have a complete team heading into the championship game. Eli Manning is, and has proven himself to be, a clutch big-game performer and this is, obviously, a big game. The Niners defense is for real though and they'll do their best to force the Giants into situations they don't want to be in. They also have a tendency to create turnovers. The Giants defense shut down Aaron Rodgers last week and Matt Ryan the week before so it's not out of the realm of possibility that they go ahead and shut Alex Smith down this week either. But I believe this game will be decided by the defense of the 49ers. The niners offense has shown, all season long, to be able to get into field goal range on a consistent basis. They trust their defensive unit so much that a bunch of field goals is A-ok with coach Harbaugh. So I firmly believe that Eli will need to rack up the points here for the giants to win. If he does then I like NY here, but, that said, with last week still on my mind, will, even then, Alex Smith be able to open things up like he did against the Saints. I'm not sure in that case, but I have faith in the SF defense to hold back the Giants just enough here. SF 24 NYG 20
SUPER BOWL New England Patriots Vs. San Francisco 49ers
A couple of side notes on this weekend's games:
If the Giants win, there will be a rematch of a recent Superbowl. Giants lost to the Ravens some years back and then it was the Giants that defeated the Patriots a few years ago, thus ending their bid for perfection.
If the Ravens beat the Patriots and SF beats the Giants we'll get a brother vs. brother showdown in the Super Bowl, a rematch of the Thanksgiving night game that Baltimore won at home.
Should be a fun couple of games. I know I'm looking forward to them.