Last week wasn’t so kind to me and my picks. I did okay in the AFC. I picked both winners and was fairly close on the scores. I had NE winning 37-24 (45-10 was the actual score) and Baltimore winning 17-14 (20-13 was the actual score). So, not too bad. The NFC was a total mess. I really thought that New Orleans and Green Bay had the advantages. New Orleans played a great game offensively, but just couldn’t slow down the 49ers. The Packers were a total mess. They suffered from turnovers, dropped passes, overthrown balls, missed tackles, blown coverages and more. Give the Giants a lot of credit, but I have to wonder if teams should be resting their players late in the year. It has worked in the past (as recently as 2009 when the Saints won the Super Bowl after losing their last 3 games while resting up). However, I wonder if Rodgers and his receivers were a little out of sync because of their layoff. Either way, they’re out and the G-Men are moving on.
We will start with the Ravens/Patriots game. I expect New England to have a much tougher game this week. The Broncos gave them no challenge at all. Baltimore is so much better defensively, plus they actually have a real offense. New England will really be tested this week.
First let’s look at the Pats offense vs. the Ravens D. The Ravens gave up about 35 less passing yards and 8 less points than the Broncos did this year. The Ravens won’t stop the Patriots, but they will slow them down for sure. I fully expect the Ravens to really limit Welker and Branch. This will put even more pressure on Hernandez and Gronkowski. In addition to this, the Patriots won’t have much luck running the ball. They didn’t need to run the ball against the Broncos, but I think they’ll want to try and mix it up a little bit more this week. I look for the Patriots to really try the short and quick throws. This will help to keep Ed Reed from disrupting things. The Ravens can put pressure on Brady and he needs to be able to get rid of the ball. The Ravens are also solid at forcing turnovers. This is what doomed the Texans and it can do the same to the Pats if they aren’t careful.
The Ravens offense vs. the Pats D is a more intriguing match-up. While the Pats offense and the Ravens D are both elite, the other side of the ball certainly posses some question marks for both teams. The Ravens offense has some playmakers in Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith. Their TEs have been solid this year too. New England’s defense has really struggled all year. They are, however, very good at forcing turnovers. They forced the most in the AFC all year. I think turnovers will be the deciding factor in this game. If Flacco can protect the ball, I give the Ravens a great shot to win. They should be able to run the ball with Rice. New England is better against the run than they are against the pass. But, they are still only middle of the road. Flacco should have plenty of success, but the Ravens will want to play ball control with Rice and Ricky Williams.
I think this is a great match-up for Baltimore. Baltimore will be able to slow down the Patriots with both their defense and offense. I look for this game to be close and lower scoring than some might think. As long as Baltimore doesn’t turn the ball over, I really think they have a good shot to win the game. I keep going back to the fact that New England hasn’t beaten a single team with a winning record all year. I know that is a little misleading, but I can’t ignore that fact. In total contrast, Baltimore has beaten Pittsburgh twice, Houston twice (once with Schaub at QB), Cincinnati twice and San Francisco. In fact, Baltimore is 7-0 against playoff teams if you count their playoff win last week. The only playoff team that New England has beaten is Denver. Lastly, the game being in New England isn’t necessarily a huge help for the Patriots. I’m sure the Ravens would love nothing more than a foot of snow and a 30 mph breeze. The worse the conditions, the better off Baltimore will be.
Prediction: Baltimore 23, New England 20.
I expect the Giants/49ers game to be a little higher scoring. I know that San Francisco had a solid defense all year, but they struggle against the pass. Look what New Orleans did to them last week. I figure the Giants will have similar success with Eli, Nicks, Cruz and more. The 49ers really impressed me with their offensive output against New Orleans. If they can give Alex Smith time to throw, he should have some similar success.
When the Giants have the ball, I figure the game will be very exciting. Eli had a ton of success in November when these two teams played. He threw for 311 yards and 2 TDs. He did have 2 interceptions, but he’s been great in that area lately. After watching Brees pick apart the 49ers’ D, I assume that the Giants will be able to move the ball. The 49ers will need to get pressure on Eli and force him to throw early. That’s something that the Packers were not able to do. If Eli has time to sit back and find an open receiver, he will pick you apart. I assume that the Giants won’t find a lot of running room for Bradshaw or Jacobs. While that could create some issues, they weren’t able to do much on the ground against the Packers and it didn’t slow them down. I look for the 49ers to try and create pressure by bringing blitzes. This could give the Giants some opportunities for big plays, but it could also create pressure and turnovers.
The Giants have been amazing on defense over their last 4 games. Their defensive line is absolutely wrecking havoc right now. They sacked Rodgers 4 times this past week and pressured him the whole game. If Alex Smith faces that kind of pressure, it could be a long day for the 49ers. The Giants are playing much better defensively than the Saints were. I look for them to be able to slow down the 49ers much more. I don’t see the 49ers having over 400 yards of offense again. I also don’t see Gore having much luck either. The 49ers offense really hasn’t been explosive this year. It wasn’t until they faced a poor Saints’ defense, that they had a big time breakout game.
There is no one playing better than the Giants right now. They have outscored their opponents 121-50 over their last 4 games. And that’s against the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons and Packers. So it’s not like they’ve been playing bad teams. If the Giants continue on their hot streak, they are going to win the Super Bowl. Maybe the 49ers can slow them down, but I just don’t see it.
Prediction: New York 30, San Francisco 20.
Yes, I am picking both away teams to win this weekend. I am more worried about the Ravens pick than I am the Giants pick. I really feel like the Giants will win. Enjoy the games this weekend. I hope your team wins for you.
JoshNo tags for this post.