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NFL Conference Championship Preview

Eli Manning reviews notes during an NFL game, ...

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Although I can’t stand any of the teams left in the NFL playoffs, I can’t deny that there are four pretty good teams left to duke it out over who goes to the Super Bowl. Here’s my take on the teams that are left, along with my not so expert predictions:

NFC Championship.
New York Giants – The Giants may be the hottest and most confident team going; They were left for dead five weeks ago at 7 – 7, and since then have reeled off 5 straight wins, including impressive on the road playoff wins over the Falcons and defending champion Packers.

It’s a pretty basic blue print as to how they got here. The defense got healthy, and their defensive line is now getting ferocious pressure on the quarterback, allowing the Giants to drop 7 in pass coverage. When the defense can do that, even the most elite of quarterbacks are going to look pedestrian – Right Aaron Rodgers?

Offensively, the plan has been simple as well. Terrific line play has allowed the two headed monster of Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw to run rampant, giving Eli Manning time to make big plays down the field to receivers Hakeem Nicks, Victor Cruz, and Mario Manningham. In addition, Their special teams play has been terrific, giving the Giants an advantage in field position.

Keys to winning- They just need to keep doing what they’re doing. Right now, they look like the most complete team in the playoffs.

San Francisco 49ers – If the Giants are the most complete team, the 49ers aren’t far behind. They may have the most fearsome defense in the league that is tough to run or throw against. They rarely give up big plays, while consistently making big plays of their own. This is a defense built to dominate for a long time.

Offensively, they have a simple game plan: Control the line of scrimmage, eat up the clock with Frank Gore and the running game, and let Alex Smith manage the game with play action pass oriented, mistake free football. When throwing the ball, Smith has two solid receivers in Michael Crabtree and emotional leader Vernon Davis. Although after watching them beat the Saints in last week’s last minute shootout, Smith seems more than capable to put the team on his shoulders.

How do the win? Keep the Giants offense off the field by controlling the clock. When the Giants have the ball, they need to rattle Manning with constant pressure.

So who wins? I’m taking the 49ers in a not so close game. They are aggressive, very talented, and very hungry. I think they control the line of scrimmage, and take away the big play. 49ers 24 – Giants 10.

AFC Championship

Baltimore Ravens – This is a desperate, pedestrian, aging team looking to finally get over the hump. The defense is still very good, but not quite as fearsome as they once were. An Offense can move the ball and score on them by remaining patient, and working the middle. Ngota, Suggs, and Webb are just plain nasty though. If they can make some big plays, forget about it.

Offensively, it’s all Ray Rice all the time. Joe Flacco has a big arm and big ego, but little else. When he can manage to complete passes, he’s hitting Rice or promising rookie Torrey Smith. However, Rice is their meal ticket; shut him down, and they go nowhere.

How do they win? They don’t, pure and simple.

New England Patriots – Terrific Offense, Lousy defense. This team looks like the San Diego Chargers of the early 80’s: Score early, score often. Tom Brady, whether I care to admit it or not, is an elite hall of famer (admitting that invokes my gag reflex- GAACK!). He is going to pick on the aging Ravens middle by going to his bookend tight ends Gronkowski and Hernandez. Oh, and by the way, did I mention Wes Welker? This isn’t even going to be a fair fight.

Defensively, this unit was one of the worst in the league. They live and die by the turnover, and count on Brady and company to make life easy for them.

How do they win? All they need to do is make this look like a live Madden game. The Ravens won’t be able to keep up. Offensively, they go no huddle, and turn the game into a track meet. Defensively, they play a lot of zone, and keep the ball in front of them. Flacco is bound to make mistakes. Holding Ray Rice to short gains and keeping the Ravens to third and long is a must.

Who wins? Patriots – easily. 42 – 14.

There you have it: 49ers over the Giants, and Patriots over the Ravens. Who are you picking?

Posted from my piece of crap Blackberry

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