NFL Playoffs – Championship Weekend


San Francisco 49ers VS. New York Giants
GAME NOTES
– The Giants, as I’ve always said in these playoff posts, are probably the most complete team left. When their defense is clicking, they provide a pass rush that is one to be reckoned with. When their offense is hot, they are a high-powered offense with several options in their receiving corps.  But the problem is that the Giants can be this balanced team. Otherwise speaking, they might not be the team that I just described and might kick themselves out of the post-season. Furthermore, Manning might have a hard time in this game if the 49ers are able to shut down the Giants running game. When these two teams last met, the 49ers defense only allowed 3.1 yards per carry. Ahmad Bradshaw and Brandon Jacobs (RBs, NYG) are going to have to step their games up. Instead of running north-south, Bradshaw and Jacobs will either have to become pass catchers or east-west runners today.
– The 49ers boast a tenacious defense and have such a consistent pass rush. Eli Manning (QB, NYG) is going to be forced to pass fast and early in his progressions. We’ve seen Eli move around in the pocket and excel when rolling off before firing a pass to a receiver, but Aldon Smith (LB, SF) is sure to be right behind/next to/in front of him. What San Francisco has to do in this game is keep New York’s offense off the field and allow Alex Smith (QB, SF) time to pass. And hey, don’t forget about Frank Gore (RB, SF). He can still be a factor in today’s game if the Giants focus more on pass coverage.
– The 49ers have a very rush-oriented offense and the Giants are pretty good at clogging up the running lanes. If the running duo of Gore and Kendall Hunter (RB, SF) can find ways to be effective, it will give Alex Smith better chances of throwing the ball.

FINAL SCORE (Overtime)
New York Giants – 20
San Francisco 49ers – 17

Your NFC Champions are the New York Giants. Allow me to be the first to say hell yes. When your defense can send a four-man rush and cover the rest of the field with seven other players, you know that you’ve got a solid pass rush. Both Eli Manning (QB, NYG) and Alex Smith (QB, SF) were facing heavy amounts of pressure in the pocket today. The only difference is that Smith was only able to complete ONE pass to a receiver. Eli’s receiving corps is MUCH better. But truthfully, the Giants won this game because of huge miscues on the part of several 49ers. Kyle Williams (WR, SF) messed up on TWO punt returns. On the first, he never called a fair catch and touched the ball without even attempted to retrieve it. On the second, he fumbled the ball in the last minute and a half of overtime and it sealed the game. Lawrence Tynes (K, NYG) kicked the Giants into the Super Bowl. And if you youtube his reaction after making the kick, there isn’t a doubt in my mind that he is excited to be going.

New England Patriots VS. Baltimore Ravens
GAME NOTES
Joe Flacco (QB, BAL) has a lot on his shoulders today. This post-season seemingly has a lot more meaning to it than usual for the Ravens. Ray Lewis (LB, BAL) is more or less at the end of his career and the Ravens can only go as far as Flacco does. If he cannot make plays and connect on his passes, the Ravens will have a tough time today. Luckily for them, their defense is overwhelming.
Tom Brady (QB, NE) might not throw for six TDs today like he did against Denver, but I do expect him to pick apart the Ravens D for three or four. With that said, if the Patriots offense struggles today, I think it will be safe to say that the Pats might be on their way out. The Patriots defense is horrid at best. Ray Rice (RB, BAL) looks like he`ll be able to run wild and I expect the Ravens to go to him early and often. Let`s see how Brady deals with the pass rush of the Ravens and which Patriots receiver puts in the most work today.

FINAL SCORE
New England Patriots – 23
Baltimore Ravens – 20

The Patriots are AFC Champions once again and are going to the Super Bowl for the fifth time in the Belichick-Brady era. To be honest, Baltimore put up one hell of a game. They intercepted Tom Brady (QB, NE) twice. That’s pretty rare for the seasoned veteran. Joe Flacco played a pretty solid game: He completed 61% of his throws, gained 306 yards with two touchdowns and only one interception.  The Patriots really only won the game thanks to a couple of miscues. Ravens wide receiver Lee Evans will forever wish that he had caught that pass in the corner of the end zone and their kicker, Billy Cundiff, will forever wish that he didn’t kick the ball so wide. It is what it is and now we are set up for a Super Bowl XLII rematch between the Giants and the Patriots.

FINAL THOUGHTS
Tom Brady is aiming to shatter Joe Montana’s legacy while Eli Manning is aiming to overshadow his brother, Peyton Manning. I suppose the tagline for this Super Bowl will be “BRADY VS. MANNING…in the house that Peyton built.” This one should be a shootout.

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