We've made it this far. Try not to think about what looms ahead: the sports doldrums of February, when football retires for a few months. Today, we celebrate, because if you've made it this far, you are up four units on playoff gambling as these picks have gone 6-2 through two rounds of 2012 NFL playoffs.
This weekend, featuring the NFC and AFC Championship Games could be epic. The possibilities are juicy, with Super Bowl rematches possible between the New York Giants and either the Baltimore Ravens or the New England Patriots. Maybe the San Francisco 49ers return to their first Super Bowl since the franchise's heyday of the 1980s and 90s.
Let's dive in. Lines from SB Nation Odds.
Batlimore Ravens at New England Patriots (-7): The last time these two teams met in the playoffs, the Ravens punished the Patriots. Much has changed since that 2010 game, which the Ravens won 33-14, and yet, much has stayed the same.
The main characters are the same. Of course New England has Tom Brady at quarterback and Bill Belichick on the sideline, the Ravens counter with defensive stalwarts Ray Lewis and Ed Reed. These four men are locks for the Hall of Fame someday.
But what is different in 2012 are the weapons New England has on the offensive side of the ball, and the wear and tear on the bodies of the Ravens' legends. Rob Gronkowski is an elite tight end, a physical specimen who will make plays. Playing on any other team in the NFL, Aaron Hernandez would be the best tight end, but for the Patriots he plays an incredible second fiddle at the tight end position. In last week's trouncing of the Denver Broncos, he showed some moves in the run game.
The Ravens defense will make some stops of Brady, but the Golden Boy appears to be dialed in. The Patriots will score 30 points, and Joe Flacco and the Ravens will be hard stressed to keep up. Flacco can make deep throws, but touch on intermediate and short routes seems to be lacking. Ray Rice will get his yards, but in the end Brady will get his team back to the Super Bowl.
Pick: Patriots 34, Ravens 17.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers (-2.5):
In Week 10, the Giants traveled to Candlestick park to take on the Niners. San Francisco won that game, 27-20, behind four field goals from kicker David Akers and a strong defense. Giant quarterback Eli Manning threw two touchdowns and two interceptions in the game.
What the box score does not show is that the Giants team playing in January, 2012 is very different than the team that played in November, 2011. This Giants team is healthy and rushes the passer. This Giants team runs the ball and will have the services of Ahmad Bradshaw.
A great story is brewing in San Francisco. First-year coach Jim Harbaugh has done tremendous job with maligned quarterback Alex Smith and probably has Coach of the Year honors wrapped up. But the Niners' victory last week over the Saints was emotional. it was the culmination of a season of hard work and showing critics how good they can be.
Typically, a team has a little let down after an emotional win, especially an emotional last-minute win where the quarterback plays the best game of his career. I'm rooting for Vernon Davis and even Carlos Rogers, but I have to pick the Giants to win it outright. Who would have ever though Eli would be the best Manning brother?
Pick: Giants 31, 49ers 24
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