Inside the AFC & NFC Championship Games
It doesn’t seem right, but there are just three football games left in the 2011 NFL season—well, four if you count the Pro Bowl, but I don’t.
This weekend will cap the race to Super Bowl XLVI when the Baltimore Ravens meet the New England Patriots—an AFC showdown of the top two seeds—and when the No. 4 seeded New York Giants travel cross-country to take on the No. 2 seed San Francisco 49ers.
As if you weren’t already rabid at the thought of these two games, here’s a little something to get you excited—our take on each game.
AFC Championship Game—New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens
New England’s offense ranked No. 2 in NFL this season, Baltimore’s defense ranked No. 3 (and second against the run) while the Ravens’ offense was No. 15 and the Patriots’ defense ranked 31st.
The New England Patriots’ dynasty continues, with Bill Belichick leading his Patriots to their six AFC title game in his 11 seasons as head coach. Belichick and co. have perhaps their best all-around team this season, especially if you consider their strength down the stretch. Tom Brady has mastered this offense, using match-up nightmares Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez to mystify defenders.
The Baltimore defense is no slouch, though. The Ravens are smart, with future Hall of Famers Ed Reed and Ray Lewis—and maybe Terrell Suggs and Haloti Ngata too—patrolling the field. Brady will face the toughest test of the season in a game that could put the Patriots in line for their fourth Super Bowl ring and a top the NFL hierarchy with Bill Walsh’s 49ers and Chuck Noll’s Pittsburgh Steelers.
Prediction: New England 34, Baltimore 17
NFC Championship Game—San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants
San Francisco’s offense ranked No.26 in the NFL this season and New York’s defense ranked No. 27—on the flip side, the Giant’s offense was No. 8 overall and the 49er defense ranked No. 4 overall and first against the run.
The NFC Championship game will feature hard hits, little scoring and plenty of pressure on the quarterback—the two teams combined for 90 sacks during the regular season.
The 49ers, as the home team, open -2.5 as favorites to win the game. For the 49ers to pull out a victory, they’ll need a big day from Frank Gore at running back. Gore was limited to zero yards on just six carries due to injury when the 49ers defeated the Giants 27-20 in Week 10. The 49ers have Gore back, and cut Braylon Edwards after numerous timing problems in the first game, but the Giants have a healthy Justin Tuck and a suddenly unstoppable secondary.
Prediction: San Francisco 24, New York 20
Matt Miller is the founder of the NFL draft site, New Era Scouting, which TicketCity is proud to sponsor. Matt will be a guest author for several posts a month on the TicketCity blog. Matt is Bleacher Report’s No. 1 ranked writer, and his work has also been featured on NFL.com, SI.com and USA Today.