Perfectly Imperfect Picks: AFC/NFC Championship Round Playoff Predictions
Three right picks. Five wrong picks. Three for eight is 37.5%. In this country that’s good enough for a grade of “F”. If I was still in school my parents would be called up for a special meeting with the teacher. Yet, I have a chance at redemption. In the sports world it is “what have you done for me lately” and a perfect 2-for-2 week puts me back in the good graces of the sports Gods.
In conference championship week you can pretty much throw stats out the window. The better team on paper doesn’t always win, it’s the team that wants it more. We saw that last year with the NY Giants overcoming the 49ers on the road despite being the less talented team. With that being said I have come up with just a few numbers to back who I think will be meeting in New Orleans on February 3rd.
Keep reading for AFC/NFC Championship game predictions…
San Francisco over Atlanta 27-17
These two teams are so similar by the numbers. Both have lost only one home game this season. The 49ers averaged 24.8 points a game while Atlanta put up 26.2. San Francisco totaled 381.8 yards a game while Atlanta racked up 369.1. The difference will come in the running game where San Fran has the edge.
Frank Gore rushed for more yards by himself than Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers COMBINED (1,214 yards to 1,162). Add to that the fact that quarterback Colin Kaepernick put on a show last week with his feet, running for a record 181 yards and two TD’s. Atlanta has trouble with running/mobile QB’s as seen by their two games against division foe Cam Newton. Atlanta let Newton throw for 502 yards with 4 TD’s and running for an additional 202 yards. They won’t stop Colin, but will have to slow him down to have a chance in the game. Not an easy task considering he has a rating of 98.7 and a record of 6-2 since being named the starter.
San Francisco ran the option play for a run 16 times last week for 176 yards with Kaepernick totaling 7 of those runs for 99 yards and a TD. Atlanta did rush for 167 yards and will have to come close to duplicating that against an extremely tough 49ers defense. Speaking of neutralizing the D, Atlanta did not give up a sack against the top D last week versus Seattle. It’s all asking a lot of Atlanta and I see the Matt Ryan/Mike Smith combo coming up short once again.
New England over Baltimore 34-20
Being the die-hard Giants fan I am, I’ve seen a team and QB go on a playoff run similar to what Baltimore and Joe Flacco are doing this year. The difference… the Giants got to ply New England and Tom Brady on a neutral site both times. Unfortunately, the Ravens get Brady in New England where he is 85-15. What does hurt “Tom Terrific”;however, is he will be not having Rob Gronkowski.
Without Gronk, the Patriots average .6 yards less per play while completeig 7.3 % less passes. What he has in his favor is Danny Woodhead being healthy and expecting to play (although with the way Shane Vereen played last week it may not have too much of an impact).
Brady also has Stevan Ridley in the back field who actually had more rushing yards this year than his counterpart across the sidelines this week in Ray Rice (Ridley had 1,263 to Rice’s 1,143). Add to the Pats high powered offense is the fact that their rush defense was actually better than the Ravens (N.E. gave up 101.9 yards a game to 122.8).
What Baltimore does have in it’s favor is the fact that Flacco has thrived under Jim Caldwell since he took over as offensive coordinator from Cam Cameron. The Ravens also have an advantage in the return department with Jacoby Jones bringing kickoffs back. Jones had an NFL best 30.7 yards a return and will need to be big since N.E. gave up two big special teams plays against Houston last week with returns of 94 and 69 yards. Although Baltimore is a #4 seed and those seeds are 6-1 all-time in conference championship games I see the Pats avenging their one AFC loss this season and getting conference victory number 12 in route to Super Bowl appearance number six with Brady.
So there you have it, New England against San Francisco on February 3rd in New Orleans in Super Bowl XLVII. Although with the way I pick games this year you can put money on Atlanta and Baltimore meeting up. Heck, even the Mayans have had more correct predictions lately than me.