The beginning of the end of the football season has two fairly intriguing matchups, fortunately only accompanied by one week of speculation and hype. Savor it everyone, because after this weekend the football season is essentially over, since the Super Bowl and all it entails often leaves the game lost in the mix. On another note, after last week's 0-fer, I really suck. Home teams in CAPS.
NEW ENGLAND (-7) over Baltimore
I violated one of my biggest rules on Divisional weekend, and that is I bet with my heart and not with my head. While I really want the Ravens to pull this sucker out and leave all the Chowderheads out there counting down until April. Unfortunately, it doesn't seem that the AFC Championship will play out this way. Had the Ravens not been facing TJ Yates last week, they could have easily lost their game to the Texans. While the New England defense won't present the challenge that Houston's did, I don't know that Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense has enough (outside of Ray Rice) to expose the Pats' D to the extent that it is going to need to. On the other side of the ball, what more really needs to be said about Tom Brady and his treasure chest of targets? While the Ravens' aging defense still has plenty of punch to it, and I'd be shocked if New England throws up another 40-spot, I just think Brady, Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, Deion Branch, etc. are too good. Patriots (with a grimace), 27-17.
NY Giants (+2.5) over SAN FRANCISCO
Another instance of having to overcome my biases and rooting interests. Last week I couldn't see past the fact that the Giants eliminated my own team, and picked against them even though my writeup on the game ended up outlining just how good a chance they had against Green Bay. The most interesting part of this game is that neither the Giants nor the 49ers will make the mistakes that played a large part in allowing both of them to advance last week. San Francisco tackles extremely well and plays a much more disciplined brand of defense than the Packers did. Can you imagine the 49ers having the type of breakdowns that led to both of the touchdowns scored by Hakeem Nicks at Lambeau? Neither can I. On the other end, Alex Smith brought the 49ers down the field twice in the last four minutes to overcome the Saints, thanks largely to New Orleans selling out on blitzes when it really wasn't necessary. The Giants have proved that they can get to your QB with their front four and don't need to get blitz-happy. So something has to give. And what will that be? Well, long story short, Eli Manning is too tough to bet against right now, especially if you figure the game to be close late. Top to bottom, the Giants are probably a little bit better of a team, so I'll take the better team and a few points any day. Giants, 24-20.
Last Week (avert your eyes): 0-4-0