Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots. This is a classic game of the immovable object (Ravens) and the unstoppable force (Patriots). You gotta love the best defense vs. best offense encounters. That said, the Ravens are not going to be able to hang with the Pats. Sure the Ravens are not intimidated, and they do have Ray Lewis, Terrell Suggs a.k.a. “T-Sizzle”, and Ed Reed anchoring the defense. However, the Ravens do not have a pass rush outside of Suggs and their linebackers and safeties cannot hang with stud tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. You know QB Tom Brady will spread the Ravens out and make those linebackers cover, and that will spell doom for the Ravens. Plus, there is no way I trust Joe Flacco in a big game.
This is a funny game for me. As a Steelers fan, I don’t like Baltimore, but I hate New England. So as much as I would like to see “The Wire”-like Ravens from the ‘hood beat the pretty boy “Mad Men” Patriots on the road (courtesy of Jason Whitlock), it ain’t happening. Patriots 27, Ravens 10.
New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers. Talk about a blast from the past. For those of you who appreciate anything old-school, this is the matchup for you. I hearken back to those Giants-49ers clashes in the 1980s, watching Joe Montana and Jerry Rice go against Lawrence Taylor, Ronnie Lott matching wits against Phil Simms. As for the 2012 version, I see this game going down to the wire.
While I admire and respect how 49ers QB Alex Smith turned things around, I see the Giants turning Smith back into the OLD Alex Smith. Look for the Giants defense, learning their lesson from their previous matchup with the 49ers during the regular season, will go zone in order to confuse Smith. That alone will take away stud tight end Vernon Davis’ ability to make plays. Plus the Giants have the front four to generate pressure on Smith without having the need to blitz.
And while the 49ers defense is the west coast answer to the Steelers and Ravens, I think QB Eli Manning is going to have a big day passing the ball. That receiving trio of Hakeem Nicks, Mario Manningham and salsa king Victor Cruz will be too much for the 49ers secondary.
I have a rule of which teams to pull for in the playoffs. If my Steelers are no longer in it, then I would go with the New York team that is left in the playoffs (I am originally from Brooklyn). I think the Giants will grant me my wish in what should be a great game. Giants 23, 49ers 20.