Championship Sunday is just under 24 hours away, with the first game kicking off at 3 PM tomorrow afternoon. The 49ers and Falcons meet, and then Ravens and Patriots to determine who is off to New Orleans for the Super Bowl. To get ready for it, the Jet Press staff went round table talking about each game and giving their picks. I’ll start it off:
- 49ERS VS FALCONS
This is an interesting game because we have a quarterback that is starting his 9th game in the league in Colin Kaepernick, and a guy that just won his first playoff game in Matt Ryan. One of the biggest keys to this football game will be which quarterback is more ready for this grand stage. Another big key to this one will be the 49ers defense against the Falcons offense. The Falcons have some weapons in Roddy White and Julio Jones. If Matt Ryan can get in a rhythm with these guys early, they can win this one, despite being underdogs for the ball game. Ultimately, however, I think the 49ers are going to be too much for the Falcons.
- RAVENS VS PATRIOTS
Here is your 2011 rematch. The tough defense against the explosive Patriots offense. Can the Ravens give their leader, Ray Lewis, a chance to end his career with a Super Bowl victory? It will be tough, but I think it can be done. Why? The x-factor, Torrey Smith. He is an explosive deep threat, and the Patriots defense is beatable down the field. For the last couple of years we have begged our Jets to throw the ball down the field against these guys. If they can get the ball down the field, it will open up running lanes for Ray Rice, and they can get it done.
SEAN LESTER DURHAM
- 49ERS VS FALCONS
The Falcons escaped last week by just a hair and that’s putting it mildly. The Falcons probably should’ve lost that game but to their credit, they pulled out a win over a quality playoff opponent and that’s the only thing that matters. SO they go from one stud rookie QB to another. Falcons had problems containing Russell Wilson last week during the Seahawks’ come back, well, it ain’t getting no easier with Collin Kaepernick coming into town this weekend. The Falcons pass rush hasn’t been as it needs to be in theses playoffs and now it has to contend with a team that is being led by a dual threat QB (emphasis on DUAL THREAT), a QB that has tremendous accuracy and throwing ability with elite running skills. That MAY be too much for the Falcons to deal with late in the game.
The 49ers come into this game holding on to the league’s top scoring defense. They’ve have much success this season in making very good QBs look VERY bad very quickly and that’s not a hyperbole. Matt Ryan is a good QB, heck he might even be a GREAT QB but the 49ers defense don’t really care. Matt Ryan got the playoff monkey off his back last week with the win over the Seahawks but the Monkey will hop RIGHT back on it this week as I don’t see the Falcons getting past the 49ers. The Falcons have 2 stud WRs and Tony Gonzalez so conventional wisdom says the should have some success through the air and I think for the most part they will but I believe the 49ers defense will stop the Falcons when they need to much like they did Aaron Rodgers and his quick strike offense last week.
- RAVENS VS PATRIOTS
This matchup is probably the hardest game in these playoffs to predict and last year’s AFC Title Game is exactly why. These teams just match up well with one another plain and simple. The Ravens got the best of the Patriots in their regular season matchup with a 31-30 early season victory over the Ravens, a game in which the Ravens rallied around Torrey Smith who had just attended the funeral of his brother just 24 hours prior and played inspired football. The Ravens are playing inspired football right now for another reason as Ray Lewis announced his retirement effective season’s end has given this team a reason to go all in right now. These 2 teams both have efficient offenses and excellent playmakers that can have an impact on the game at any time. The Patriots are running the ball about as well as they are throwing it right now and MAN is that saying something. The Ravens wont have to contend with Patriots TE Rob Gronkowski as he is out for the remainder of the playoffs with an injured arm but they still will have to deal with Welker and Co.
The Ravens are playing great offensive ball right now due primarily to their QB Joe FLacco who has been playing mistake free football and has taken chances and allowed his WRs to make plays on the balls instead of holding back like in years past. Look for Aquib Talib to take on the more aggressive Anquan Boldin while Torrey Smith will draw McCourty, should be an interesting matchup to say the least but if and WHEN the Ravens open up the run game with Ray Rice, expect the holes to be there for Flacco to take advantage of.
I expect somewhat of a shoot out that gets interesting late and I do expect the Ravens defense to force Tom Brady into some Un-Brady like mistakes. I see the Ravens taking advantage of the inspiration they are playing on right now and doing more than enough to get past the Patriots on their way to their first SB since 2000.