"FINAL 4"

We are down to the “Final 4” of the 2011-12 NFL season. I went 4-0 with my picks last week, and I could honestly stand to watch a few of those games over and over again; particularly the San Fran-New Orleans game, and the Giants-Packers game, which I predicted the outcome of 6 weeks ago. (check my post “WHAT I THINK I LEARNED FROM THE NFL THIS WEEK: Week 13” dated 12/05/2011) But the 4 teams standing in front of us is no surprise really. Based on the 12 NFL teams that entered the playoffs this year, the Denver Broncos would have been my only real “shocker” if they would have made it to this level. All the other playoff teams have talented offenses, and a good defense (when they feel like playing defense).

Off the past, on to the future. For the past few seasons, Conference Championship week has been more exciting than the Super Bowl itself. I don’t expect anything different this year. As we go over the match-ups, the most difficult questions to answer is “WHICH VERSION, OF WHICH TEAM, WILL ACTUALLY SHOW UP ON SUNDAY?” Do you trust the Patriots’ defense that ranked in the bottom of the entire league, or the one that demolished the top-ranked running game in the league? Do you go with the Giants team that has been on fire since Week 13, or the guys who lost 5 out of 8 games to end the season? How much weight can be placed on last week’s outcome? You make your picks your way, and I’ll choose mine.

Here are my COUCH SPORTS EXPERT Picks for the Conference Championships:

RAVENS vs PATRIOTS

Sunday at 3:00 p.m.

AFC Champion: BALTIMORE RAVENS

Of course, the New England bandwagon is tipping over with repeat riders after their demolition of the Denver Broncos last week. Not to mention, the Ravens’ offense looked sloppy and confused in their game against the Houston Texans. Personally, I am not placing too much weight on last week’s games. I realize that Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco better be doing more than taking interviews this week, and needs to be working on his game, but there are some differences in their next opponent. Let’s start with the offenses. While wide receiver Wes Welker and tight end Rob Gronkowski are very dangerous weapons, I still would not place hem higher than Texans running back Arian Foster on the “danger meter”. As for New England, they faced a team with one attack plan, and once they were able to get a substantial lead, that plan was dead. The Ravens can run and throw the call effectively. (again, Joe has to clean his act up) Looking at the defenses, the Ravens faced a more talented group of defenders than New England did last week. Their speedy, big play, receiver was basically shut down by a Pro Bowl cornerback. Who on defense does New England have with that capability? Nor did they face anyone last week with that capability, making it easier for them to post up points.

My INTANGIBLE for this game is DESIRE. Baltimore just shows up and plays to a higher level against certain teams. Don’t forget, back in 2007, these Ravens were one bad timeout call away from ending New England’s perfect season. Then remember what they did to the Patriots, in Foxborough, the last time they faced each other in the playoffs.

 

GIANTS vs 49ERS

Sunday at 6:30 p.m.

NFC Champion: SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS

I have been “high” on the Giants since Week 13 1/2 of this season. After witnessing the way they played against the Packers then, I knew they would be their worst nightmare in the playoffs. I was right. But I also think that was the G-Men’s last “HOORAH!” for the season. The Giants are a team that plays great when it is highly motivated. I know you’re think, “What could be more MOTIVATING than a trip to the Super Bowl?”, but I’ll explain. Back in 2007, the Giants were motivated by nearly putting an end to the New England Patriots undefeated season. From there, they were motivated at getting a second shot at the “GIANTS (New England)” of the 2007 season. This year, the “GIANTS” of the 2011 season were the Green Bay Packers. New York has played with that same motivation, and lived up to their “GIANT Killer” nickname. I think they have been on”cloud 9″ this week, and have gone from underdog to favorite in many circles. I honesty think the 49ers leaped over a big “hump” last week. They could’ve easily folded under the Saints’ comeback attack, and still been proud of this season. They were able to not only sustain, but flex some serious muscle as they delivered one shocking counterpunch after another. I think that confidence on both sides of the ball, along with their 12th man (home crowd) pushes them into the Super Bowl.

My INTANGIBLE for this game actually has nothing to do with the two teams that will be on the field at 6:30 p.m. I honestly think the AFC Champion will provide an extra both for either team, depending on its outcome. If the Ravens win, the 49ers’ Coach Harbaugh is motivated by a chance to play in a Super Bowl against his brother. CLASSIC. If the Patriots win, the Giants are motivated by another chapter to the 2007 season saga.  

 

 

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