We did improve last week to 3 – 1 both straight up and against the spread bringing the record so far for the playoffs to 5 – 3 again for both so far. This compares against the 2011 season results 68 % straight up and 45.6% against the spread. I got the Giants pick right and Kurt got the Forty-niners game correct we had a perfect weekend between us.
The conference playoff games have an opportunity to both be very good contests. Turnovers seemed to be the rule of the day this past week in a couple of games. This is typical; more football games are lost as opposed to actually being won. That trend is likely to continue into this weekend and both games while both games look to be competitive turnovers can change the landscape quickly.
Our Super Bowl choice will be available the Wednesday before the Super Bowl so we will not be posting next week. There would be a certain irony in this year of the big passing games to have the season come down to a San Francisco – Baltimore Super Bowl. The brother angle is a good story line as well but I have my doubts that will be how it works out as you will see below.
The Conference Round
New York at San Francisco – San Francisco has been good at taking care of the ball and lead the league in take-aways. Turnovers have an element of luck, the oddly-shaped ball bounces funny and luck is a bigger factor here than most are willing to acknowledge. Still the defense is very good and the matchup favors them this week. The offense, despite game ending heroics last week, has been somewhat plodding overall but may have greater big play potential than recognized.
New York is playing very well. The defense is very good against the pass but this week will face a more balanced attack which will make them more vulnerable overall. Still the ability of the defense to get pressure with the line gives them flexibility in arranging their defensive assets. The offense is capable but expect San Francisco to take the running game away early; if they can establish the threat of the run play action does have potential to open up a big play which is an edge in this game
This is a difficult game to call, the match ups are very close overall. New York has the better offense, San Francisco the better defense and special teams but the overall margin across these aspects is very close and the game will likely come down to a mistake or big play at the end. The one place where the difference in quality is most clear is at quarterback so the choice here goes with Manning, Giants win 24 – 21.
Baltimore at New England – Baltimore is a team that has defined itself with its defense. They play with speed to the ball and tackle well but much of their success is based on making big plays, turnovers, interceptions, scoring defensively. An issue will be how they match up against the New England tight ends. The offense works off the running game and play action passing. Flacco throws a good deep ball but the team does not have much in the way of reliable receivers aside from Boldin and the offensive line has been erratic.
New England has been playing well offensively; the offense is based on not allowing defenses to match up against their skill personnel. They can play the same player grouping as a two tight end set or as five wide. Brady can read a defense and has a quick release which makes this an offense that is difficult to slow down let alone stop. The defense however can keep most opponents in the game though; they do not have much of a pass rush and have been poor tacklers.
This is also an interesting game to try to figure out. Baltimore plays with a great deal of emotion and seems to play better against their stronger opponents; they play with great emotion and are probably overall the better team in terms of talent. In a close game where they can get the running game going to control the tempo they have a lot of positives. Unfortunately if they fall behind they lack the tools to come back. The New England defense gives up a lot of yardage but has not given up points correspondingly, again going with the better quarterback, Patriots win 35 – 24.