NFL Playoffs: Conference Showdowns, Poll Results and Predictions
The NFL Playoffs will take center stage Sunday with two iconic matchups. The San Francisco 49ers will head to Atlanta to determine who is the better NFC team (3 P.M. EST, FOX) while the New England Patriots will host the Baltimore Ravens for the second straight time at home in the NFL playoffs in as many years ( 6:30 P.M. EST, CBS).
Last week, I created a poll asking YOU THE READERS who you would prefer to headline Super Bowl XLVII. Each possibility had a unique twist to it and there was a great turnout, so thank you very much guys. If you care to read the piece, you can click here.
As promised, I am here to deliver the results of that poll and chime in with my own vote and predictions. Out of 130 possible votes tallied, the results came out like this:
- SF vs NE – 38.0%
- SF vs. BAL – 32.0% The Harbaugh Bowl
- ATL vs BAL - 19%
- ATL vs NE – 14.0%
And there ya have it. The fans have spoken and the majority hails SF vs NE as the top rated possible Super Bowl. Now let’s take a quick look at who I have winning this week in the NFL playoffs and why.
San Francisco versus Atlanta: Many people believe the 49ers are going to simply waltz in to Atlanta and steamroll them in route to a fantasy Super Bowl, led by a rookie quarterback doing the unthinkable.
I’m not buying it for a second.
It’s hard enough imagining a rookie quarterback getting to the SB, let alone winning it ( history is not on your side Mr. Kapernick) but admittedly not impossible. I, however, simply do not believe this team can beat the Atlanta Falcons.
The 49ers must beat the Falcons in a more traditional manner than that of the continuous usage of read-options. I honestly hate seeing that in a game. It’s like playing that kid in Madden who doesn’t know how to play the damn game, which is why he uses the same play over and over again.
The main threat of Atlanta is the fact that they can score on anyone in the league, no matter how good the opponents defense is. But the trick will be—believe it or not—running the ball.
Atlanta has found some really good success on the ground through the past few weeks, and the 49ers are suspect against the run. Matt Ryan can be become extremely deadly if the ground assault works, allowing him to utilize play-action with those sizable receivers.
If the Falcons can learn from last week, get ahead of the game—NOT THEMSELVES—the 49ers will have a tough time beating them. A close thriller none-the-less, I see Atlanta moving on.
Prediction: Atlanta 24 – San Francisco 20
New England versus Baltimore: If I was a Patriots fan, I would saying I have a baaaad feeling about this game. Watching Joe Flacco and the Ravens against the Broncos showed me something that I have never seen out of Baltimore in the playoffs:
That game should have been over in the fourth, with all due respect to Baltimore. But every time the Broncos put another nail in the coffin, the Ravens kept banging them back out. The Ravens know they are good enough to advance to the Super Bowl, and that’s a scary aspect.
But New England is just as formidable.
Each of these teams have been burned deep throughout the year, and each of these teams have quarterbacks who can throw deep, with receivers who can stretch the field. But I think the difference maker in this game is the defensive tenacity of Baltimore, and their superior run game.
Just any great quarterback in the league right now, the best way to defeat them is to keep them off the field and prevent them from getting into a rhythm. The Ravens can accomplish this by resting on the laurels of Ray Rice.
In his last contest, Rice gashed New England for 101 yards on just 20 carries. Baltimore passed much more in that contest in route to a 31-30 victory. I can see Baltimore trying to pace this game more than the first contest.
It won’t be easy for Baltimore, but I really believe this team has taken the next step collectively; a step that will help them rise above and advance to the big show. Last year I properly called this NFL playoffs game, so let’s see if I can make it two in a row. :)
Prediction: Baltimore 31 – New England 24
So there you go. I have Super Bowl XLVII pitting the Atlanta Falcons against the Baltimore Ravens. This was actually one of my favorites because I would love to see both Ray Lewis and Tony Gonzaelz in a SB showdown before they retire later this season. Let’s not stop there, guys! Let me know your predictions down below!