Last Week: 4-0 / Season: 158-84 (65%)/ Playoffs: 7-1
We are down to the “Final Four” of the NFL Playoffs. While some fans may have tuned out to the league with their teams out of loop, those who have still hung on have had the joy of some breathtaking contests. The two match-ups for this weekend have great defense against great offense written all over both of them. The Niners and Ravens bring the hard-hitting Harbaugh mentally, while the Patriots and Giants can stretch the field and score points with the best of them. Somethings will have to give this weekend. Let’s Take it to the Bank.
NY Giants @ 49ers
Pick: 49er 27-23. The match-ups are flowing in this one. The top rushing defense against the (former) two-headed running attack, a steady offensive line against a (seemingly) unstoppable pass rush, and two quarterbacks so different that they are almost similar. If you were to to list the pros and cons NFL-style for both teams, you’d see that these teams match up so well together because each’s strength is the other’s weakness. My favorite battle in this game is one that will likely go understated in the hype and build for this contest: the turnover battle. The Niners don’t turn the ball over but they haven’t played a pass rush like New York’s on a consistent basis. Eli Manning has limited his mistakes this year, but he is also going against the team that tied for the most turnovers in the league (with the Packers). This game will come down to who makes the most mistakes (as cliche as that sounds). It is hard not to love the intensity (in a positive way, not Mike Singletary’s way) and poise that Jim Harbaugh has brought to San Francisco. The Giants’ dreaded West Coast trip and the golden leg of David Akers could play major factors in sealing a victory for the Bay Area’s own.
Ravens @ Patriots
Pick: Patriots 30-24. The Ravens and Patriots always seem to be among the best in the league and they will settle who is better this weekend. Everyone and their mother seems to be predicting the Pats to win this, simply because of their offense. Take it to the Bank has no shame, so I will concur with those national pundits. The Ravens are consistently inconsistent on the road; so much so that they are the wildcard of the remaining four teams. If Baltimore wants to win this game, they have to find a way to hold onto the ball and they have run on the Pats defense. The key is clock management and avoiding mental errors. Bill Belichick always brings something new to the table, so the Ravens need to be patient against Tom Brady or he’ll end them. Baltimore struggled against the Texans last week (give them a break, they were playing the number two defense in the league) and it is hard to see New England’s tight end duo getting tamed by the Ravens secondary. As much as the Harbaugh Bowl is the more interesting sell for the Super Bowl, John Harbaugh will have to wait till next year.