Mike Ivcic’s AFC & NFC Conference Championship Preview and Free Picks

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Mike Ivcic’s AFC & NFL Conference Championship Preview and Free Picks ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>

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By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer

Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Sun, 3:00pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 7
The best point I’ve heard all week is that in order to beat Tom Brady and this Patriots offense, you need to get pressure up the middle with just four players, or at least no more than five. That means limited blitzing, but also collapsing the pocket from the middle, not from the outside. When Brady can step up, he’s dangerous. Simply put, I don’t think the Ravens can do that enough times to really make Brady feel uncomfortable. The one counter point is that two years ago, virtually this same exact Ravens team went to Foxboro and used Ray Rice to run the Pats right out of the playoffs, so it’s not like Joe Flacco and company will feel like this is some sort of impossible task. I think the Ravens defense is good enough to keep the game close, but not good enough to allow Baltimore to repeat their performance from two seasons ago, and because of that the smart bet here is to take the Patriots to cover.
Pick: New England 27, Baltimore 17

New York Giants @ San Francisco 49’ers
Sun, 6:30pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 2.5
Typically, teams are awarded three points simply for playing at home, which means Vegas thinks the Giants are the better team on a neutral field. With that in mind, it makes no sense to take the 49’ers here. Obviously the Giants aren’t concerned about winning games on the road in the playoffs – in fact, typically New York is better on the road in the postseason than they are in the Meadowlands. Additionally, the Giants have NEVER lost an NFC championship game – and sure, the Parcells-led teams have no bearing on this game here, but historical points like that can only help from a confidence standpoint. Harbaugh has done a tremendous job, but Coughlin has actually been better in the last month. The Niners do have a slight advantage in the kicking game, with David Akers getting the nod over Lawrence Tynes, but that’s negated by the Giants tremendous pass rush that will be a much difference look for Alex Smith than the Saints blitzing schemes. In 2007, the Pats went undefeated and lost to a red-hot Giants team. New England won’t be 18-0 in two weeks, but they’ll be there – and so will Eli and the Giants.
Pick: New York 24, San Francisco 20

Straight Up: 4-4
Against Spread: 5-3

Straight Up: 174-90
Against Spread: 131-120-13

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