Mike Ivcic’s AFC & NFC Championship Preview and Free Picks ]]> include($base_url . “/includes/header.htm”); ?>
By Mike Ivcic, UltimateCapper Contributing Writer
San Francisco 49’ers @ Atlanta Falcons
Sun, 3pm, FOX
Line: 49’ers by 3
The 49’ers enter this game as the biggest road favorite in a conference championship game in three decades, which says all you need to know about the confidence Vegas has in Atlanta. And yes, blowing a 20-point lead at home in the fourth quarter of a playoff game is cause for concern. But after watching Tom Brady’s last-gasp effort in the Super Bowl eleven months ago combined with Peyton Manning’s best Brett Favre imitation last week, it might actually be accurate to call Matt Ryan the best late-game “closer” of any QB in the NFL right now (hold onâ¦ I’ll give you a minute to pick your jaw off the ground and re-read that last sentenceâ¦ ok, welcome back). He made two pinpoint throws for the perfect yardage after what could have easily been a sucker-punch by the Seahawks, giving Matt Bryant the opportunity to push Atlanta into the NFC Championship game. The last time this franchise was here, they went into Minnesota as the 2-seed against the 1-seed and defeated a high-powered offense â which sounds exactly what the 49’ers are going to try to do this Sunday. Had the Niners just squeaked by Green Bay last week, or managed to control the game with some sort of defensive stand or special teams play, I would probably be taking Atlanta here. But after watching Colin Kaepernick turn the Packers defense inside out and seem completely unfazed by the magnitude of playing his first-ever NFL playoff game, I’m going to give Jim Harbaugh the benefit of the doubt and believe in his quarterback just as much as he does.
Pick: San Francisco 34, Atlanta Falcons 28
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
Sun, 6:30pm, CBS
Line: Patriots by 9
I donât usually like to say this â after all, these people make lines for a living â but I think Vegas really has this one pegged wrong. The Ravens beat the Pats earlier this season (granted in was in Baltimore) and came within a dropped touchdown and missed field goal from playing the Giants in the Super Bowl last year. Yes, I understand this Patriots team is better than last yearâs team, but it appears that the last two performances by Baltimore are still getting outweighed by the way the Ravens closed the regular season. This was an injured team that clinched their division and really had no shot at getting a first-round bye, so they did what veteran teams do â they rested, played a little possum, drew a rookie quarterback in round one, then turned up the heat and started playing their best football over the last ten quarters. Do I think theyâll win this game? In a wordâ¦ no. But this has all the makings of a classic, which means a one-possession game â and a Ravens cover.
Pick: New England 27, Baltimore 24
Against Spread: 2-6
Against Spread: 134-115-7
Against Spread: 136-121-7
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