And then there were four teams battling for the right to go to New Orleans for the Super Bowl next month. While divisional playoff weekend was exciting for a multitude of different reasons, the upcoming weekend promises to have nearly as much, if not more, intrigue.
Jessica Kleinschmidt did herself proud by winning last week with a 3-1 record while Nick and I batted an even .500. Here are the standings with the conference championships and Super Bowl remaining in the way of Nick proving he is the "expert" of all "experts." Notice the quotes? Yeah, still trash talking a bit here as we draw to a conclusion.
| Home || Away || Jessica || Nick || Vincent |
| New England Patriots (13-4) || Baltimore Ravens (12-6) || New England || Baltimore || New England |
| Atlanta Falcons (14-3) || San Francisco 49ers (12-4-1) || Atlanta || San Francisco || San Francisco |
New England: This is a huge game and a repeat of last year’s AFC Championship Game. Now, this won’t be easy. For any team. Joe Flacco is blessed with Anquan Boldin and Torrey Smith, who have been on a tear lately and Paul Kruger is sacking quarterbacks left and right. Tom Brady does not have Rob Gronkowski, but he does have Aaron Hernandez. Now this game is strictly going down to home-field advantage, and my superstitions. Patriots may win this one, but don’t be surprised if the Ravens make a liar out of me. I’d be happy to ablige.
Atlanta Falcons: Two words: Colin Kaepernick. Pretty sure everyone has caught the fever. However, when it comes to playoffs and the future faces of Super Bowl, it’s hard to picture a second year quarterback making it to the Super Bowl, but he has the right tools to help him get to the big game in Aldon Smith, Vernon Davis, and Michael Crabtree just to name a few. Matt Ryan on the other hand has the experience in the NFL to take the Falcons all the way to the Super Bowl. He also has an inspirational Tony Gonzalez who became emotional last week in the defeat of the Seahawks, which we can all relate when we say he deserves a trip to the big game. I like the 49ers, but experience wise, expect the Falcons to win this one.
San Francisco 49ers: I feel like San Fran is just the better team here. Colin Kaepernick is nearly as good of a passer as Matt Ryan, but is more versatile with his uncanny running skills; Frank Gore, LaMichael James and Anthony Dixon are a better group of running backs than Michael Turner and Jacquizz Rodgers and the 49ers' defense is FAR superior to the Atlanta Falcons'. The 49ers are the best team in the NFC and they're headed to Super Bowl XLVII.
Baltimore Ravens: I've picked against Baltimore two weeks in a row, and they've proven me wrong both times; so I really hope this doesn't backfire now. The Ravens beat the New England Patriots 31-30 on a last-second Field Goal at home in Week 3, but will have their work cut out for them on the road at Gillette Stadium this weekend. This team is mega-motivated by Ray Lewis' pending retirement and are doing everything they can to extend his career as long as possible. Joe Flacco and Ray Rice had great games last week and will need to again to pull off the victory. I just think the Ravens' talented defense and desire to keep "winning for Ray" will lead them to victory and New Orleans in two weeks.
San Francisco 49ers: If San Francisco plays anywhere near the level that it did on Saturday night, it is hard to imagine the Atlanta Falcons having a great shot to win this game. Colin Kaepernick had one of the best single-game postseason performances in the modern history of the NFL against a better defense than the one he is going up against Sunday. In addition, the 49ers just seem to match up really well along both the offensive and defensive line. Though, it is important to note that Kaepernick performing the way he did Saturday night in the friendly confines of Candlestick Park is much different than doing so at the Georgia Dome. I still expect San Francisco to be punching its ticket to the Super Bowl when the clock hits 0:00 on Sunday.
New England Patriots: I was really tempted to go with Ray Lewis and the Baltimore Ravens in this one. However, I just can't pick against Tom Brady and the Patriots at home with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line. I am expecting a close game between these two rivals, but in the end talent should take over. On another note, I am pulling for Lewis and the Ravens to come away with a "W." That would be an amazing story.