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Jobu predicts the AFC and NFC championship games.

It was a tough week for me as far as my playoff predictions went. Only one of the teams I picked to win actually came through, and they really tried their best to blow it. Overall, the Ravens just eked one out over Peyton and the Broncos in OT (after a 70 yard TD pass to tie it with about 30 seconds left. The 49ers jumped all over the Packers and, despite a mostly back and forth game, took them out. The Falcons are the aforementioned correct pick, although I literally tossed a coin to pick that game and, of course, the Texans choked on the big stage yet again as they lost to the Patriots (congrats to Jerry Ballgame, who was at the game this weekend). Anyway, onto the predictions for this weekend.

NFC Title Game: San Francisco 49ers @ Atlanta Falcons – Sunday, Jan 20th at 3:00 PM

Can Kaepernick run all over the Falcons like he did the Packers? (Associated Press)
Can Kaepernick run all over the Falcons like he did the Packers? (Associated Press)

I had my doubts about both of these teams going into their match ups last week. The Falcons hadn’t made it out of the first round of the playoffs in four years, and the 49ers laid down for the Giants earlier this year, which made them lose some luster in my eyes. Both teams showed a lot this past weekend in earning thrilling wins against their respective opponents.

The 49ers played in the late game against the Packers on Saturday. I was at a surprise party for Dr. Draft’s fiancee (happy birthday Christine!), so I didn’t get to watch this game as closely as I would have liked. That being said, Colin Kaepernick had what has to be one of the best all-around games a QB has ever had in the playoffs (or maybe in any game). He started out a bit shaky, with a pick-six early on, but, once the second-year player out of Nevada finally got it going, there was no stopping him. Kaepernick put up some solid numbers with his arm, going 17-31 with 263 yards, 2 TDs and the INT. It was when he couldn’t throw, however, that he made things really interesting. Kaepernick set the quarterback rushing record with 181 yards on just 16 carries, and he scored two TDs on the ground to boot (20 and 56 yards, respectively). It has to be one of the more impactful playoff debuts in NFL history as well.Kudos, youngster.

This brings us to the Falcons, who over the past few years, have solidified their reputations as a one-and-done team. This was an exciting game to say the least. The Falcons looked great early on, as they took a 20-0 lead and led 27-7 when the fourth quarter began. Ryan was looking good, but it was, surprisingly, the Falcons’ running game that carried them to that big lead. Overall, the dirty birds ran for 167 yards on just 26 carries. Michael Turner looked like he was turning back the clock, and Jacquizz Rodgers was all over the place too.

In the fourth quarter, though, Russell Wilson went to work. The Seahawks scored three unanswered TDs to turn a 27-7 Falcons lead into a 28-27 Seattle lead with just 34 seconds to go. After throwing for just 31 yards in the first half, Wilson used strong 3rd and 4th quarters to push his totals to 385 yards with 2 TDs and an INT. He also ran for 60 yards on 7 carries. It looked like the Seahawks had ousted the Falcons in the first round yet again. That’s when Matt Ryan went to work. The kickoff was returned to the 28, and Ryan hit Hugh Douglass with a 22 yard pass to the 50 on the first play. The next play was a 19-yarder to Tony Gonzalez to the 31 with just 8 seconds to go. Matt Bryant missed the first attempt, but Seattle had called a timeout, so he got to go again. The second try was right down the middle to give Atlanta the 30-28 lead with six seconds to go. After a terrible squib kick, and a short completion, Wilson attempted a hail Mary from the 48-yard line, but it was picked off in the end zone and the Falcons won. Matt Ryan perceived, and Wilson fell just short despite a stunning and gritty playoff debut.

Ok this (finally) brings us to this week’s match ups. We’ve profiled both of these teams before, so I won’t do that again. This is another tough one to pick. Both teams boast very good defenses, but neither played particularly well over the weekend. It might come down to who can make the most plays. I don’t think the Falcons running attack will do much against the 49ers, which means it will be on Matt Ryan to get the job done through the air. I think the same is true of Kaepernick and the 49ers, but the fact that Kaepernick can tuck the ball away and run for 181 yards gives him a weapon that Matty Ice just doesn’t have. That being said, I think the 49ers take this one, 19-16. Defenses will hold the score down, but Kaepernick will make at least one game-changing play with his legs, and the 49ers will go to the Superbowl.

AFC Title Game: Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots – Sunday, Jan 20th at 6:30 PM

Can Brady get himself to yet another Super Bowl? (Nick Laham /Getty Images)
Can Brady get himself to yet another Super Bowl? (Nick Laham /Getty Images)

Grumble grumble… the Patriots are in the AFC title game against the Ravens again. The Ravens won a double overtime thriller against the Broncos that, because of the aforementioned surprise party, I practically didn’t get to watch at all. The one play I really managed to watch was the 70-yard pass from Joe Flacco to Jacoby Jones with about 30 seconds to go that sent the game into OT. The great part about this game was that, despite the 38-35 score, no team ever led by more than seven points. It was 7-0, 7-7, 14-7, 14-14, 21-14, 21-21, 28-21, 28-28, 35-28, 35-35 and finally 38-35. It was about as even a game as I’ve ever seen, which makes for pretty thrilling action, right? Peyton Manning (28-43, 290 yards, 3 TDs, 2 INTs) played well, but he threw a big INT late that ended up costing the Broncos this game. It’s too bad, really. It would have been nice to see Manning and Brady in the AFC title game against each other. Eli can’t be the only one in the family who gets to send Tom Brady home, right?

Anywho, as thrilling as the Ravens game was, the Patriots game was pretty much over from the beginning. For a second, we thought the Texans would send an early message and take over the game, when the opening kickoff was returned 94 yards to the New England 12 yard line, but the Texans quickly blew the chance at a real opening salvo, and settled for a field goal and a 3-0 lead. After that it was all Patriots for a while, as they scored 17 unanswered points on a field goal sandwiched between two Shane Vereen (don’t call him Ben). The Texans made it interesting before the half with a 1-yard TD run by Arian Foster and a field goal, which made the score 17-13 at the half. The Texans defense immediately imploded in the second half, and Matt Schaub and the offense failed to get anything going, as the Patriots scored three unanswered TDs (another one by Vereen) to blow the game wide open at 38-13. The Texans mounted a feeble comeback with a couple of late TDs, but a field goal by Stephen Gostkowski put the game away late. The Pats rumbled to a 41-28 win.

As inspired as the Ravens seem to be in trying to get Ray Lewis one last ring before his retirement, it’s tough to pick them against the Patriots. First of all, the Patriots are really good at football. As much crap as I talk about Tom Brady, I’m not foolish enough to try to claim that he isn’t one of the best QBs of all time. He’s got an arsenal of weapons at his disposal that, even without injured Rob Gronkowsi, is a lot for a defense to handle. The Ravens defense hasn’t been particularly good these playoffs, as they just allowed 35 points to the Broncos. The only thing I didn’t really expect from them was the offense they’ve shown. Joe Flacco (18-34, 331 yards, 3 TDs against Denver) has been very good this post-season, and their running attack has always been solid. The Ravens are looking for revenge from last year’s AFC title game, that they blew because of a terrible dropped pass (technically it was batted down), and an even worse missed field goal that would have forced OT.

I simply don’t believe enough in the Ravens to pick them in this game. The Patriots will win it, although I’m not going to bother with a score prediction. It could be really close, or it could be a blowout.

Jerry Ballgame

About Jerry Ballgame

The personification of "old school", Jerry Ballgame was born in the shadow of Dr. Naismith's peach basket, and baptized in that "Dirty Water." Designated by his "Uncle" Ted, to keep an eye on things, he's here to tell everyone what his view is like from the Hub of the Universe.

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