It all comes down to this. The New England Patriots and New York Giants will battle for NFL supremacy in Super Bowl XLVI on Sunday, February 5. In an interesting twist, the biggest game of the year will be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII when the Giants upset the heavily favored and undefeated Patriots. New England will be out for revenge, and New York is looking to finish a second unlikely title run in 4 years after finishing the regular season at 9-7. Over the next 2 weeks we will all be inundated with analysis and predictions by the national media, so before I join in the madness let’s take a look at the wild games that concluded the AFC and NFC playoffs.
The NFL put on quite a show on Conference Championship Sunday with both games coming down to the wire. Even though neither contest could be considered a masterpiece, they both included some wild swings and dramatic finishes. The patriots bested the Baltimore Ravens thanks to a missed field goal late in the game, and the Giants beat out the San Francisco 49ers in overtime after a fumble recovery set them up in field goal range. Here are some thoughts on the Championship games:
- Sometimes it seems like a few franchises get more breaks than others when the playoffs roll around. Or maybe it just feels that way after watching the finish of the AFC Championship game. The Ravens had the winning touchdown stripped out of Lee Evans’ grasp, and then the tying 32-yard field goal by Billy Cundiff went wide left and the Patriots narrowly escaped with the win. In a matter of moments the Ravens went on a wild ride of emotions. They thought they had won the game for a moment before settling for a field goal that would force overtime, and then in the blink of an eye New England was celebrating on their home field. I can’t imagine there is a fan base more devastated than the Baltimore Ravens contingent today.
- The Ravens defense played damn good football. They held Tom Brady to a paltry 57.5 quarterback rating and forced the Patriots to settle for 3 red zone field goals. They accomplished everything the Denver Broncos’ defense couldn’t a week earlier.
- I am a critic of Joe Flacco just like almost everyone else, but he played great yesterday. He finished with a rating of 95.4 and put his team in position to win late in the contest. He did everything you want your quarterback to do in crunch time, but his teammates couldn’t make a play at the end to help him out. Baltimore played well enough to win the game and probably deserved to do so, but in a game of inches they came up agonizingly short.
- I was stunned that Lee Evans allowed the winning score to be knocked out of his hands. Most defensive backs will make a desperate attempt to knock the ball away from a receiver, but usually the offensive player has a death grip on the ball and the attempt is futile. It seemed like that balled popped out way too easily. Evans has to hold on to that thing like it is his newborn baby!
- I’m not a Tom Brady fan but I respect him about as much as anyone in the league. Yet it still pains me to say that he has now tied John Elway’s record for most Super Bowl starts by a quarterback with 5.
- Regardless of how the game played out, I think the best AFC team made it to the Super Bowl. New England played great football this year and is a deserving AFC Champion.
- The Home team went 5-0 in the AFC playoffs this season.
- The Giants-Niners game seemed like a blast from the past. If it wasn’t for high definition TV that game could have been played 20 years ago and I wouldn’t have known any different. The sloppy weather in San Francisco caused some equally sloppy play on the field, and the tough defenses made it hard on the opposing quarterbacks all day.
- San Francisco converted 1 of 13 third downs which is pitiful. If you look at any of the game stats it is hard to believe the Niners didn’t get blown out. They managed only 2 good offensive plays all game and those were both long touchdown passes to Vernon Davis.
- Alex Smith completed only 12 of 26 passes for San Francisco, yet after the game hardly any of the ESPN pundits talked about him much. I thought that was interesting because if Tim Tebow would have put forth that line he would have lambasted for it.
- There were not many people in this country that woke up with a worse feeling in their stomach today than San Francisco’s Kyle Williams. He lost 2 fumbles on punt returns which led directly to 10 points for the Giants. Although those were huge plays that made a big impact on the game, it makes me sick to see him receiving death threats on Twitter from a few crazy 49ers fans. Not only does he not deserve that and those people need to get a life, but the 49ers had a ton of chances to win that game despite the fumbles and couldn’t get it done. The entire team lost that game.
- You have to give a lot of credit to Eli Manning (and nothing gets Chargers fans angrier than that). The guy simply gets it done in big games. He threw for 316 yards on 58 attempts without an interception, and he produced clutch scoring drives late in the 2nd and 4th quarters. It’s strange to think that the younger Manning brother could surpass Peyton in Super Bowl wins in 2 weeks.
- I would give just about anything to have a defensive line in Denver that is as nasty and dominant as the defensive line for the Giants. They are impressive to watch and are a huge reason why New York is going to the Super Bowl.
- They may not have had the best season, but I believe the best team in the NFC is going to the Super Bowl. How can you say otherwise? They beat the 2 top seeds in the NFC on the road with everything on the line. If they can find a way to beat the top seed out of the AFC it would be one of the most impressive playoff runs ever.
- So who do you have winning the Super Bowl? New England is the early favorite and deservedly so, but New York is battle tested and is built to win big playoff games. I think it will be a great Super Bowl and I am excited to see how it plays out. Next week I will break down the big game and unveil my official prediction. Go Broncos!!
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