New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers have been re-vitalized by first-year coach Jim Harbaugh and won a high-scoring game against the New Orleans Saints to advance to the NFC Championship. The Giants are playing the best they have all season on both sides of the ball, knocking off the Falcons and Packers in the first two rounds of the playoffs. This game is a rematch of the 1991 NFC Championship Game in which the Giants defeated the 49ers and went on to win the Super Bowl.
Chris – The 49ers have prided themselves on defense all year and will rely on the collective effort of the defense to shut down the red-hot Giants offense. The key will be the turnover battle, which the 49ers were able to win against the Saints. Alex Smith will have a tougher day facing the Giants defense, but all he needs to do is manage the game and limit the turnovers. Energized by the crowd at Candlestick Park, I think the 49ers can keep this cinderella story going with a 20-17 win.
Bob – The Giants have the best defensive line in the NFL. Alex Smith looked great against the Saints last weekend but only faced limited pass pressure. Today will be a completely different story as Justin Tuck and Osi Umenyiora will be in the backfield all day long. Eli Manning will open up the passing game to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks. I predict the Giants will win 24-10 and advance to the Super Bowl.
AFC Championship Game:
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots
The New England Patriots have the best offense remaining in the playoffs and have seen improved play by the defense in the playoffs. Last week, Tom Brady had a record-setting first half and led his team to a blow-out win over the Broncos. On the other hand, the Ravens have relied on the defense all season and needed a strong defensive effort to hold off the Houston Texans last weekend.
Chris – While the Patriots offense looked unstoppable last weekend, it was facing a Denver defense that allowed 23 points to a banged-up Steelers offense in the Wild Card Round. Tom Brady can throw interceptions, especially when he is under pressure, and the Ravens will need to come up with a key interception in this game in order to win. The offense will need to rely on the running game, which is led by Ray Rice. While it is tough to pick against Tom Brady at home, I predict that the Ravens will win 24-17.
Bob – Although I picked the Ravens to go to the Super Bowl from the beginning of the season, I have not been impressed with the team’s play in recent weeks. The offense is bland at best and the defense is facing the high-octane Patriots offense that rolled over Denver last week. I expect the Patriots to win, and predict a score of 31-17.