Gregor’s Packer Analysis
Conference Championship Preview
In this issue:
View from the recliner
The Ravens visit New England
The Giants head to San Francisco
View from the recliner: The 49ers beat the Saints, the Patriots beat the Broncos, the Ravens got past Houston, and the Giants beat the Packers. A few things to point out: The home team won every game (except the Packers). That means the higher seed won every game (except the Packers). And of the four winning teams, each one was at least plus three in turnovers except New England, who was minus 1. The 49ers were plus 4 (5 to 1), the Pats were minus 1 (2 to 1), the Ravens were plus 4 (4 to 0), and the Giants were plus 3 (4 to 1).
Of the “offensive” teams in the Divisional Round, only New England remains. The Saints and Packers found a way to beat themselves to some extent (the Pack with turnovers, drops and missed tackles), but San Francisco and the Giants had something to do with it. The Texans were a big offense earlier in the season, but that changed a few quarterbacks ago as both Matt Schaub and Matt Leinart were hurt and TJ Yates isn’t quite at the Rodgers / Brady / Brees level yet.
Baltimore at New England: Baltimore beat New England in their last playoff meeting, a 33-14 win in the playoffs in January, 2010. But the eye test is asking how will the Ravens slow down the Patriots offense? No, not the running game, New England doesn’t have much of a running game and Baltimore is great against the run. But the passing game—the Pats put up points on everyone. Nobody matches up with Gronk, and Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker are also match-up problems. Tom Brady lit up the Denver defense for 6 TDs. Yes, Baltimore has a much better defense, but the Pats are rolling.
On the other side, while yards allowed by the Pats are embarrassing, points allowed really is more middle of the pack. And the Ravens aren’t known for offensive firepower. Joe Flacco has more playoff interceptions (7) than playoff TD passes (6). On the season, Tom Brady and Flacco have 12 interceptions. But Brady is slightly ahead in touchdowns, 39 to 17. So Brady’s touchdown to interception ratio is over 3:1, while Flacco’s is less than 1.5:1. And like the commercial says, his ‘stache is trash.
The weather is supposed to be pretty good for Boston in January—low 30s and no rain. Sounds like passing conditions will be good. The Ravens have to hold the Patriots to the low 20s to have a chance. Don’t see that happening. And if the Pats are up by two scores in the second half, no way Flacco brings the Ravens back. Baltimore is just 4-4 on the road this season, including losses to Seattle and Jacksonville. Seriously. Home field holds. Way too much Gronk. Pats by 10.
New York Giants at San Francisco. The Packers were supposed to be hosting the NFC Championship, but the Giants didn’t get the memo. They have shown a pass rush with the front four, the running game is looking better, and Eli Manning has had a great year. But the 49ers have been one of the most consistent teams all season. Last week they won a shootout with New Orleans, and it shouldn’t have been that close considering they were plus four turnovers. That shows their weakness—they aren’t an explosive offense.
Six weeks ago this would have been an easy win for San Francisco. The Niners were just a much better team. But the Giants defense turned around, and Ahmad Bradshaw, who missed a few games due to injury, is back. Now it looks like a coin flip.
The weather is supposed to be 50s and rain. That could slow the Giants passing game. Not many teams in the NFL that are built for those kind of games. The 49ers are one of them. The Giants are too, but not quite as well. That’s why San Francisco wins a close one by 4.