GPA Conference Championship Preview

Gregor’s Packer Analysis

Conference Championship Weekend

In this issue

The Ravens play the Patriots, again
The 49ers head to Atlanta

The re-match of the week 3 game, a one point win for the Ravens in Baltimore, looked unlikely when the Ravens trailed by 7 with under a minute to go and 70 yards from the goal line. But Joe Flacco made another big play, sent the game into OT (with the Broncos electing to go to OT rather than try to move the ball in regulation), and the Ravens came out with a 3 point win. The Ravens D held Denver’s offense to 21 points over 5 plus quarters. Joe Flacco has the highest playoff quarterback rating of the 4 remaining quarterbacks.

The Patriots gave up a big kickoff return and an early field goal, but led the rest of the way in an easy 41-28 win that was a 25 point lead at one point. But they lost Rob Gronkowski to a broken forearm, and he was placed on injured reserve. Still, they showed the ability to exploit their opponent’s weakness and make it look easy. And with Tom Brady, they have a chance against anyone. But he hasn’t done well against Baltimore over the years, even though they are 5-2 against the Ravens in game he started.

The Patriots are a 9 and a half point favorite. Not sure why, since last year’s championship game was a 3 point win for New England, the earlier game this year was a 31-30 Baltimore win, the Ravens got back 5 defensive starters at the end of the season including Ray Lewis, and the Pats lost one of their key guys in Gronk. Last year in the Super Bowl Gronk was a non-factor with an injury and the Patriots fell to the Giants. Baltimore is a similar team—tough defense, good running game, good quarterback. Obviously with turnovers either team could win by double digits, but most likely this is another close game. With the comments about a “gimmick offense” and “Spygate”, New England will find a way to run it up if they can. Not only does Baltimore stay within 9 and a half, they win the game.

The 49ers look pretty good when they aren’t playing games within their division. Seattle and St. Louis both caused them problems. But they showed in the regular season they could go on the road and beat playoff teams like Green Bay and New England. Colin Kaepernick was featured much more than expected last week, so the game plan will probably change this week. It looked way to easy against Green Bay. The offense has Frank Gore, Michael Crabtree and Vernon Davis.

The Falcons had a good record and played pretty well, excluding the week 17 game against Tampa Bay. Matt Ryan was Matty Ice bringing Atlanta back in the last minute after blowing a 20 point lead to beat Seattle. Atlanta has some receivers for Ryan to throw to—wideouts Roddy White and Julio Jones, and tight end Tony Gonzalez.

The 49ers have been more impressive this season and are a 4 point favorite on the road against the number one seed. Most years that would make sense—the Falcons were 0-3 in the playoffs under Mike Smith until last week. My head says this is an easy win for San Francisco. The gut says maybe not as easy as people think. But teams can run on Atlanta and the 49ers will get the ball to Frank Gore early to set up Kaepernick and the pass. Obviously Kaepernick will have a chance to do some damage with his feet as well. This is more of a tossup than I thought. Niners by 3 to set up a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh Super Bowl.

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