NFL Playoffs- Conference Championship Matchups
This season’s NFL playoff field of 12 teams has been pared down to the final four for this Sunday’s conference championships. The winner from the AFC and the NFC will advance on to Indianapolis, the site of Super Bowl XLVI.
The following is a look at a couple of key facts and figures for each matchup along with the current lines for each game as provided by BetOnline.
Sunday, January 22
3 p.m. (ET)
Baltimore Ravens vs. New England Patriots (CBS- TV)
Pointspread: New England -7.5
This will be a battle of wills between one of the top rated defenses in the league trying to stop one of the most prolific offenses, but Baltimore’s chances could actually hinge on the arm of Joe Flacco. The Ravens knocked-off Houston 20-13 as 7.5-point home favorites in last Sunday’s Divisional Round, but much of their success came from early turnovers and fast points.
Even with having the third-ranked defense in the NFL in both total yards and points allowed, you have to believe that somewhere along the line in this game that Flacco is going to need to move Baltimore down the field with his arm to put points on the board.
Tom Brady shredded a fairly decent Denver defense last Saturday night with six touchdown passes on his way to leading New England to a 45-10 rout of the Broncos as a 14-point home favorite. While he may not have the same level of success against Baltimore’s fourth-ranked pass defense, he is already working on ways to exploit the secondary especially with Ravens’ safety Ed Reed nursing an ankle injury.
6:30 p.m. (ET)
New York Giants vs. San Francisco 49ers (FOX- TV)
Pointspread: San Francisco -2
Both teams come into this matchup with a ton of momentum. New York’s started a few weeks back, needing two crucial victories in its final two regular season games to even get into the playoffs. It reached a fever pitch last Sunday with a stunning 37-20 upset of Green Bay as an eight-point road underdog.
The Giants are starting to look very much like the team that made an improbable run to the Super Bowl four years ago behind an opportunistic defense and a quarterback playing at a high level. Eli Manning has passed for a combined 607 yards and six touchdowns in the first two rounds of the playoffs and appears poised to keep it going in this Sunday’s game.
San Francisco has been known for its opportunistic defense as well en route to a sterling 13-3 record in the regular season, but it was Alex Smith and the 49ers’ offense that rose to the occasion last week in their thrilling 36-32 victory over New Orleans as 3.5-point home underdogs.
There is no doubt that first-year Head Coach Jim Harbaugh will look to return to the winning formula of Frank Gore running the ball and the defense shutting its opponent down, but it has to be good to know that Smith has the ability to move this team with his arm if it has to get involved in another shootout this Sunday.
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