NFL Playoff Predictions: Can the Ravens and 49ers Stop the Patriots and Giants?

Michael JakubowskiCorrespondent IJanuary 21, 2012

FOXBORO, MA - NOVEMBER 6:    Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots congratulates  Eli Manning #10 of the New York Giants after the New York Giants 24-20 win on November 6, 2011 in Foxboro, Massachusetts. (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
Jim Rogash/Getty Images

Tomorrow is championship Sunday, the day that decides who will move on to the Super Bowl.

Both games could go either way. The 49ers are favored by 2.5 points; the Patriots by 7.

Two interesting Super Bowl matchups could arise from this weekend's games. There could be a rematch of Super Bowl XLII with the Giants and the Patriots, with Eli Manning playing on his brother Peyton's home field; or a 49ers-Ravens rematch, with each team coached by a Harbaugh brother.

Jim and John's teams met on Thanksgiving night, with John leading his Ravens to victory.

Either of these matchups would be a phenomenal Super Bowl to watch.

Even though San Francisco is favored by 2.5 points, I think those points are thrown to the 49ers only because they are playing at home. I believe the Giants should be favored, given their recent run, winning five of their last six (including the pivotal game against the Cowboys that got them into the playoffs).

So the question that remains is this: What can the Ravens and 49ers do to win on Sunday?


Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots


A win on the road in New England is a tough sell in the playoffs. The Pats have a rowdy bunch of fans who make that stadium awfully loud. They are also coming off a blowout win in the divisional round, beating Tim Tebow and the Broncos 45-10.

The Patriots, who appeared to consider the game a complete joke, allowed Tom Brady to punt the ball on third down in the fourth quarter (Brady actually punted for 48 yards, the longest punt of the day by both teams).

At least the Ravens lucked out in the weather department. Snow is in the forecast for most of the day today, but clear and sunny for game day.

The first thing the Ravens need to do is to have a stronger offensive day. The 20 points they scored may have been good enough to beat Houston in Baltimore, but that won't work when traveling to New England.

Joe Flacco threw for only 176 yards and two touchdowns. Even worse? Ray Rice had only 60 yards rushing and did not score a touchdown. He averaged only 2.9 yards per carry.

The Ravens offense is so dependent on the running game that Rice will need to rush for more than  100 yards and score at least a touchdown or two for the Ravens to have even a remote chance of winning.

The second task for the Ravens is to stop Brady. But even more important, the Ravens must control  Rob Gronkowski. He is a giant, scary target who had the most receiving touchdowns (17) in the regular season, and had three more last week against the Broncos.



SAN FRANCISCO, CA - NOVEMBER 13:  D.J. Ware #28 of the New York Giants is tackled by NaVorro Bowman #53 of the San Francisco 49ers at Candlestick Park on November 13, 2011 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

The Patriots running game is pretty shaky, so look for coverage deep down the field and coverage all over Brady.


New York Giants at San Francisco 49ers


The forecast of rain all day Sunday in San Francisco will make the game interesting and potentially sloppy.

The 49ers are coming off a tight win over the New Orleans Saints in the divisional round, which was by far the best game of last week.

What is more important to note is the Giants, well, giant win over the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau last Sunday, beating the Packers 37-20.

The Packers were a heavy favorite to repeat as Super Bowl champs. But with the Giants chugging along, the game appeared to be a mismatch. It's hard not to think that this won't continue Sunday, which would bring the Giants into the Super Bowl for the second time in five years.

It's an obvious point, but this game will mostly be determined by how well the 49ers defense plays. The 49ers won last week despite allowing the Saints to score 32 points.

The 49ers can't allow the same wiggle room to the Giants. Unlike the Saints, they have a passing and rushing game to worry about.

And, well, the 49ers offense needs to have a repeat performance this week. Alex Smith outplayed Drew Brees last week, and the 49ers will win only if he can outplay Eli Manning on Sunday. Smith threw for 299 yards and three touchdowns last week, and also rushed for another score.

What the 49ers also need is a better performance out of Frank Gore. He rushed for 89 yards and no scores Saturday, but did average an amazing 6.8 yards per carry. He can do this against the Giants, but will need to add scores to that stat line to bring in a 49ers win.


Super Bowl XLVI

I imagine that we will be seeing a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl again this year. The offenses for the Giants and Patriots are just too hot to stop, even for the great defenses of the 49ers and Ravens.

To be honest, I don't want that Super Bowl, which people find odd since I live in New England. What I want is a Harbaugh Bowl.

Growing up in a competitive household with an older brother, I can't imagine anything better than a family feud in the Super Bowl.