National / Sports / January 18, 2012

AFC/NFC championship games set

Gabe Ayers: This past week America had a few surprises they had to deal with on the gridiron. The near immortal Packers barely showed up for their game against the surging Giants, and everybody’s new favorite prophet, Tim Tebow, was embarrassed by the Patriots for the second time in five weeks.

On the other end, the Ravens took care of business against the near quarterback-less Texans and the 49ers and Saints played in one of the best games of the season.

As always, these games will be fun. The Patriots have one of the best offenses in the league and the Ravens, as always, have one of the best defenses.

The Giants have a quarterback in Eli Manning who needs to prove that he is relevant and the 49ers are fighting to prove that their whole franchise is again relevant.

Ultimately, I’m going to say the Ravens will win against New England based solely on Ray Lewis allowing himself to get another shot at a Super Bowl. On the other side the Giants will beat the 49ers and disappoint all of the NFL by ruining a potential “Har-bowl.”

This will set the stage for a rematch of one of the least exciting Super Bowls in recent memory with the Ravens ultimately winning it all. Ray Lewis will yell excitedly and Terrell Suggs will talk about his alma mater, Arizona St. or as he calls it “Ball So Hard University.”

Eli Manning will put on his best Peyton Manning Face and Tom Coughlin will blame his kicker publicly again for messing up once in a way insignificant to outcome of the game. But most importantly I make these decisions based on the age-old adage: “Offense wins games, but defenses win Championships.”

Jackson White: While it absolutely pains me to say it, I think the NFL is looking at a Giants-Patriots Super Bowl. I despise Eli Manning, Tom Coughlin, Bill Belichick and most of all Tom Brady, but I just have this feeling that exactly what I do not want to happen will.

Tactically, the 49ers and Ravens are very good teams, but the Patriots are just too dominant offensively, and in recent years, it seems a Super Bowl has to involve at least one team that played on Wild Card Weekend. I’ll take the Giants by a field goal and the Pats by two touchdowns.

And as much as these results will make me angry, it will equally bring joy to the network executives, sponsors and bookies.

Of course, regardless of the teams in the game, people will watch the Super Bowl, but the big markets, the star players, and a rematch of one of the greatest games in the history of the league will draw fringe viewers and fatten wallets in excess.

As for the game itself, it will be pretty hard to top the original. I’m guessing it will not come down to the last seconds, but there will once again be an upset.

Yes, even as a diehard Cowboys fan, I find myself picking the New York Giants to win the Super Bowl. If I’m wrong, great, but with the way this season has gone so far it would only make sense that bitter rival win it all.

Matt McKinney: In the AFC, 36-year-old Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis will do whatever it takes to get back to the Super Bowl, while running back Ray Rice will offset clumsy, immobile and sometimes turnover-prone play from quarterback Joe Flacco.

New England, who lost to the Ravens 33-14 last time the teams faced off in the playoffs, has advanced past the first round since 2008. New England was impressive against a feeble Denver Broncos squad, but do not expect the same against the Ravens. New England’s gave up the third-most yards per game this season. That is not exactly a Super Bowl pedigree.

As for the NFC, the Giants beat a Packers team whose star quarterback had been sitting for three weeks. At best, New York’s defense will neutralize the 49ers offensive line. Tight End Vernon Davis will have another career day, and after seven offense coordinators in as many years, 49ers Quarterback Alex Smith will keep showing fans why he was the number one overall pick in the 2005 Draft. After a dramatic win over the New Orleans Saints, the 49ers look like a team riding destiny.

Brothers Jim and John Harbaugh will coach head-to-head in the Super Bowl. An aggressive 49ers defense will neutralize receiver Anquan Boldin and force the rest of the Ravens offense into mistakes.The aging Baltimore defense, however, will struggle. 49ers running back Frank Gore, who rushed for 89 yards on 13 carries against the Saints, will set up the 49ers passing game, where quarterback Alex Smith will show why he was a No. 1 pick.

After a 6-10 finish last season, (Jim) Harbaugh, a first-year head coach, will help bring the San Francisco their first Super Bowl since 1994.

Gabe Ayers

Tags:  football

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