After the home teams went 4-0 in the wild-card round, I decided to ride that wave of bad hospitality, and I picked the home teams to win in the division round.
But for the Giants’ 17-point win over the Packers, I would have had a perfect weekend. Rosenthal, who picked both the Packers and Saints to advance, was 2-2.
So, yes, I won. For a change.
This week, I agonized over both games. Tempted to flip a coin, I probably would have been better off if I did.
Not just this weekend, but all year.
Ravens at Patriots
Florio’s take: Yes, the Baltimore offense looked sluggish against the Texans. During the regular season, however, the Texans had one of the best defenses in the league. The Patriots, in sharp contrast, had one of the worst. Still, can the Ravens muster at least one more point than the New England offense will score? The internal offense-vs.-defense strife in Baltimore seems to be real, and it could lead to an ugly confrontation on the sidelines if the Pats jump out to an early lead and the Ravens can’t respond. Also, the Pats’ defense quietly is improving. Throw in the fact that the Patriots would love to give owner Robert Kraft something about which to feel good as he continues to mourn his wife’s passing (Myra Kraft’s initials remain on their jerseys), Tom Brady’s memory of a home thrashing two years ago from the Ravens, and a burning desire by Brady and Bill Belichick to finally get that fourth championship, and it’s hard to envision the Patriots losing.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Ravens 20.
Rosenthal’s take: This game comes down to two questions. Is the Ravens defense more dominant than the Patriots offense? After watching Houston’s running game push Baltimore around last week, I’m rolling with the Patriots there. Terrell Suggs disappears too often. New England’s tight ends are too hard to defend. Second question: Does the good Joe Flacco show up this week? All season, I’ve thought a great quarterback would take the Patriots out in the playoffs. New England doesn’t have to face a great quarterback in the AFC. The health of Patrick Chung, Brandon Spikes, Dane Fletcher, and the rest of the Patriots no-names all help make the New England defense competent enough.
Rosenthal’s pick: Patriots 31, Ravens 27.
Giants at 49ers
Florio’s take: The Giants are the best team remaining, with a high-powered offense to go with a staunch defense. And I’m inclined to pick them to win, in part because I’ve picked them to lose twice in the playoffs and in part because a clash between the Giants and Patriots in the Super Bowl would generate enormous interest and ratings and page views. But there’s something intangible, and special, about the 49ers and coach Jim Harbaugh. All week long, I believed I’d pick the Giants, and that then the 49ers would win. With rain likely to make it harder for the Giants’ passing game to fire on all cylinders, look for that hard-hitting San Fran defense and a potent-when-it-needs-to-be offense to find a way. Yes, the Giants are the better team. But the 49ers, I believe, will have more points on the scoreboard when the game is finally over.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 24, Giants 21.
Rosenthal’s take: Eli Manning has the fourth quarter reputation, but Alex Smith has the seven fourth quarter comebacks. New York’s offensive line is a weakness that hasn’t been exposed the last two weeks, but it will show up on Sunday. San Francisco can get more consistent pressure on Eli Manning with their front seven and they’ll have the more consistent running game. Counting on Eli to keep converting beautiful low percentage third-and-long throws is a difficult way to win week after week. The 49ers magic will continue.
Rosenthal’s pick: 49ers 24, Giants 20.