Last week, MDS and yours truly agreed on every pick. After Saturday’s games, it looked like we’d be Thelma-and-Louiseing our way to an 0-4 weekend.
But after getting it wrong by relying on the Broncos and Packers, we were perfect on Sunday with the Falcons and Patriots.
So the question now becomes whether we reward the Falcons and the Patriots for making us look a little less like idiots by picking them to go to the Super Bowl.
In one case, yes. In another case, no. Either way, we’ve clasped hands and hit the pedal to the metal with the car pointed in the general direction of a canyon.
49ers at Falcons
MDS’s take: People have been picking against the Falcons all year, and the Falcons keep winning. Now the Falcons are hosting the NFC Championship Game, and they’re underdogs at home, so if they want to play the “disrespect” card, they’re free to do so. And I’ll add a little more fuel to that particular fire by saying that not only do I think the 49ers are going to win, but I’m not even sure the Falcons can keep it close. San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick is coming off the greatest rushing performance by a quarterback in NFL history, while the Falcons have struggled against running quarterbacks: Seattle’s Russell Wilson gained 60 yards on the ground in Atlanta last week, Cam Newton had 86 and 116 rushing yards against the Falcons in his two games against the Falcons and Michael Vick had 42 rushing yards against the Falcons in October. I look for Kaepernick to have another big game as the 49ers roll.
MDS’s pick: 49ers 35, Falcons 17.
Florio’s take: Many are pooh-poohing the ability of quarterback Colin Kaepernick to duplicate his performance from Saturday night when the 49er go to Atlanta, pointing to his struggles on the road in Seattle, where it is loud and hostile and challenging to operate. But in his first game as the starter at a time when Alex Smith was healthy, Kaepernick faced in the Superdome a Saints team that had clawed its way back to .500. And it was loud and hostile and challenging to operate. And Kaepernick got the job done. Though the Falcons pulled out a stirring win over Seattle, the victory came in the wake of a historic defensive collapse. It’ll be a lot harder not to collapse earlier when facing Kaepernick, who is a shade better than Russell Wilson — and who has more to work with on both sides of the ball than the Seahawks rookie.
Florio’s pick: 49ers 27, Falcons 17.
Ravens at Patriots
MDS’s take: The Ravens have typically played well against the Patriots, including in a 31-30 Week Three win. In that game, Joe Flacco had 382 passing yards, Torrey Smith had 127 receiving yards and Ray Rice had 101 rushing yards, and I think the Ravens will need that kind of offensive performance if they’re going to have any hope of winning in New England on Sunday. Unfortunately for Baltimore, the Patriots’ defense is playing better now than it was early in the regular season, and that’s going to be the difference this time. Flacco won’t have the same kind of passing game in the regular season, but Tom Brady will have another big performance against the Ravens’ secondary. The Patriots are headed back to the Super Bowl.
MDS’s pick: Patriots 30, Ravens 20.
Florio’s take: In September, I picked the Patriots to make it back to the Super Bowl. So how can I pick against them in the game that would put them there? Actually, it’s a convenient way to play both sides of the fence, and I’m tempted to pick the Ravens; it just feels like it’s time for them to get back to the Super Bowl, and I’d love to see a Harbaugh-vs.-Harbaugh battle for the NFL title. But it also feels like it’s time for the Patriots to get back to the Super Bowl and win it. With the Giants out of the mix, this could be the year to make that happen. So for no particular reason other than it wouldn’t be right to abandon my AFC Super Bowl pick this close to it coming to fruition, the Pats hold serve and head back to the site of their first Super Bowl win.
Florio’s pick: Patriots 27, Ravens 24.