Turns out that the MTAF Podcast Ryan and I recorded Tuesday was a spoiler for my NFL picks this week. We’re still taking baby steps trying to mesh the written portion of the site with the fledgling audio portion of the site, but I keep reminding myself that Usain Bolt took baby steps once, too. Not that I think More Than a Fan will end up as good as Bolt is fast, but don’t talk about too much because I don’t want to embarrass his legacy with our potential.
Anyway, I’ll write up my picks this week and for the Super Bowl, but look out for the format to change going into next football season. Picking games for everyone was a lot of fun this year, but it was also a lot of work. I don’t mean to sound lazy, but I felt that having to analyze every game meant that I wasn’t able to spend the amount of time I needed to spend on every game, and that I was short changing my readers in the process.
Everything that More Than a Fan has been able to accomplish in the relatively short time it has existed is because of you, and giving you a stupid Tim Tebow joke as analysis for a Denver Broncos game because I’m pressed for time (or energy) isn’t fair. I’ll always publish my picks for NFL games, but they’ll likely be in a different format at the end of a more detailed column.
Now, even though you’ve already listened to the podcast and hear my picks, I’ll get busy for you here written style. (Right? You clicked on that fancy link up there and laughed at all of our stupid jokes? That’s what I thought; I was stupid to even ask.)
Sunday, 3 pm EST
Baltimore Ravens @ New England Patriots
I’ve been saying it for weeks and I’ll repeat it again, offense is what matters most in this NFL. I don’t think that there was any doubt that the Ravens were the second best team in the AFC when the playoffs began, just as there wasn’t any doubt that the Ravens would have trouble beating a team that they couldn’t hold to less than 20 points. As long as we’re on the topic of not having doubt, I don’t have any doubt that the Patriots can score 24 against the Ravens defense.
In fact, I think that holding the Patriots offense to 24 points would be quite an accomplishment. The Patriots were held under 24 points in three games this season, a win against Dallas at home and losses at Pittsburgh and home against the New York Giants. After that week 9 loss to New York, New England scored in the 30s or 40s in 8 of the last 9 games and won them all. Once you add the 45 points the Patriots scored against Denver in the Divisional round of the playoffs, you’re looking at an offense that isn’t going to be stopped.
Back to the Ravens holding New England to 24 points being an accomplishment. I actually think that’s possible. Baltimore is the right mix of aggressive and wily to give the Patriots fits on long drives. New England will get its points on a handful of explosive plays involving Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez, and Wes Welker (and probably a Julian Edelman pick six). The real question is, “Can Joe Flacco and the Baltimore offense score 25?” Well, the Patriots are allowing 21 points per game and the Ravens are only scoring 23 points per game. Baltimore has scored 25 or more six times this season.
It comes down to this: What would you rather bet on, the Patriots putting up big numbers against a very good defense or the Ravens scoring 25 or more against a decent defense?
New England is giving 7.5, and I’ll take them.
Patriots 27 – Ravens 17
Sunday, 6:30 pm EST
New York Giants @ San Francisco 49ers
I’ve hemmed and hawed more than a politician about this game. Do I take Jim Harbaugh and his great job coaching the 49ers or Eli Manning and those crazy electric plays to Victor Cruz and Hakeem Nicks?
I choose Harbaugh. I can’t pick against the resurgence of Vernon Davis, the emergence of Alex Smith (FINALLY), and the game plan and motivation of Jim Harbaugh.
This isn’t going to be an easy game, though. That Giants offense is going to give Patrick Willis fits, and the defensive line is going to pressure the hell out of Alex Smith. But I can’t get the thought of Justin Tuck and Jason Pierre-Paul, ears pinned completely back, breaking through the offensive line just in time to see the ball sail over their heads to Vernon Davis waiting for the tight end screen. Two blockers and then Corey Webster and Antrelle Rolle left between Davis and the go ahead touchdown.
There over is set at 42 and San Francisco is giving 2.5. I like the 49ers and the over.
49ers 27 – Giants 23
Have NFL questions? Want to argue with me? Do you think I’m wrong about offense being what wins championships in today’s NFL?
Keep an eye out for the More Than a Fan Podcast Network. Ryan Isley (@isley23) and I will be talking everything from hoops to horse racing. Coming soon to a computer near you.
Stats: Pro Football Reference