The 2012 NFL playoffs are down to the final four teams as the Baltimore Ravens will travel to New England to play the Patriots in the AFC Championship game and the San Francisco 49ers will host the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.
Both of the games feature a top-three defense against a top 10 offense. The Ravens are the third ranked defense in the league and they'll be facing the third-ranked Patriots offense. The Giants are ranked ninth on offense and they'll be going against the Niners and the second-ranked defense in the league.
So on a weekend of great offense vs. great defense, which one wins out? That's the question SB Nation's NFL playoffs roundtable answered. Which one wins out this weekend, offense or defense?
David Fucillo: In this "Year of the Quarterback" I think defense will shine on Sunday and we will get a defensive matchup in the 2012 Super Bowl. The San Francisco 49ers defeated the high flying Saints attack in part because they were able to contain them through the first three quarters. The game got crazy at the end, but the 49ers remain a team that is built around their defense. If they are going to win on Sunday they will need to contain Eli Manning. I believe they can do that.
In the aftermath of the AFC divisional games, somehow the Patriots have emerged as a lock to defeat the Ravens. The Patriots put together a great defensive effort against the Broncos, but that is not exactly a tall task against a very questionable Broncos team. Joe Flacco has had his own inconsistencies, but I think he has a big day against the Patriots normally weak secondary and it finally costs the Patriots when it matters most.
Jason Garrison: After watching two of the three quarterbacks who threw for over 5,000 yards this season get eliminated from the playoffs before the conference championship game, it's safe to say that the term "defense wins championships" is still applicable to the NFL. A high-powered offense is entertaining to watch but if that high-powered offense can't score consistently and they're not accompanied by a defense that consistently stops other teams from scoring, it doesn't help you win.
At this point, I would put my money on the defenses of the 49ers at home and the Ravens on the road before I would bet on a rematch between the Giants and Patriots in the Super Bowl. I think players like Ray Lewis, Ed Reed, Patrick Willis and Aldon Smith will have a much bigger impact and have a better chance of shaping their teams' chances to make it to Super Bowl XLVI than Eli Manning or even Tom Brady.
Joel Thorman: I have to roll with the offenses -- Giants and Patriots. Neither have defenses that are ranked in the top three but they're good enough. When you combine a top 10 offense with an average defense, you have the potential for something special (unlike those teams that have great offenses and one of the worst defenses). Despite the claims that "defense wins championships" you need to score to win games, and the Patriots specifically have done that better than all but two teams in the league. The Giants are similar in that they're a tough offense to stop but they need to do several things right -- like getting the running game going and opening it up for Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz deep. Still, I think the Giants can do that.
So in the AFC and NFC Championship games, I side with the offense. I think they get it done.
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