After training camp, preseason, 17 weeks of the regular season and two rounds of the 2012 NFL playoffs, we're down to the final four teams. The New England Patriots will meet the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC Championship game while the New York Giants will play the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC Championship game.
The Patriots and Ravens will meet in Foxborough for Sunday's first game at 3:00 p.m. (ET). The game will be aired on CBS. Following that we'll have the 49ers hosting the Giants, scheduled for 6:30 p.m. (ET) on FOX. For those of you already planning a trip to Indianapolis, here's the 2012 Super Bowl schedule.
In the early game, the oddsmakers have the Patriots as favorites over the Ravens, as high as nine points in some places. Prior to last week, the Patriots hadn't won a playoff game in four years and they last played Baltimore in the postseason two years ago, a game in which the Ravens embarrassed them, 33-14, on their own home field. Despite their recent postseason history, there are plenty of reasons to pick the Patriots and that's the direction most people seem to be going.
In the other game, the predictions have a little more variety. The 49ers are 3-point favorites but plenty of people (like me) feel the Giants are on a similar run as they were four years ago when they won the Super Bowl.
So we have two games on Sunday that will pit a top-10 offense against a top-three defense. SB Nation's NFL bloggers have made their predictions on the game and to no one's surprise each one of them picked their team to win.
No. 2 Baltimore Ravens (13-4) vs. No. 1 New England Patriots (14-3), 3:00 p.m. ET, CBS
Baltimore Beatdown: Turnovers will play a huge part in the outcome, if the Ravens play mistake-free like they enjoyed in their tough divisional round win over the Houston Texans. If they can get turnovers from the Pats then expect the Ravens to come close to repeating their last trip to Foxboro in the postseason and come away with a trip to Indianapolis for Super Bowl 46. Ravens win, 28-24.
Pats Pulpit: Brady isn't going to let this game get away. The Patriots are the redeem team and, if they could, they'd make the Ravens walk home after the game. The Patriots are an entirely different team from 2009, as the current top four receivers (Gronkowski, Hernandez, Wes Welker and Deion Branch) were either still in college, injured, or with a different team. Look for the Patriots to have a big day: Patriots win, 34-20.
SBNation.com pick: This is a tough game to pick because it comes down to the age-old question -- offense or defense? The Patriots are the league's third-ranked offense and the Ravens are the league's third-ranked defense so this is a battle of elites on each side of the ball. In the end, I think offense wins out and the Patriots win this one. New England's offensive attack is stifled in the first half but they break out in the second half. Baltimore keeps it close but can't close it out. Patriots win, 30-27.
No. 4 New York Giants (11-7) vs. No. 2 San Francisco 49ers (14-3), 6:30 p.m. ET, FOX
Niners Nation: The rain and mud could keep this game fairly low scoring and if that's the case, that would seem to favor the 49ers. The 49ers want a low-scoring defensive battle with special teams playing a key role. Those are the 49ers strengths and even with the late shootout against the Saints, they have carried the team to this point. 49ers win, 23-20.
Big Blue View: I see a very close game, and even a 27-24 score might be too high. Eli Manning has won games for the Giants in the fourth quarter all season, and I think he does it again here.The key for the Giants in this game is controlling Frank Gore and the San Francisco running attack, and not turning the ball over on offense. Giants win, 27-24.
SBNation.com pick: I can't say I'm overly confident about this pick but I'm taking the Giants. They're playing really well lately and we've seen this script before (2007-08 playoffs). The running game is the No. 1 factor to success for New York followed by their defense's ability to stop the 49ers rushing attack and make life uncomfortable for Alex Smith. I think they can do all those things and the Giants head to Indy. Giants win, 24-20.