I fully know that I predicted the Ravens to play the Packers a few months ago, but after watching the last two weeks of football, I've decided to change my picks and predict a Patriots-49ers Super Bowl. I will first say why I feel it will be a 49ers-Patriots matchup, and then say why I feel the Patriots will be back on top.
The 49ers have been as the underdog team all year long, (including last week against the Saints), have been told that Alex Smith can't win the big game, and a first year head coach can't succeed in the NFL. With all that said, here are the San Francisco 49ers playing for a chance to play on Super Bowl Sunday. The 49ers played the Giants earlier on this year in San Francisco with the 49ers holding off the Giants with a 27-20 victory. In that game, Eli Manning was leading a last minute drive when the 49ers stopped the Giants on a 4th and short to win the Game. Many people would say that it was the regular season and the Giants are playing their best football now. I do agree that the Giants are playing tremendous football right now, but just to remind everyone that loss came right after the Giants had won three straight including going into Foxboro and defeated the Patriots on a last second drive. After that loss, the Giants last 4 straight games and 5 of 6.
As for this week's game, I feel the 49ers again should be able to matchup well against the Giants. On offense, the Giants do a great job at getting after the quarterback, which served a great purpose against a great passing offense like Green Bay. For the Giants, though they don't have great cornerbacks, they have one of the best defensive lines in the NFL and are the best in the league at rushing only four people and still being able to get after the quarterback. That worked great against the Packers but won't work against the run happy 49ers. This could fall right into the 49ers hand, as they want to run the ball as often as they can and put little pressure on Alex Smith. If Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter are able to get to the second level of the Giants defense, then it will allow for the 49ers to control the game and force Eli Manning and the Giants offense to be perfect. As for the Giants offense, unlike last week, the Giants this week won't be able to establish a good running game (just ask the Saints who rushed for 37 yards), and Eli Manning's going to be forced to win this game. Though Eli's been great during the playoffs, he's received help in the running game, which most likely won't be at his disposal this weekend. I think this game will greatly resemble the first matchup between these two teams.
For the AFC Championship game, I feel this is a tremendous matchup, featuring multiple Pro-bowlers along with many future Hall-Of-Famers. When the Patriots have the ball it will be a showdown of the second ranked offense in the NFL this year against the third ranked defense in the NFL. Like other teams that have played the Pats this year, the Ravens are going to have a difficult time containing the two tight ends (Gronkowski and Hernandez), the wide receivers (Welker and Branch), and the various running backs that the Patriots throw at teams (Green-Ellis, Ridley, Woodhead, and now even Aaron Hernandez). Even though the Ravens have a great defense and a lot of great individual players (Lewis, Ngata, Suggs, Reed), the Ravens (outside or Reed, who were not sure how healthy he truly is) have an average secondary. With all of the targets that Tom Brady has to throw to, I feel he should be able to put up at least three touchdowns.
For the other side of the ball, the Ravens offense (with the exception of Ray Rice) has been inconsistent. If the Patriots are able to contain Ray Rice, and force Joe Flacco to win the game, I feel they should be able to have success. The Patriots defense this year has been abysmal at times (31st ranked in the NFL), they ranked first in the AFC with 34 takeaways during the regular season. With that said, it shows that when the Patriots defense needs to make a key play, they step up and make the key play. The Patriots also ranked close to the middle (17th) of the NFL in opponents yards rushing per game. I feel with all of these different statistics, combined with the passing offense that the Ravens have, and Tom Brady remembering what happened the last time the Ravens played the Patriots in the playoffs. add up to a Patriots win on Sunday.
Tom Brady once again is in the Super Bowl for the 5th time in 11 opportunities, and has the opportunity to play against the team he cheered for when he was younger. In the documentary The Brady 6 by NFL Network, it showed that Tom Brady still remembers being pass over by the 49ers in the third round and instead drafted Giovanni Carmazzi, and Brady had to wait until pick 199 in the 6th round. I feel this is a game where Tom Brady will be able to get a little revenge on his childhood team.
As for the game, I feel the Patriots game plan will be very similar to the strategy that should be used in the AFC Championship game. The Patriots don't do a great job at stopping the pass, but do an average job at stopping the run game. Like the strategy that they need to show against the Ravens, the Patriots need to be able to stop Frank Gore and Kendal Hunter and the 49ers run game. If they're able to contain the run game along with Vernon Davis, then I feel the Patriots defense should be able to hold up and do a good enough job.
As for the other side of the ball, which features the second ranked offense against the forth-ranked defense in the regular season. Throughout the regular season, the 49ers never faced an offense like the Patriots, and faced a Saints offense that put up 32 points while playing on the road. This game will be played indoors, where Brady should have opportunities against the 49ers defense. Though the 49ers bring a great defense, last week they showed they do have holes in there pass defense. The Niners had the best-run defense in the NFL during the regular season, but ranked 16th in the pass defense. This should play well for the Patriots, as this is a pass first offense that tends to run the ball second to open up the passing game. The Niners have a great defense, but Tom Brady and the Patriots will be too much for Patrick Willis and the 49ers on Super Bowl Sunday.
For another opinion see Why the NY Giants Will Win the Super Bowl
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