Our Big NFL Playoff Predictions, Championship Sunday Edition

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Thoughts on whether the Patriots will make it all the way, Eli Manning can keep up his hot streak, and more

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Every week, our panel of sports fans discusses a topic of the moment. For today's conversation, Hampton Stevens (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), Patrick Hruby (writer, ESPN and The Atlantic), and Jake Simpson (writer, The Atlantic) look ahead to this weekend's pro football games.


Hey, guys,

This is a special time of year. When arctic winds blow and John Facenda's voice seems to echo on the frozen ground, it can only mean one thing for sports fans: tennis! The Australian Open is on down under, and defending champ Kim Clijster looks like she's on a collision course with a rejuvenated Serena Williams. I kid the tennis fans, of course.  All three of you. The rest of us, though, will be enjoying the best darn day in the whole football season: sweet Championship Sunday. Four teams, two games, one day-long orgy of pigskin, and absolutely none of the cultural baggage that comes with that other game—the one with Roman numerals. There are be no parties to attend, no fighting for seats with people who hush you during commercials. It's just the game, and only the game. Like a Super Bowl for pro football.

Predictions are in order, certainly. Yours truly has been on a roll.

Straight downhill. I scoffed, for instance, when Jake predicted the Niners would beat the Saints. Then I chortled when he picked his Giants to upset the Pack in Lambeau. But who's scoffing and chortling now? Lots of folks, probably. With good reason. Nevertheless, undaunted but running out of space, we'll make this brief.

In the AFC, common sense says New England's double tight end offense wrecks the Ravens. So does Vegas, who have the Patriots favored by more than a touchdown on the road. That's a lot. If the guys in purple will remember to give Ray Rice touches in the first half, maybe, just maybe...aw, who am I kidding?

Smoke-and-mirrors defense or not, Pats win big, 28-17. In the NFC, the Giants have sold me. And how. That pass rush can't be stopped, and Eli will be the best quarterback on the field. Plus, the New Yorkers think they can win. Lord knows, they aren't afraid to travel. Giants by a touchdown, and the Super Bowl XLII rematch is on.

Patrick, you didn't make picks last week. But since I've already walked out on a limb, maybe you'd care to join me?

–Hampton

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Patrick Hruby, Jake Simpson, and Hampton Stevens 

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