I'm just overjoyed that you manned up and made picks this week, Patrick. And frankly, I'm feeling a little pressure here after my 4-for-4 showing last weekend—particularly since my beloved Giants are two wins away from an '08 redux that would make my winter.
First things first, though—Pats-Ravens. The conventional wisdom—and Hampton and Patrick—says New England, particularly after their throttling of the Fighting Tebows. But nobody has mentioned Sunday's dirty little secret: It's gonna be cold in Foxborough. Like 30-before-the-wind-chill-in-a-post-snow-blustery-day cold. When it's cold AND windy, offense usually gives way to defense (see: The Ice Bowl or the 1981 AFC Championship game). If that holds true, the formula for this one becomes pretty simple. Ravens defense + Ray Rice + average game from Joe Flacco > Tom Brady + passing options - no running game - terrible defense. Flacco almost scares me into picking New England, but I'm predicting he'll only have one turnover, which should be just enough for Baltimore. Ravens 20, Pats 16.
Now for the main course—a Giants-Niners game that evokes memories of the epic 1990 NFC championship game, a 15-13 win for the Giants that included Leonard Marshall abruptly ending Joe Montana's prime and Roger Craig earning permanent goat status in the Bay Area. Sunday's game should be equally close, assuming the Giants team that trounced the Packers shows up. The G-Men have been vulnerable to the run for most of the season, and a big game from Frank Gore—or the suddenly nimble Alex Smith—could be disastrous for New York. But the Giants' offense will put up its share of points on the stout Niners defense because even they can't stop all of New York's receiving weapons at the same time. I'm thinking this game comes down to the quarterbacks, which if you watched the Niners-Saints game seems to bode well for San Fran. But I'm not a believer in Alex Smith's clutch chops just yet, and Eli Manning has proven beyond a reasonable doubt that he's a big-game cooler of a quarterback. That's good enough for me. Giants 27, Niners 20.
Oh, and welcome to the Big Blue bandwagon, guys. There should still be some room out there in the back.