AFC/NFC Conference Finals Preview and Play
The Baltimore Ravens had a real chance to punch their ticket to last year’s Super Bowl but they failed to escape Gillette Stadium with the AFC Championship Trophy. Following their grueling victory at Mile High last week the Ravens again find themselves considerable road dogs to perennial AFC favourite, New England.
New England rode Billy Cundiff’s missed field goal to their fifth AFC title in 11 seasons in 2011-12, but they sit without a Super Bowl victory since 2005. Brady and company have been runner-up to Eli Manning and Big Blue in their last two appearances in the big game.
Jim Harbaugh’s San Francisco 49ers were also burned by Eli after a couple special team gaffs allowed the Giants back into game in last year’s NFC final. San Fran ultimately watched their Super Bowl hopes snapped as Lawrence Tyne’s game winning field goal sailed through the uprights in overtime.
The Atlanta Falcons watched the rest of the 2011-12 playoffs after being ousted by? Yes: Eli Manning and the New York Giants in last year’s Wild Card round. After winning the Super Bowl in 2011-12 the Giants didn’t even make the playoffs this year, let alone the Conference final.
This year’s edition sees the Baltimore Ravens (+9) landing in Foxboro in a rematch of last year’s classic AFC Championship. In the NFC Championship the San Francisco 49ers (-4) head into the Georgia Dome to face the Atlanta Falcons.
AFC/NFC Championship Teaser Play (betting prediction)
The Patriots and Ravens have played in two games decided on the last play of the game in the span of the last 12 months. The Ravens gained a modicum of revenge in week 3 as they squeaked out a home victory on a Justin Tucker field goal as time expired on the Patriots.
The Ravens are beaten and battered, but they are playing for their motivational and inspirational leader in Ray Lewis who plans to retire when the Ravens’ postseason concludes. It took Lewis’ club nearly a game and a half to put away the Broncos in double OT last Saturday, but this is clearly a team that does not give up.
Colin Kaepernick has looked impressive since taking over for Alex Smith who suffered a concussion in week 9. The 49ers trounced over reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers last week as 3.5 point home favourites. Atlanta barely made their way into just the third NFC Championship game in franchise history after squandering a 27-7 in the 4th quarter last week to Seattle. Although Kaepernick has looked impressive and the Falcons appeared shaky late last week, I feel 4 points is too many for the 49ers in this spot.
Teaser Play: Atlanta Falcons +11/Baltimore Ravens +16 (5dimes.eu)
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NFL Record: 11-8-1