It seems astonishing that it was only two years ago that the Vikings were going into the Superdome and I was reasonably confident that they would walk out having taken another step towards for a very winnable Super Bowl. We all know how that ended up, thanks to the usual voodoo.
In the AFC game, I think the Patriots will beat the Ravens without too much trouble. Although they’re playing well, the Ravens defense is getting older, they don’t match up well with Hernandez and Gronkowski, and Belichick+Brady > Harbaugh+Flacco. I thought Houston actually looked like the better team last week and likely would have won without that dreadful decision by Jacoby Jones to try to field a punt better left untouched.
On the NFC side, it feels like the 1980s again. But the 49ers don’t have Montana or Young and I think the Giants will beat the 49ers in a more competitive game than the AFC championship. The 49ers defense is fearsome and hard-hitting, but the Giants offense isn’t a high-precision machine and won’t be disrupted as easily. He may look stupid, but Eli Manning’s apparent inability to recognize pressure becomes a big plus in the playoffs. He takes Barry Sanders’s “act like you’ve been there before” philosophy to new heights; when everyone else is celebrating a big, timely touchdown, he’s looking as if he’s wondering what the fuss is all about.
And looking at it from the conspiratorial angle, you have to think that the league would love to push the REVENGE angle with a Patriots-Giants Super Bowl. It was pretty obvious that the Packers were supposed to make it, but their meltdown was so complete that not even blatant assistance from the referees made any difference.
Last week 3-1. For the playoffs, 6-2.
UPDATE: Make that 8-2.