Patriots, Ravens, 49ers, Giants vie for spots in Super Bowl

AFC and NFC Championship games this Sunday are the last stop for teams en route to Super Bowl XLVI

The NFL Playoffs are in Full Swing

The second weekend of the NFL Playoffs mostly went as expected, resulting in three home victories and one road victory. The San Francisco 49ers put together a drive, capped by a sharp touchdown pass from quarterback Alex Smith to tight-end Vernon Davis, with under two minutes to go to escape with a victory over the New Orleans Saints (36-32). The New England Patriots made a statement as quarterback Tom Brady went 26/34 for 363 yards to put an end to Tim Tebow and the Denver Broncos (45-10). The Baltimore Ravens, involved in a defensive showdown throughout the game, scored two touchdowns in the first quarter and maintained the lead to defeat the Houston Texans (20-13). The New York Giants and Eli Manning put on an offensive display to come up with an unexpected upset over the team with the best regular season record this year, the Green Bay Packers (37-20). This makes for two anticipated matchups this coming Sunday.

A preview of the AFC and NFC Conference Championships this coming Sunday:

AFC Championship Game

New England Patriots vs. Baltimore Ravens

This matchup will feature a solid Ravens defense battling a proven Patriots offense that demonstrated their offensive firepower last weekend against the Broncos, scoring a record-breaking six touchdowns with five of them in the first half. The Patriots’ passing game exhibits the potent duo of quarterback Tom Brady and tight-end Rob Gronkowski, who are determined to dominate as they did last weekend when they racked up 145 yards through the air. If the Ravens want to have a chance of winning, they will have to maintain close coverage on Gronkowski and make the usually relaxed Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. The Ravens will also have to establish their running game if they want to be an offensive threat. This could open up some receivers for Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco, who has a predilection for catching the backfield secondaries off-guard and burning them with deep completions. The Ravens will have to be aggressive on both sides of the ball in order to have a chance at beating the Patriots, whose offense is very much in winning form.

NFC Championship Game

San Francisco 49ers vs. New York Giants

Although the 49ers have the better record and the support of a home crowd, watch out for the surging New York Giants, who needed to win their last four games to keep their season alive and did just that. Giants quarterback Eli Manning has been limiting his interceptions and finding receivers, especially Hakeem Nicks, who has gathered four touchdowns in the last two games. Along with a recently rejuvenated passing game on offense, the Giants’ defense has been able to get at opposing quarterbacks with a menacing pass rushing attack from the defensive line. Osi Umenyiora and Jason Pierre-Paul are threats to the 49ers quarterback Alex Smith, who will need to have quick receiving options available when he gets blitzed. The 49ers tight-end Vernon Davis uplifted the team against the Saints after catching the final pass. Afterwards, he was seen shedding tears, which he attributed to his reflections on how far San Francisco had come from the beginning of the season. The 49ers are going to need another great performance from Davis and the receiving corps if they expect to beat the Giants.