So we’ve got our final four with some real hard-hitting defenses among them. Some say the Year of the Quarterback is over with Aaron Rodgers and Brees going out, but we still have two Super Bowl-winning QBs in Brady and Eli Manning, whose Giants beat Brady’s Pats a few years back, you may recall, at Super Bowl XLII. These four teams deserve to be there. They’ve all been dominant, able to adapt and finish games.
Ravens at Patriots
The Patriots have won nine straight games going in, which looks great, but they also won 18 in a row going into the Super Bowl in ’08 and lost. I think this Patriots’ offense is a little too explosive for the Ravens to contain. And their defense is good enough to hold Baltimore and get that offense back on the field. This could be an endurance game more than anything else.
Game changers to watch out for on the Ravens include running back Ray Rice and linebacker Terrell Suggs, who leads by example. For New England, they have a lot of ways of getting everyone—including their two star tight ends, Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez—involved. Their offense always puts you back on your heels. And I like safety Patrick Chung (Oregon Ducks shout out!), who has the ability to make game-changing plays. I’m picking the favored Patriots.
UPDATE: Patriots won 23-20.
Giants at 49ers
Playing at home, the 49ers are favored. Both teams KO’d early Super Bowl favorites in the Saints and Packers by taking advantage of momentum swings and turnovers. No team had more takeaways (38) than the 49ers, and they also boast an NFL-best plus-28 turnover differential. But the Giants forced the Packers into turnovers, too, so protecting the ball will be key for both teams.
This could be a bruising ground game, so watch for 49ers running back Frank Gore and his O-line. Meanwhile, the 49ers’ secondary must play big to stop Manning, Nicks and explosive wideout Victor Cruz—it may be his turn to shine. Manning’s experience over Alex Smith could play a big role, but in the NFL, you can’t overlook anything. It’s been a while since they’ve been in this position, but I have to go with the 49ers. I feel they have something special going on, plus a lot of built-up aggression.
UPDATE: Giants won 20-17 in overtime.
While others are seeing a rematch of the 2008 Super Bowl or maybe even a Harbaugh vs. Harbaugh match-up, I foresee a titanic East Coast vs. West Coast battle.
—As told to Ashley Jude Collie