Conference Championship Thursday Prediction Pick’Em

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NFL Championship Sunday is now just three days away. The 49ers have the new X-Factor in Colin Kaepernick, the Falcons and Matt Ryan finally got the playoff monkey off their back, the Ravens are trying to send Ray Lewis out on top, and the Patriots and Tom Brady are looking to get back to the top of the NFL. This Sunday will be a good one for sure.

Now, before I make my picks two football stories caught my eye this week. The first is Chip Kelly headed to the Philadelphia Eagles to become their new head coach. When it was believed that Kelly was headed back to Oregon, I wrote about him becoming a living legend on that campus. Well, that didn’t work out. The way I see it, the NFL is the big boys’ party, and Kelly wanted in. I think college is for some coaches and the NFL is for others. Nick Saban tried his hand in the NFL and figured out the college game was more suited for him. Now, I don’t know how Kelly will turn out in the NFL. It’s obvious he wanted a chance at it, and in every respect he has earned that chance. He has been one of the best college coaches the past four years, and he deserves his chance at the NFL if he wants it. I don’t know if he will boom or bust, but what I do know is that I will watch and it will be interested.

The second football story is Manti Te’o. Good luck making heads or tails out of it. What I get out of it is someone created a fake girl to be Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. He met her online and talked to her on the phone every night. He says he talked to her every night for eight hours. First of all, how can anyone talk on the phone for eight hours?! Anyway, Manti is claiming to be the victim of a sick joke, and if that is true than it is a very sick joke indeed. The other possibility is Manti is in on the whole thing and only went with it for attention. In my opinion, he was fooled by a sick joke. From the little I have seen about him and the way he carries himself, I think he was just gullible. He seems nice and into his family and religion a lot, so I don’t think he would manipulate the fans like that. I just think he was a fool in love with someone who didn’t exist.

Now, to the games:

49ers @ Falcons-

Key to the game for the 49ers: Limit big plays

Matt Ryan is at his best when he can sling the ball down the field to Julio Jones and Roddy White. These big plays are what lead to the Falcons points, and they fire up the home crowd. When the Falcons play in front of their home crowd they are 9-1 with their only loss coming in Week 17 when they had no interest in winning. The 49ers need to limit the big plays and make the Falcons beat them with execution and scheme.

Key to the game for the Falcons: Contain Kaepernick

It probably goes without saying, but the Packers’ defensive gameplan was one of the worst of the year. No containment, no QB spy, nothing. They just lined up man-to-man and then when they all dropped back, Kaepernick took off. So, the Falcons need to contain Kaepernick and they need to not give away free yards.

Pick: 49ers

I think the 49ers will handle the Falcons in their own stadium, and limit the big plays over the top. I think the Falcons were lucky to win last week and their luck ends here. 49ers win: 27-17.

Ravens @ Patriots-

Key to the game for the Ravens: Pressure Brady

The blueprint for beating Tom Brady is pretty much set in stone now, and if you look at the teams that have given him trouble through his career, it’s the teams like the Ravens, Giants, and Steelers. The teams that can rush the passer with four linemen and drop everyone back into coverage. So, the Ravens know they can hang with the Patriots, and they know if they are able to get in Brady’s face and get him on the ground, then they can win.

Key to the game for the Patriots: Redzone offense

I almost went with limit big plays here as well, but Flacco will get his against this secondary. No, the key for the Patriots is to come away with touchdowns when they get into the Redzone. If they have to settle for field goals, they will be in trouble. Normally, Redzone offense is a strength for the Patriots, but with the loss of Rob Gronkowski, there is no go-to-guy down there. They will need to be tough against the Ravens defense if they are going to run the ball down by the goal line. The Patriots are going to move the ball without a doubt in my mind, but in the Redzone the Ravens can buckle down against the shorthanded Pats. Scoring touchdowns over field goals is the key for the Patriots.

Pick: Patriots

I think the Patriots are going to be able to move the ball and score enough to win. I don’t think they will get to 30 points but they will score enough. The Patriots’ defense has improved every game, and I think they will be good enough to win as well. Patriots win: 28-24.

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