MONEY FOR NOTHING—AND THE PICKS FOR FREE

The NFL is down to its Final Four, and as we all know, there are only three football games of importance left. (I don’t even count the Pro Bowl as football; it’s just a consolation prize, in my mind, instead of an exhibition as advertised.)

So, on with the picks:

Baltimore (+9) @ New England. This one is hard to pick a winner, so the spread seems easy to predict. Both of these teams know what they want to do, and they will do it well. The Patriots could come out on top, yet it won’t be by double digits if they do.

The Ravens have won in New England during the postseason before, and they play the kind of football that can present problems for the Patriots. Baltimore will run the ball effectively, keeping New England’s potent offense of the field, and milk the clock for all its worth.

Plus, I like the Ravens, as a matchup, against the Patriots in nearly every facet of the game. New England may have edges on Baltimore in the obvious areas—like coach and quarterback—but when you line the teams up, the scale tips in the direction of the Ravens.

New York Giants @ San Francisco (-3). The Giants became the first road victor in these playoffs, but don’t expect the trend to continue. The 49ers are supremely confident in their abilities—and rightfully so.

As football teams, neither of them really has any star power, and they’re both so fundamentally sound that it’s hard to decipher a distinct weakness in either club. San Francisco has probably the best rush defense in the NFL, so for the Giants running game, which sets up everything else they do offensively, it could be a little more than a bump in the road.

San Francisco also has surprises for us on offense, I’d imagine, that no one has seen or even thought they could accomplish as a football team, so I think we’re in for quite a show.

Most impressive team in defeat. Of all the teams eliminated from these playoffs so far, the Houston Texans really stand out. This team played so hard on both sides of the ball, and, with their third-string quarterback, still managed to remain competitive in every contest.

The Texans looked well rounded enough on defense—and they can run the football against anybody—that they could not only be set to return to the playoffs next season, but that they could be owning their division for years to come.

So my picks are in, and we’ll have to wait and see if I know at all what I’m talking about…

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