Ravens +7 1/2 at Patriots (1 unit)
The Patriots absolutely crush Tim Tebow and Denver, while Baltimore fails to cover against Houston and its third-string rookie quarterback. What does it mean? An inflated pointspread that's what. Tom Brady is having another magnificent year. But as the Saints and Packers found out the hard way last week a great quarterback can't compensate for a weak defense at the upper level playoff stage.New England ranked 31st in total defense and passing yards. The Patriots' defense can't compare to Baltimore's defense. The Ravens have a much stronger pass rush and secondary. They gave up nearly 2,000 fewer yards than the Patriots. That's mind-boggling. So is the fact that Baltimore surrendered 1.6 yards less per pass and 1.1 yards less per run than the Patriots.
Still, the oddsmaker is swayed by Brady and the marketplace to make the Patriots a strong touchdown or more favorite.
This is a slap in the face to the Ravens. During the John Harbaugh era, the Ravens have won playoff games at four different road sites. This includes a 33-14 victory against the Patriots at Foxboro just two years ago. They also have covered 88 percent of the time during the Harbaugh years when getting 7 1/2 or more points.
The Ravens aren't fancy, but they are very solid. Joe Flacco has passed for more than 3,600 yards each of the last three seasons, Ray Rice is one of the best all-purpose backs in football and Anquan Boldin is one of the league's better possession wide receivers.
Baltimore's defense ranked in the top four in all the major statistical categories, including third in fewest points at 16.6 and in total yards at 288.9. The Ravens also won all seven games they played this season versus playoff teams.
The only playoff teams the Patriots went up against besides the bogus Broncos were the Steelers and Giants. New England lost both of those games.
Aside from Brady and tight end Rob Gronkowski, the Patriots don't have any big stars. Their running backs are mediocre, they lack speed at wide receiver and their offensive line is banged-up.
The Ravens have the coaching, playoff experience, veteran leadership, top runner and outstanding defense to hang in against the Patriots if not win straight-up just like they did two years ago.
Giants +2 1/2 at 49ers (1 unit) HOPING TO GET +3
In this day and age in the NFL offense trumps defense. The Giants have the superior quarterback, much better wide receivers, a dominant pass rush and loads of momentum.
This will prove enough to overcome the 49ers, who are inexperienced in playoff games and still walking on air after last week's tremendous victory against New Orleans.
Alex Smith played the finest game of his career versus the Saints last week. I don't see Smith duplicating that effort. He hasn't thrown for 300 yards all season and his wide receivers are barely adequate. The Giants will be paying full attention to tight end Vernon Davis, the 49ers' lone legitimate receiving threat.
Lost in the glare of the 49ers' great win against the Saints was the fact that Drew Brees threw four touchdown passes and shredded San Francisco's perceived great defense for 462 yards.
The 49ers just nipped the Saints in the final nine seconds despite a plus 4 turnover advantage. Now the 49ers do have an NFL-best plus 28 turnover ratio and it's not a fluke because their defense hits hard, but it's highly doubtful the 49ers are going to have a big turnover edge on the Giants.
If Eli Manning isn't an elite quarterback, he's close. He threw for nearly 5,000 yards. Manning is a proven commodity in the playoffs, too, with a 4-1 postseason road record with a 9-to-2 touchdown-to-interception ratio in those games.
The 49ers are extremely tough to run on, but their secondary isn't that strong. The few times the 49ers faced good quarterbacks they gave up big chunks of yardage. This was the case against Tony Romo, Michael Vick, Matthew Stafford and Manning. The 49ers were fortunate to draw the Steelers when Ben Roethlisberger was hobbled.
Manning has the NFL's best wide receiving tandem - Hakeem Nicks and Victor Cruz - to throw to. The Giants' ground attack has picked up, too, with the return to health of Ahmad Bradshaw. The Giants are 21-4 when Bradshaw rushes for 60 or more yards.
The Giants are playing the best football in the league steamrolling the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons and Packers in do-or-die matchups. No team can match their defensive line when it comes to pass rushing. The Giants have recorded six sacks and 12 hits on the quarterback in their two playoff games.
While the Giants were winning must-win games against tough opponents, the 49ers were sailing through the weak NFC West. Before defeating the Saints, the 49ers had played the Rams, Seattle, beat-up Pittsburgh, Arizona and St. Louis.
Giants-49ers Over 42 (2 units)
First let's talk about the weather. It's not going to be as dire as some are predicting. There is a 40 percent chance of rain, but temperatures are going to be in the 50s and the wind won't be more than 10 mph at the absolute worst.
A slick field, by the way, hurts the pass rush of both teams.
We have a history between these two teams. They played on Nov. 11 at San Francisco and there was 47 points scored with the 49ers winning, 27-20. Ahmad Bradshaw didn't play, which impacted the Giants' ground attack. Still, Eli Manning threw for 311 yards and two touchdowns.
The 49ers' pass defense has proven vulnerable to the few top quarterbacks they've gone again such as Manning. They surrendered 416 yards to Michael Vick, 345 yards to Tony Romo and 293 to Matthew Stafford. All three of those quarterbacks threw two touchdown passes against the 49ers.
This was during the regular season. In their one postseason game, the 49ers yielded four touchdowns and 462 yards to Drew Brees and the Saints. Against these four elite quarterbacks, the 49ers gave up an average of 24.2 points.
Alex Smith is off his finest game as a pro. Smith proved dangerous not only with his arm against the Saints last week, but with his legs, too, running for a key 28-yard touchdowns. The Giants gave up 66 yards on the ground to Aaron Rodgers on just seven carries.
The 49ers have a strong ground attack spearheaded by Frank Gore to keep New York's star pass rushers at bay.
It takes 20 points from each team to ensure an over. That shouldn't be a problem. Keep in mind that with a short spread range overtime is more of a possibility than normal.