High-scoring divisonal round leads to optimism for NFL conference championships

Cam Ellis | Staff Writer

Is there anything better than playoff football?

Sufficient reasons for football’s supreme reign as post-season king could be made without even touching on-field topics. What other sport allows you to casually watch the game at a bar while simultaneously enjoying an impromptu heavyweight bout between two drunk, angry fans?

Baseball is too relaxed, hockey’s fighting happens on the ice, and no one besides yours truly cares about the NBA.

No sport can turn Dr. Jekylls into Mr. Hydes quite like the NFL. Putting on that NFL jersey is the sports fan’s version of the internet syndrome: you’re no longer responsible for anything you say or do. It’s sort of genius actually, all of the same anonymity while also being able to go out in public. Hats off to you, NFL fans. Their patience throughout the snooze-fest of the weekend formally known as the 2013 Wild Card round paid off, as fans all across the nation were treated to a phenomenal slate of divisional games.

The Ray Lewis Retirement Tour continues on, as the scrappy- I’m trying to use as many sports clichés as possible- Ravens upset the top seeded Denver Broncos in double overtime, 38-35. Word out of Denver is that Papa Johns is now offering a special deal where your pizza comes with as many free toppings as you can handle if your 13-3 football team has a massive breakdown with 15 seconds left in the game and loses.

The 49ers then dismantled the Packers in what fans of other teams that are still playing in the playoffs are calling “Those two hours on Saturday night when I realized that Colin Kaepernick would be in my nightmares for the next three weeks.” Or maybe that was just me.

The most exciting game of the weekend came Sunday afternoon, when the Seattle Seahawks came within eight seconds of upsetting the Atlanta Falcons. Seattle scored 21 points in the fourth quarter, including the go-ahead touchdown with 31 seconds left. Evidently that was enough time for QB Matt Ryan, who led the Falcons down the field in time for kicker Matt Bryant to hit the game-winning field goal.

The last game of the weekend had the New England Patriots beating the Houston Texans in the least optimistic 41-28 win I’ve ever watched. The Patriots lost TE Rob Gronkowski to a broken arm, because apparently breaking your arm once in a season just wasn’t enough for Gronk.

With only four teams left, here’s a look at this weekend’s upcoming games.

San Francisco at Atlanta.

The 49ers are unbelievably good. Their staple for the past several years has been their fast, hard-hitting defense. Led by their three All-Pro Linebackers Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis and NaVarro Bowman, the Niners now have the franchise QB that stood between them and their sixth title. Second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick burst on the scene this season when their first-string QB Alex Smith was sidelined with a concussion. Getting better by the week, Kaepernick turned in the best performance of his young career by throwing for 263 yards and rushing for another 181 yards, setting the record for most rushing yards by a quarterback in any game…ever. So there’s that.

The Falcons finally found themselves on the wining side of a playoff game, with Matt Ryan silencing his critics for the time being. While the game is being played in Atlanta and the Falcons were the best team in the NFC this year, this game is San Fran’s to lose. The Niners are the most complete team in the playoffs and are currently playing superb football on both sides of the ball. A good offense may beat a good defense in Week 6, but defense dominates the playoffs. San Fran wins 31-21.

Baltimore at New England.

My neighbors across the street are huge Ravens fans, so naturally for the last couple days I’ve been rolling down the windows and yelling at them every time I drive by their house. I’m not particularly proud of it, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to stop any time soon. In a rematch of last years AFC Title game, the Ravens return to Foxboro to try and avenge their loss to the Pats almost a year ago. Baltimore didn’t have a great regular season, but the announcement that this will be Ray Lewis’ last season seems to have given Baltimore new life. Their defense has play-makers all over the field, although stats will show you that their not exactly making plays. The Ravens were ranked 17th in passing yards allowed and 20th in rushing yards allowed during the regular season.

The Pats defense is equally suspicious, employing the “bend-don’t-break” mentality that is single handedly responsible for the current condition of my nail beds. In a battle of bad defenses, the team that gets the best play from their quarterback is going to have the best chance to win. With that being said, the chances of Joe Flacco being Tom Brady are slightly less likely than Tom Brady being Tom Brady. I like the Pats close, 28-21.

Those are my picks and I’m sticking to them, unless I’m wrong.