If you had told me last week that the Conference Championship games are going to be put onto the backburner this week because not one, but two big sports-related scandals would be revealed and would take precedence, I would have thought they would be stories that I actually cared about. Lance Armstrong admitting to doping is like the Astros admitting that that aren’t going to win the World Series this year – it’s not something that anyone who followed sports even marginally didn’t already assume. Why is this front-page news? It’s not a secret that everyone in competitive cycling was doping he was just keeping up with the pack. Let him keep his titles or strip them from him, I don’t really care one way or the other as long as Lance and his possibly fraudulent organization are out of the news.
The other big news that broke this week is the “Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax.” Te’o lost his girlfriend to leukemia in the same week that his grandmother passed away. It was a very emotional time for him and his family but it gave him inspiration and helped him lead Notre Dame to an undefeated regular season and a berth in the BCS National Championship. His hardship was also a large part of his Heisman campaign and other national awards. The only problem was that he had never met his girlfriend. Because she didn’t exist. Notre Dame released a statement claiming that Te’o was the victim of a hoax and didn’t know he was being duped. I think that it may have started off that way but I find it hard to believe that there is a human being on this earth that it that naïve. He probably realized he was being tricked a while after it started but it was embarrassing to admit so he just kept it going to try to save face thinking it would blow over. He’s a human being, he was embarrassed, and he made a poor decision. Yeah, it will definitely hurt his draft stock and this is something that he will always be remembered for but ultimately he didn’t hurt anyone but himself. It would be different if he had actually won the Heisman or asked for donations for leukemia research in honor of his (nonexistent) girlfriend. The jokes on twitter were funny for the first 24 hours but they got old real fast. I’m just ready for the NFL Conference Championships so we can focus on the Super Bowl and then baseball! Oh, and before I forget, I threw a figurative perfect game against the spread last week! True, there were only 4 games, but I went 4-0 and you can’t take that
away from me. After my regular season performance, I have to brag while I can. Let’s get to the picks.
49ers at Falcons (+4.5) – I’ve been back and forth on this
line all week and still might switch again after I submit this article. I picked the 49ers to win the Super Bowl at the beginning of the playoffs and stand by that, but this game makes me nervous for a couple of reasons. First of all, it’s in Atlanta. The Georgia Dome is one of the few NFL stadiums that has a legitimate home-field advantage. Besides being one of the loudest stadiums in the NFL, the playing surface is turf as opposed to grass - what the 49ers are used to playing on. Turf makes everything just a little bit faster, which is perfect for the Falcons air-it-out offense and is going to be tough for the 49ers to stop. Secondly, it worries me that Colin Kaepernick had such a huge game last week against the Packers. The Falcons have had a full week to breakdown video and Kaepernick left himself really nowhere to go but down after such a masterful performance.
The case for the 49ers: They are a better team with a much
better defense than Atlanta. And the argument for Kaepernick is
that he is such a versatile player that you can watch video all you
want, you’re still not going to stop him (ask Alabama or Oklahoma
how difficult it was to slow Johnny Manziel down). Look for the 49ers
to pull this out and ultimately prove that they are the class of the
NFC, but I’m taking the Falcons to cover the 4.5 points because of
their offense and the Georgia Dome. I can’t imagine this being a
blowout either way so I’m taking the points.
Ravens (+9) at Patriots – This line opened at 9, moved
around a bit both ways and then came back to 9 so I think it’s going to stay here. Do I think the Patriots are the better team? Yes. Do I think the Patriots could win by double digits? Absolutely. Do I think Tom Brady is so much better than Joe Flacco that this should probably be closer to a 13- point line? Definitely. So why am I taking the Ravens to cover +9? Short answer: Ray Lewis. And not just because he allegedly murdered 2 people in 2000 and any opposing team should be terrified of what he might do to them if they beat the Ravens. Watch this video and tell me you wouldn’t want this man leading you into battle.
A few weeks ago Mr. Lewis (I’m going to call him that for my safety) announced that he is going to retire at the end of the season. He has been one of the faces of the NFL for the last decade and his announcement made front-page news on all of the major sports news sources. I figured it was good idea and might give his team some inspiration in the playoffs but didn’t think that it would work in a million years. In fact,I picked the Colts to beat them in the Wildcard round and even said that the playoffs were setting up just like a sports movie for the Colts. Well, I was right about the playoffs setting up like a sports movie but it’s about the Ravens, not the Colts. My head tells me that the Patriots should win this easily but my heart tells me the Ravens pull this out (or at least cover). I know it sounds crazy but I think there’s something to this Ray Lewis thing and I’m riding the mojo until the end.