We interrupt this Texans-grieving for an update on the Alabama tea bagger and my AFC and NFC title game picks! (I'm pretty sure when my parents sent me off to college, they didn't think I'd be typing that sentence in my job.)
The main culprit in the video from Wednesday's post is identified on Deadspin as Brian Downing, a now former manager of a Hibbett Sports Store in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, not to be confused with former California Angels catcher Brian Downing who Dave Parker threw out at home plate in the 1979 MLB All-Star Game.
Downing has turned himself in to New Orleans police, presumably sober and with his sack secured inside his pants.
Now onto this weekend's picks...
PATRIOTS -7 1/2 over Ravens I'll start with what I think could go wrong and say that two things scare me: first, last week the Ravens' offense was dominated by the Houston Texans' defense to the tune of 11 total first downs, while the Patriots' defense was busy completely flummoxing the hapless Denver Broncos' offense. Those lasting images are a BIG reason why the spread is 7.5 points. We all know that in real life, on the aggregate, the Ravens' offense is better and the Patriots' defense is worse than what we saw last weekend. That's a fact. So I admit that I'm somewhat fearful that the game will feel slower (in a good way) to the Ravens' offense and faster (in a not so good way) to the Patriots' defense.
Second, the Patriots have been notoriously slow starters (last weekend versus Denver notwithstanding) and if they let the Ravens get a lead in this game, Ray Rice and Ricky Williams are good enough to slow the game down and grind enough clock to mitigate Tom Brady-inflicted damage. Put simply, if the Patriots fall behind, say, 10-0, then 7.5 becomes much harder to cover against the Ravens' defense.
So with all of that said, I am still picking the Patriots, and at this late stage in the playoffs, simply put it comes down to the final question you should ask yourself before any big football wager -- am I on the right quarterback? And on one side in this game, you have the most valuable player of the last decade, and on the other side you have a guy who decided to grow a second unibrow on his face (the second one framing his upper lip). In big spots you never, EVER bet on a guy with a unibrow, let alone two unibrows.
Ravens/PATRIOTS OVER 50 1/2 And this one is simple -- if you are picking the Ravens, the under is a no-brainer. But I'm not picking the Ravens. I'll go with the magic rule of taking the over whenever it's fifty or more. Patriots 34, Ravens 21.
Giants +2 1/2 over 49ERS This game is the beacon of hope for every team that is currently playing with a number one overall draft pick at quarterback. With 2004 top pick Eli Manning under center for the Giants and 2005 top pick Alex Smith taking snaps for the Niners, the Lions (Stafford), Rams (Bradford), Panthers (Newton) can all tell themselves "Hey, that could be us someday!" Of course, a mere glance at the Giants' bench during this game also can serve as a reminder of how catastrophic missing on a number one overall pick can be. OH HI, DAVID CARR!
The things that made the Giants' Super Bowl-champion team so dangerous a couple years ago, namely their running game and pass rush, are clicking again, but now they're doing it with Eli Manning playing at an elite level and with weapons on the outside that are among the best in football (Nicks, Cruz, Manningham). These two teams met several weeks ago in Week 10 of the regular season, and the Niners had a 15-point flurry within a minute at the beginning of the fourth quarter centered around an Eli Manning interception. Even after that Manning had the Giants on the cusp of tying the game late. And that was a Giants team with no running game at the time (3.2 yards per carry).
Alex Smith showed everybody something last week in the late rally against the Saints, but I'll go back to the quarterback question, and I can't believe I'm doing this, but I'll take Eli Manning....
Giants/49ERS UNDER 42 ...in a fairly low scoring game. Giants 20, 49ers 16.
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Last week: 3-3 Season record: 68-51-1
Listen to Sean Pendergast on 1560 The Game from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. weekdays, and watch the simulcast on Comcast 129 from 6 a.m. to 7:30 a.m. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanCablinasian.