Sports Opinion & Analysis

Hair of the Dog

In NFL on January 16, 2013 at 8:21 am

by Chris Carosi

Three of the four teams in the NFL’s “final four” this Sunday also played in last year’s championship weekend. The storylines have altered, but the demarcation of winning and losing remains the same: limit mistakes on offense and play sound defense and special teams.  How the games will go will depend a lot on that basic formula. There is rarely a boring game on this weekend historically.

You've never seen anybody like this during the playoffs.

You’ve never seen anybody like this during the playoffs.

Last year, it can be said that both Baltimore and San Francisco screwed themselves over royally with shoddy special teams play. Can they possibly do it again or just genuinely lose?

The good news for casual fans or fans with no team in the race is that the chances of someone new winning the Super Bowl is very good. With the exception of New England, the other three teams have had significant droughts or no championships at all. That is a good thing. Rest assured I will be rooting for any team not named “Patriots”. Let’s take a look at each team’s history in championship games and Super Bowls. This is your nerd warning.

Baltimore Ravens

All time W-L in AFC Championship games: 1-2

Last AFC Championship appearance: 2012 (Lost to New England)

Last Super Bowl appearance: 2001 (Defeated New York Giants)

The Ravens are running on adrenaline, which is historically a sure-fire way to upset team after team. That has been done before and recently, as teams with low seeds have actually won a lot of titles over the years (teams with higher seeds are just 12-10 in conference championships in the last 10 years). This is the Ravens second-straight AFC title game against the same team, which by sheer odds alone favors them (if you ignore the uh… game itself). They’ve dropped two AFC title games in a row going back to 2008, with roughly the same players. Their lone Super Bowl with Brian Billick’s defense-only squad in 2001 won one of the most irrelevant Super Bowls ever. Trent Dilfer was their quarterback. Trent Dilfer. I’ll say it again. Trent Dilfer. 

This was a strange, mysterious way to start the 21st Century.

Atlanta Falcons

All time W-L in NFC Championship games: 1-1

Last NFC Championship appearance: 2005 (Lost to Philadelphia)

Last Super Bowl appearance: 1999 (Lost to Denver)

The Falcons are underdogs at home for a lot of good reasons:

  1. They have trouble putting teams away
  2. Their defense is poop
  3. Historically bad at home in the playoffs

These playoffs are all about forgetting the past for Atlanta. They have struggled so hard in the playoffs under Mike Smith/Matt Ryan, and have already shit their pants once against Seattle. As above, I’ve seen teams bounce back from unimpressive wins in the playoffs before, but the weight of all that stuff plus the powerful 49ers offense coming to town is really daunting for this team. Also, their reaction to their Divisional win was way too emotional. The only thing that hasn’t happened for this team: they’ve never hosted an NFC championship game until this year. The last time they got this far, Michael Vick was their quarterback and they got smoked at Philadelphia. The time is now to set things right.

Super Bowl XXXIII (1999): “The One That Was Never There”

New England Patriots

All-Time W-L in AFC Championship games: 7-1

Last AFC Championship appearance: 2012 (Defeated Baltimore)

Last Super Bowl appearance: 2012 (Lost to New York Giants)

If we’re talking history, then New England pretty much sets the bar for success in these games. In the Belichick era, the Patriots began winning as underdogs in their “dynasty” years in the first half of the oughts and then as favorites for the last half, only losing one (to the Colts in 2007) in their entire history. They are heavy favorites at home in this game, and will no doubt do what they always do: crush you with their offense. So much pressure is on the Raven’s defense in this game. But as I said above, the odds are certainly in favor of Baltimore. You can’t lose the same game two years in a row right? Right?!

Tom Brady - AFC Championship - Baltimore Ravens v New England Patriots

“Sup, Joe? Next year I might do you a favor and choose to bang your wife AND your mother instead of beating you again. Fair trade?”

San Francisco 49ers

All-Time W-L in NFC Championship games: 5-6

Last NFC Championship appearance: 2012 (Lost to New York Giants)

Last Super Bowl appearance: 1995 (Defeated San Diego)

I didn’t know until I did research for this article that the 49ers have a losing record in the NFC championship game: including two in the Steve Young era. That kind of dulls the gold of their helmets a bit. But just like last year, they are favorites again. We all know what happened last year.

The 49ers are poised to erase this image from their canon.

Eli Manning even said after that debacle that the Giants had defeated a “Super Bowl Defense”. Kind of a high-road burn, that is. San Francisco is poised to win and there is no doubt in that defense to play tough. That might be all they’ll need to do to win.

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