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Against the Odds: Championship Game Edition

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    NEWSLETTERS

    OK, we all know betting on sports is illegal in 46 states, so don't do it unless you're in Vegas, Oregon, Montana or Delaware, but if you're going, you can make these bets for me.

    Baltimore at New England (-7.5), Sunday, 2 p.m. — This one is really tough to pick. The Patriots won a horrible mismatch last weekend in Foxboro against Tim Tebow and the Broncos. The Ravens were really pretty fortunate to beat an injury-laden Houston Texans bunch at home, thanks to an untimely fumble by Jacoby Jones. The Ravens have never allowed a 300-yard passer in a playoff game, and they're one of a select few teams to have ever beaten Tom Brady at home in the playoffs. But this year, Tom Brady seems to be on a mission, as was evidenced by his merciless shredding of the Broncos last weekend. Joe Flacco has won some games this year (see Steelers, twice) and has lost some games too. Give me the Patriots to cover the spread late in what will be a hard-fought, close game.

    New York Giants (+2.5) at San Francisco, Sunday, 5:30 p.m. — Wow. This one is even tougher. The 49ers have earned a lot of respect in recent weeks. Heck, I took them straight up to beat the Saints last weekend and they didn't disappoint. I also took the Giants straight up to beat the Packers, and we know how that went. These are two hot teams who are playing with a lot of confidence and are very similar to each other. Both teams play lights out defense and both have great pass rushes. Alex Smith has six fourth-quarter comebacks this season after entering the year with a massive cloud of doubt over his head that he could be a starting QB in the NFL. His game against the Saints was masterful. Yet, there might not be a quarterback playing better right now than Eli Manning. In just the fourth postseason meeting between two quarterbacks who were No. 1 draft picks, I give Manning the slight nod. Weather could also play a factor as it's supposed to be a muddy swamp on Sunday but I'm not sure that favors either team — maybe the Niners in the slightest. When it comes down to it, give me Eli over Smith largely because Eli has been there done that on this big of stage, and Smith never has. Plus, the Giants will pressure Smith a lot more than the Saints did last week.

    Last week: 3-1. Playoff total: 6-2.