Quick Links

One Harbaugh in, one out for Super Bowl picks

One Harbaugh in, one out for Super Bowl picks

For those fans clamoring to see someone new in the Super Bowl, the NFC is giving you what you want.

Sorry about the AFC.

Yep, same old, same old is ahead, with the New England Patriots hosting the Baltimore Ravens for the second straight conference championship game Sunday. With a similar result, too.

New England (13-4) is a 9 1/2-point favorite to reach its sixth Super Bowl in the Tom Brady-Bill Belichick era. The Patriots' quarterback and coach are 3-2 together in the big game, but the last two appearances have been losses to the Giants.

That surely must irk the two men who otherwise have dominated the last 12 NFL seasons.

The Patriots have never lost an AFC title game at home (4-0, three of those in those 12 seasons). They certainly came close last January when Lee Evans couldn't hold onto a pass in the end zone in the final moment that would have sent the Ravens to their second Super Bowl and first since the 2000 season, when they won it all.

New England will move the ball on Baltimore (12-6) and could resort to running it more often than in the past. Not only is Stevan Ridley a 1,000-yard rusher, something very rare for the Patriots, but the Ravens aren't nearly as stout as they once were at stopping the run. With the emergence of Shane Vereen and consistency of Danny Woodhead if he is healthy, the Patriots are deep in the backfield, too.

The loss of star tight end Rob Gronkowski will be damaging for the Patriots, but not overwhelmingly so. Aaron Hernandez will pick up the slack in receptions and the blocking of Michael Hoomanawanui against Houston was exemplary.

Where the Ravens could prosper is in a revitalized pass rush. Terrell Suggs finally is approaching his top defensive player status of 2011 after returning from a partially torn Achilles tendon. Paul Kruger already is a dynamic sack guy.

Ray Lewis' pending retirement adds an emotional boost for Baltimore.

But in the end, New England's offense will be too persistent, too sharp and too deep for Baltimore to stop. Look for Wes Welker, Brandon Lloyd and Hernandez to have strong games, and for the Patriots' defense to keep Joe Flacco, Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin and Baltimore's dangerous offense from doing too much damage.

And look for the Patriots to be in New Orleans next month.


San Francisco (minus 3 1/2) at Atlanta

Had the Falcons kept the rout going against Seattle in last Sunday's divisional round, the spread here would be different. But Atlanta (14-3) nearly blew it, raising questions among the odds makers about how good the Falcons really are.

They're plenty good, as their last-minute rally to Matt Bryant's 49-yard field goal to beat the Seahawks proved. The issue: San Francisco (12-4-1) simply is better.

Of the remaining four teams, the 49ers are the most balanced. They have the best defense by far; only Seattle's unit really challenged them among all the playoff qualifiers.

Atlanta will struggle to run against Patrick Willis, Justin Smith, NaVorro Bowman and Co. So the Falcons will take to the air, a wise decision when you have playmakers Tony Gonzalez, Roddy White and Julio Jones.

Problem is, the Niners' secondary is as good as any, even if the interceptions were down this season. And the pass rush, sparked by Aldon Smith (19 1/2 sacks), is formidable.

Where San Francisco has an edge over last year, when it lost at home to the Giants for the conference crown, is in its passing game. Second-year QB Colin Kaepernick has added a dynamic dimension with his strong arm, escapability and overall athletic skills. Michael Crabtree has developed into a dependable receiver with big-play abilities.

Add that to Frank Gore's running, and Atlanta's D will be overmatched.

49ERS, 23-16


2012 RECORD:

Against spread: 3-1 (117-127-7). Straight up: 2-2 (164-95-1)

Best Bet: 9-8-2 against spread, 13-6 straight up.

Upset special: 11-8 against spread, 9-10 straight up.


Online:http://pro32.ap.org/poll andhttp://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Quick Links

Ravens' Eric DCosta not ruling out taking a quarterback at No. 16

AP Images

Ravens' Eric DCosta not ruling out taking a quarterback at No. 16

And with the No. 16 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, the Baltimore Ravens select.... a quarterback?

Assistant general manager, and soon to be general manager, Eric DeCosta isn't ruling out the possibility that the Ravens use their first-round pick on drafting a quarterback to eventually replace Joe Flacco. 

"I feel like if there is a guy there that we think is really too good to pass up, we're going to take him," DeCosta told the team's website on the chance of draft a quarterback in the first-round. 

Quarterback is just one of many offensive needs for the team. Joe Flacco's stats have been trending downward as the 33-year old is entering his 11th season.


Owner Steve Bisciotti though may disagree with DeCosta.

At his annual State of the Ravens press conference, Bisciotti said, "That’s not really something that we’re worried about right now. We’ve got bigger fish to fry, I guess. I don’t consider that a big worry," in regards to looking at life after Joe. Bisciotti also noted the team would be looking at all options in free agency and the draft for weapons for their QB.

From the sound of that, it appears the team's first choice would be a wideout, but the Ravens haven't drafted a quarterback since Joe Flacco back in 2008. 

The 2018 NFL Draft class has a handful of strong quarterbacks to choose from and not a ton of first-round wide receivers. 

Former Ravens scout, Daniel Jeremiah of NFL.com has predicted the team with take Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield in the first-round. 

"It basically depends on our evaluation and how we feel about the guy, what we think he can become as a player and what we think his upside is and if he's there," DeCosta said

Backup Ryan Mallet is a free agent so the organization will have to find someone to fill the role, whether it's someone on a one year-deal, or the future QB of the franchise. 


Quick Links

Ravens sign Michael Crabtree to three-year deal

USA Today Sports Images

Ravens sign Michael Crabtree to three-year deal

The Baltimore Ravens have signed wide receiver Michael Crabtree to a three-year deal on Friday according to general manager and executive vice president Ozzie Newsome.

The deal is apparently worth $21 million, according to Adam Schefter.

After being released by the Raiders on Thursday following the signing of Jordy Nelson, Crabtree heads to the Ravens less than 24 hours later.


The 31-year-old is coming off a 2017 season when he recorded 58 receptions for 618 yards and eight touchdowns. In 2016 he posted 89 receptions for 1,003 yards and eight touchdowns.

Since 2015, the Texas Tech product has scored 25 receiving touchdowns, the fifth-most in the NFL. Crabtree and Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown are the only NFL players to post at least eight touchdown catches in each of the past three seasons.


In all, Crabtree has played nine NFL seasons – six of them with San Francisco (2009-14) and three with Oakland (2015-17). The former first-round draft pick (10th overall, Texas Tech) has registered 579 receptions for 6,870 yards (11.9 avg.) and 51 touchdowns in 125 career games (122 starts).

“Michael has played very well against the Ravens, so we know firsthand the attributes he brings to the game,” Newsome said in a team statement. “He is a smart, tough, physical receiver who battles for the ball. We like his temperament and believe he is a good fit for our football team, on and off the field.”

Since he entered the NFL in 2009, Crabtree’s 51 receiving scores rank 10th among active wide receivers, while his receptions (579) are seventh, and his receiving yards (6,870) are 12th.