By Rich Tandler and Tarik El-Bashir
Our Redskins insiders pick Sunday’s conference title games, for entertainment purposes only. Last week in picking the divisional games (AFC, NFC), Rich Tandler went 3-1, missing only on the Ravens while Tarik El-Bashir was 1-3, hitting only on the Patriots.
49ers at Falcons (Sunday, 3 p.m., Fox)
Tandler: Yes, Colin Kaepernick is now the next great thing now that RG3 and Russell Wilson are out of the playoffs. And I am a believer, but not in this game. The last time Kaepernick went on the road in front of a loud, hostile crowd he and the Niners came up small against Wilson and the Seahawks. He didn’t have much impact with his arm or with his legs as the 49ers could only muster on late, meaningless touchdown. The San Francisco defense is tough but Matt Ryan will find a way to get the ball to Jones, White, and Gonzalez often enough and with the Georgia Dome roaring on every Niners snap, a rattled Kaepernick will turn the ball over once or twice. Falcons 21, 49ers 17
El-Bashir: I must admit, I haven’t always believed Colin Kaepernick to be a better alternative to Alex Smith. But after Kaepernick’s 181-yard rushing performance last week against Green Bay, I’m all in. The Falcons’ defense, meantime, has one known weakness: dual threat quarterbacks. Cam Newton rushed for an average of 101 yards in two games against the Falcons, while Russell Wilson racked up 385 yards passing, 60 yards rushing and accounted for a combined three touchdowns a week ago. In the end, Kaepernick, Frank Gore and Michael Crabtree will hand the home team its second loss at the Georgia Dome. 49ers 35, Falcons 21
Ravens at Patriots (Sunday, 6:30 p.m. CBS)
Tandler: Believe me, I’m not looking forward to spending the third Super Bowl in the last six years rooting for the Patriots to lose. But there is no reason to think that the plucky Ravens’ run will continue. Baltimore had its chance last year. Their defense was better then; Joe Flacco won’t put up better numbers than Tom Brady this time around. For Brady, no Gronk, no problem. He’ll just carve you up with Shane Vereen or Steven Ridley or ex-Redskin Brandon Lloyd. The career of Ray Lewis will come to an end on the frozen rug in Foxboro. Patriots 40, Ravens 24
El-Bashir: This Ravens’ story is so intriguing to me. Joe Flacco trying to back up his “elite” claim. Ray Lewis trying to put a punctuation mark on a stellar career. Unfortunately for them, there will be no storybook ending because, for a second straight season, their run will end at Foxboro. Even without Rob Gronkowski, Tom Brady and all his complementary weapons – the unit produced 41 point against the Texans a week ago and an eye-popping 34.8 per game in the regular season – shouldn’t have much trouble topping 30 for the 11thtime this season against an aging Ravens’ defense. And, oh yeah, the Pats are 14-3 at home all-time in the postseason. Patriots 31, Ravens 21