NFL: Dispatch staff predicts the conference title game winners

The San Franciso 49ers' Justin Smith celebrates his sack of New

Members of the Mainstreet Media Group (Hollister Free Lance, Gilroy Dispatch, Morgan Hill Times) decided to predict the winners of Sunday’s NFL conference championship games. Here are the picks:

Nick Lovejoy

San Francisco 49ers 20, New York Giants 17

I am picking the 49ers to win a hard-fought game 20-17. I think the 49ers defense is too strong, and with rain in the forecast, I am hoping it will slow down the passing attack of the Giants.

New England Patriots 35, Baltimore Ravens 21

I am picking the high-powered offense of New England to win 35-21. I think it’s too much for the Ravens to handle and although their defense is great, I don’t think they have enough offensive power to keep up with the Patriots.

Nathan Mixter

San Francisco 49ers 24, New York Giants 17

Wet field conditions should make for a low scoring game and play into the

49ers’ strengths. The 49ers will pound it out on the ground behind big

games from running backs Frank Gore and Kendall Hunter spaced with short,

drop passes from Alex Smith. Slippery conditions will be a disadvantage

for Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning, who loves to sit back in the pocket

and hit receivers for long gains.

Baltimore Ravens 28, New England Patriots 24

Despite being a seven-point underdog, Baltimore can win this one if New

England is not careful. New England has a more potent offense, but

Baltimore has been in tight games all year, especially in the second half,

and knows how to pull them out. Get ready for the Harbaugh Bowl, round 2.

Adam Breen

San Francisco 49ers 24, New York Giants 20.

I am a lifelong Niners fan and have a rooting interest in their success, but I believe their aggressive defense and ball control offense combined with playing at home in front of a raucous crowd against an opponent they have already beaten tilts the odds in their favor. Weather could play a factor as well. The worse the weather is, the better the odds for San Francisco.

New England Patriots 28, Baltimore Ravens 13

Defense wins championships, which in theory would favor the Ravens, but Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have won multiple championships, so my money is on the Patriots in this one. I think the Patriots will score early and often and the Ravens will struggle to recover.

Kollin Kosmicki

New York Giants 23, San Francisco 49ers 20

The Giants are the most complete team left. They’re on a roll, and there’s no reason to think it will stop Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens 31, New England Patriots 24

The football gods have spoken – see Saints, Packers – defense wins out this year. New England’s D is horrible, while the Ravens’ is exceptional.

Melissa Flores

New England Patriots 24, Baltimore Ravens 20

Looking at the record of the two teams, New England Patriots played a consistently stronger season than the Baltimore Ravens, pulling in higher scores with less losses.

San Francisco 49ers 34, New York Giants 27

The 49ers showed in the game against the Saints that they are willing to pull out all the stops to win the game. The players really hustled to the ball when most fans were just hoping for a tie to put the game into overtime. I think they will be doing the same against the Giants. Coach Jim Harbaugh has shown that he believes in his players enough to have them take risks on the field. He lets his players play to their strengths.

Josh Weaver

San Francisco 49ers 24, New York Giants 16

The San Francisco 49ers can matchup against any team in the league. They proved that in last week’s remarkable victory over New Orleans.

The 49ers are a complete team.

Their game plan is almost perfect: Defense holds, offense gets good field position, 30-yard drive, David Akers field goal. Force a turnover, score some more. Stalled drive, Andy Lee pins you deep in your own territory.

It has all worked time and time again this season. And it will again Sunday against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship game.

Home-field advantage is huge, too.

Just like the Saints last week, the Giants will score some points. The Niners can, and will, keep up. Super Bowl XLVI and 49ers go together.

Baltimore Ravens 24, New England Patriots 20

If any team can stop the Patriots’ score-at-will offense it’s the Baltimore Ravens. The matchup will be entertaining no doubt. Ravens hold Tom Brady and bunch to under 30 points. Sets up the second Har-Bowl.

Scott Adams

Baltimore Ravens 28, New England Patriots 27

The Patriots’ defense is awful, and the Ravens are playing at a high level on both sides of the ball.

San Francisco 49ers 31, New York Giants 27

The 49ers will clinch their first Super Bowl berth since ’95 with defense and another steady performance by Alex Smith.

Connor Ramey

New England Patriots 31, Baltimore Ravens 17

The only way to stop the high-flying Patriots offense is to slow down the tight end combo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. And of course, don’t forget about the shifty Wes Welker. To do that, you need athletic linebackers. The Ravens, historically, have had a great defense, but they don’t have those type of linebackers.

Ray Lewis is a sure-fire hall of fame player, but at this stage of his career he is not a covering linebacker.

Look for a big day from the Patriots’ two-tight end offense.

San Francisco 49ers 20, New York Giants 10

Enough with the talk that the Giants are red-hot. At this point in the playoffs, everyone is hot.

Like the Giants, the 49ers have won four games in a row. So enough with that idea.

Yes, the Giants slowed down Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, but a lot of that was the out-of-synch Packers’ offense. They dropped eight wide-open receptions, and turned the ball over four times. When you do that, it’s hard to win. Those are mistakes the 49ers haven’t made in 17 games this year.

The 49ers will pound Gore and force the Giants to throw. When Eli Manning throws a lot, the turnovers come. The Smiths (Alex included) will have big days.

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