NFL Playoffs: Four teams, one Lombardi

Ravens QB Joe Flacco grew up in nearby Audubon, N.J., and played college ball at the University of Delaware.

Crab cakes for everyone.

Even Joe Flacco.

The Ravens held on to beat the Houston Texans 20-13 yesterday in the AFC divisional round.

Baltimore will head to New England Sunday to face the No. 1-seeded Patriots. Flacco, who joked with reporters earlier this week about not getting enough credit, did just enough to get the W. He finished 14-of-27 for 176 yards and two touchdowns for the Ravens. Houston coughed the ball up four times and Baltimore played error-free football — no turnovers, no penalties.

“The four turnovers were huge,” said Ravens coach John Harbaugh. “That’s the difference in football games, especially at this time of year. The fact that we capitalized on turnovers was probably the key to the game.”

Ray Lewis and Ed Reed led a defensive unit that held to the potent Texans offense to just one touchdown. Lewis recorded a team-high seven tackles and Reed sealed it with an interception near the goal line in the final minutes.

“Turnovers killed our opportunity to win, and that’s what hurts now,” said Texans quarterback T.J. Yates.

 Championship weekend

We are down to the NFL’s Final Four after the Ravens and Giants punched the final two    tickets. Here’s a look at next weekend’s AFC and NFC  championship games:
   
Baltimore (13-4) at New England (14-3), Sunday, 3 p.m. (CBS)
Scoop: Contrasting styles go head-to-head, as the Pats’ second-ranked offense (428 yards per game) meets the Ravens’ third-ranked defense (288.9 yards).
History lesson: Baltimore upset New England 33-14 in the 2009 wild-card round when Tom Brady posted the worst passer rating of his prolific playoff career (49.1).  
Prediction: Ravens 23, Patriots 17. We’re predicting Joe Flacco makes just enough plays to get it done.

NY Giants (10-7) at San Francisco (14-3), Sunday, 6:30 p.m. (FOX)
Scoop: Eli Manning is playing arguably the best football of his career, but this is one is all about the pass-rush. The Giants ranked third in sacks (48), with the 49ers close behind them in seventh (42).
History lesson: Giants faced the 49ers back on Nov. 13 and narrowly lost, 27-20, on a fourth-down stop in the closing seconds.
Prediction: 49ers 20, Giants 17. In the end, the Niners are just a little deeper — and more talented — on defense. The X-factor? Alex Smith.


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