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Ben Smith

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nfl playoffs
Championship games
Today
NFC
San Francisco at Atlanta, 3 p.m., Fox
AFC
Baltimore at New England, 6:30 p.m., CBS

Crazy, yes; pick Ravens, 49ers

– Conventional wisdom showed up on my doorstep the other day, dressed in a Tom Brady jersey.

“You’re certifiable, you know,” ol’ CW said. “You really think Joe Floppo’s gonna go up to Foxborough and beat Darth Hoodie and Giselle’s Husband? In January? With another Super Whatever on the line?”

He shook his head sadly.

“Man. I mean … man.”

I closed the door on him faster than you close the door on the guy hawking the complete set of Encyclopedia Albania, and pretty soon the doorbell chimed and there CW was again, this time decked out in a Matt Ryan jersey.

“Colin Kaepernick?” he said. “Really?”

Another sad shake of the head.

“You do realize the guy’s only played, like, five minutes this year, and he runs a gimmick offense that can’t possibly work in the real world, unless of course the real world is inhabited solely by Green Bay Packers,” he went on. “Matty Ice, on the other hand, is 33-6 as a starter, lifetime, in the Georgia Dome. You really like those odds?”

I started to close the door again. But then I stopped, looked CW square in the eye, and … spit in it, figuratively speaking.

I said, yes, as a matter of fact, I am leaning toward Joe Flacco in Foxborough, even if Gillette Stadium is meaner than a prison yard. Sooner or later, I figure, someone’s got to beat the Patriots out of a Super Bowl up there. Why not the Ravens?

They can run the football, first of all, and that means something in January. Back in October, Ray Rice gashed the Patriots for 101 yards in a 31-30 win in Baltimore; Flacco, meanwhile, stung them for 385 yards and three scores through the air. It was pretty much a reprise of his performance in last year’s AFC title game, when he went for 306 and two touchdowns in Foxborough, and New England survived 23-20 only because Ravens placekicker Billy Cundiff gacked a 32-yard field goal attempt with 11 seconds left.

Cundiff isn’t there anymore. And Flacco comes in with the highest playoff yards-per-completion rate (20.4) in 42 years. Throw in the whole Ray Lewis thing, and I think the mojo’s on the Ravens’ end this time.

And as for Kaepernick …

Well, start with the fact that the 49ers’ read option is only a gimmick in the NFL, which is why the Packers looked so utterly befuddled as Kaepernick put a clown suit on them last week. Now he goes to Atlanta, where the Falcons gave up 4.9 yards per rush this season, fourth worst in the league, and a league-worst 8.9 yards per rush by a quarterback.

Now they get Kaepernick, who leads the NFL in yards per rush by a quarterback (10.9). This does not bode well for the Birds. Nor does the fact that Russell Wilson, another quarterback as adept with his feet as his arm, drove them crazy in the Georgia Dome last week before the Falcons managed to pull it out.

So, yeah, I said, I like Kaepernick, even if he does have just eight NFL starts. If he and the 49ers can put up 579 yards outdoors last week, what could they do in the hermetically sealed climate of a dome?

“Wow, going against both home teams,” CW piped up. “You really are mental.”

Bang went the door again.

Ben Smith has been covering sports in Fort Wayne since 1986. His columns appear four times a week. He can be reached by email at bensmith@jg.net; phone, 461-8736; or fax 461-8648.

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