Very busy weekend for the Political and Football worlds... On one hand, you have the South Carolina Republican Primary on Saturday and on the other, the NFL Conference Championships on Sunday. Truly, a great weekend to be stuck at home in the Midwest/Northeast with lousy weather with the television on.
The Republican Primary in South Carolina will be VERY interesting on Saturday and I believe that if Mitt Romney doesn't win South Carolina, he will need to drastically change his attack mode and message. Newt Gingrich has proven that he "wants it" and has been on the non-stop attack of Romney since the Iowa contest. Between Romney and Newt, this week was CRAZY with news as the mainstream media went on the offensive with both Newt (ex-wife interview) and Romney (taxes) and the CNN Debate was quite aggressive.
In my estimation, Newt Gingrich will win South Carolina. I believe a major influence of this result was none other than Sarah Palin. On Hannity the other night on the FOX News Channel, she said that if she were a South Carolina voter (and a hot one at that), she would vote for Newt Gingrich to keep the contest going. With doubts increasing on Mitt Romney's wealth and taxes, I believe that South Carolina voters are getting that message. They want the contest to go on, knowing that a loss for Newt means resource issues for the next states. However, if Newt wins, donations towards the Gingrich campaign will boom and the Primary season can still go contested.
I believe that Rick Santorum is just a placeholder in this contest. I think he'll finish 4th, as many of his supporters will jump to Newt. Something just isn't right about the guy, and I believe it's because of his pro-George W. Bush voting record in the 2000's of big spending. The 2006 election where he was destroyed for his Pennsylvania Senate seat should have been a big enough message. And so what about Iowa? He campaigned there endlessly and only gained support when Romney's Super PAC's unloaded attacks on Gingrich.
Ron Paul goes for 3rd Place once again. Keep an eye on him... He's actually the only one in the Republican field that shows consistency from debate to debate and his support is very loyal. If he can only find a way to better market himself or to take advantage of Newt and Romney slitting each others' throats, he could have an outside chance.
Now, for the NFL Conference Championship Games...
For the NFC I like the New York Giants to defeat the San Francisco 49ers. The NY Giants have a pass rush and they will get to Alex Smith. Furthermore, if the Giants can stop Frank Gore, it's over. But, the Giants have Eli Manning on their team and he's a STUD right now. Nicks, Manningham, and Cruz are a great trio of receivers, with Cruz breaking out this season. If Bradshaw and Jacobs run well, it's over. I actually believe that the 49ers have been playing well above their potential and will come back to Earth this weekend. Even with weather permitting...
As for the AFC, I'm taking the New England Patriots to defeat the Baltimore Ravens. I think there is a legitimate "schism" in the locker room in Baltimore, as indicated by Ed Reed earlier in the week. That, and Houston played terribly and was still kept in the game. I believe that the Ravens defense is good, but it's aging. Tom Brady, in my opinion, "wants it" more than ever this year given the Playoff disappointments since Superbowl 42. As long as Brady can stay reasonably upright, they'll win.
But where I think the Patriots win is on the Defensive side of the ball. Health for the unit has improved and their secondary isn't strong, but they are very opportunistic on takeaways. I believe that the Patriots will focus on Ray Rice and if they can keep him under 20 carries and 60 yards, game over. Joe Flacco is good quarterback, but as long as Anquan Boldin is covered reasonably well, he'll be forced to throw to the next looks and that's his weakness. He needs Rice and Boldin to both play great to win this game, especially with Rice on ball control that can keep Brady's snaps limited.
I would actually take the POINTS in both spreads (Baltimore up 7, NY Giants up 2.5, I believe). Take the points! I think the Giants will win something like 24-10 and the Patriots winning 27-23 or so.