Picking NFL winners is a real chore

Serenity now, serenity now … I’m just going to repeat this to myself as I watch Sunday’s NFL conference championship games that will decide who plays in the Super Bowl on Feb. 3.

This predicting business is getting to be too much stress – and yes, I’d never say that if I got all the games right – so I’m going to repeat the phrase made famous by George Costanza’s father, played by Jerry Stiller, during the final season of “Seinfeld” in the 1990s.

Frank Costanza was told to repeat that phrase when he felt his blood pressure rising. I’m feeling that way now, though lucky for me, I’ve never actually had a blood pressure reading that was out of whack.

Maybe I should head over to the walk-in clinic in Marquette right around 3 o’clock Sunday afternoon to have them put the cuff on my arm.

I was in coin-flip territory last weekend, getting two of four games right. And even in one I did predict correctly, the game wasn’t anything like I thought it would be – the 49ers’ winning score wasn’t exactly the 17-13 defensive struggle I thought.

I did see a late comeback coming in the Seattle game, but I thought it would have to be by the Falcons before the Seahawks hung on to win. Basically just the opposite happened, even if Seattle did take a lead for an entire 30 seconds late in the game.

So yes, I’m going to make today’s predictions as best I can … then promptly forget about them.

I won’t ask you to do the same, however; you, or at least most of you, need something to laugh at while you’re lazing away your Sunday watching the best the NFL has to offer.

Laugh too much, though, and I’ll send another Seinfeldian character to your door. You’ll open it only to hear the Soup Nazi say, “No soup for you!”

On to the picks:

NFC: San Francisco at Atlanta, 3 p.m. Sunday, Fox – The hardest thing to keep track of with NFL teams are the performances of their lines, particularly on the offensive side.

There’s no real stats to look at, except maybe a lack of sacks on the quarterback.

With a fairly close matchup here, I’m hearing the guys on the 49ers O-line are just beasts, and maybe that’s one reason they were able to score a ton of points Saturday against Green Bay.

Of course, Colin Kaepernick was huge, too, with his 181 yards rushing, but again, that’s a product of superior line play.

While the Falcons have former San Fran head coach Mike Nolan as their defensive coordinator, he can’t do it, even against his old team, just with mirrors.

Atlanta is said to have a rough time with fast, mobile QBs like Kaepernick, as in two games against Carolina’s Cam Newton. Here’s a telling stat – the Falcons gave up more yards per rush by QBs than any other team in the league.

Maybe that 181-yard record will only stand for one week. I doubt it, but in concentrating on the QB runs, they have to give up something to a professional runner, Frank Gore, or to Kaepernick’s arm when he puts the ball in the air.

On the other side, I trust the San Fran “D” to at least somewhat rein in any offense it faces. While Atlanta’s can be potent, they’re not quite Tom Brady & Co. in New England yet.

So I’ll go 49ers, 30-24.

AFC: Baltimore at New England, 6:30 p.m., Sunday, CBS – Speaking of Brady, how do the Ravens slow down his offense?

It might’ve been blasphemy to say this just a year or two ago, but Baltimore’s defense today doesn’t compare to San Francisco’s, even with Ray Lewis on his swan-song tour.

And while they say in baseball that chicks dig the long ball, the super heaves by Ravens QB Joe Flacco aren’t what’s favored by the NFL gods right about this time of the year.

Teams do their utmost in games like this to avoid turnovers, and the long balls might become big gains some of the time and a change of possession at others.

Brady and his coach Bill Belichick like the hurry-up offense, and while Lewis will keep the Ravens’ defense on its toes for most of the game, eventually you can see that unit wearing down sometime in the middle of the second half.

That’s all the opening New England needs. Pats, 33-23.

Last week, 2-2, 50 percent. Playoff total – 5-3, 63 percent.

Steve Brownlee can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 246.