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Shutdown Corner

Joe Namath’s Conference Championship predictions: Harbaugh Bowl could be a reality

Shutdown Corner

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Joe Namath throws the ball over big Ben Davidson in the 1968 AFL playoffs. (AP)

As he did last year, NFL Hall of Famer and New York Jets legend Joe Namath will join Yahoo! Sports and the Shutdown Corner Blog for commentary and analysis. Make sure you like the Official Joe Namath page on Facebook. And with playoff news always breaking like injuries and weather, please make sure to check the Broadway Joe site for updates and even more playoff insight from the legend himself!

When I got to my third year in the league, early in the season, I came to the conclusion that I had to stop reading about my Jets team from the New York media. I remember going to practice one time earlier that season, upset about something I read in the newspaper. Maybe I had just thrown five interceptions the game before, I don’t know. But I took that anger with me to practice and that is such a weight to carry with you. I remember thinking that it wasn’t healthy at all and it was affecting my work, my focus.

The emotions and attention is a distraction, even when it is positive. But the negative can weigh on you physically too and with your focus – and you can’t do your best with that being a part of who you are as you go to work. You just want to do your best so badly but these things become a distraction and they’re hard to ignore.

Now come the playoffs with four teams just a win away from the Super Bowl -- well, distractions and speculation and all the hype; that goes with become a part of life. You have to deal with the highs and lows of emotions at this time and how you process it, and it carries into Sundays.

It became a rule for me not to read about what the reporters were saying about the Jets anymore – it was taking control of my mental frame at the time and my approach to things. I know more about my team and more about myself than the people getting paid to analyze and critique things. I didn’t need them to tell me anything.

There’s no doubt that teams come off emotional highs and emotional lows in the playoffs – it is only natural when you consider that there are 53 individuals in that locker room who handle things different ways. But the game the week before carries over for a day or two or three – and if you let it carry over for a week you’re bound to lose that Sunday.

A team like the Baltimore Ravens faces a challenge this Sunday in Foxboro against the New England Patriots. Not only do they take on the best team in the AFC, they also have to overcome last week’s emotional game and emotional win in Denver. A lot was taken out of them physically and mentally.

I’m one of those guys who feels the playoffs, being in those big games, is an opportunity to keep in peak emotion. I don’t buy the extra incentive kind of thing – these guys have to go about work this week without letting emotion get in the way. It can’t be a focus breaker and you can’t let it get bigger than it is.

It boils down to leadership and head coach John Harbaugh has to sell this to his Ravens; they have to be energized once again. They are drained after that big win. They’re still caught up after that huge victory. Are they still talking about, spinning wheels about what they accomplished or have they shifted gears to this Sunday.

I think they have that leadership to keep them focused but they have to work at it, more than that other team they play who didn’t have as high of an emotional peak last weekend.

Then there is the case of the Atlanta Falcons, a team that blew a 20-point lead in the fourth quarter of their win over the Seattle Seahawks last week and came back to win the game 30-28. That takes a lot out of you as well because you let the other team in it – and let’s give the Seahawks some credit because they played pretty damn well – but you let them claw back and almost beat you. It is a relief to win and go on, sure, but it also sticks in the back of your mind.

Here’s the case though -- the Falcons feel that they should have been in this game all along. They think they can win this game and that they deserve to still be playing this deep in the season. You know what will help them? Watching that film of that Colin Kaepernick kid - whoa boy, the way he played gets you geared up to try and stop him.

49ers head coach Jim Harbaugh has to keep Kaepernick's emotions under control, I got to believe that he sees the traps. Here’s a kid who really burst onto the scene last week and all the attention is focused on him. If they keep it simple, keep him focused then all the elation and being a hero and all - he’s experienced it at a lesser level in college so he can handle it.

This kid Kaepernick has received praise before and he’ll go into this game right, focused and with no outside distractions. Don’t get me wrong, this young kid is happy with what’s happened but he won’t be distracted.

But the work done this week in handling the distractions and overcoming the emotional highs, that is so important in who wins, who loses this Sunday.

Baltimore Ravens v. New England Patriots – I saw a consistent Ravens team last Saturday and they have something to prove after losing this game last year. Baltimore ran the ball so well with Ray Rice behind that big offensive line and I’m not sold that New England can run the ball against this stout defense. This is going to be a tight one and I just don’t know who is going to win! I should pick the home team but this is Baltimore’s time and maybe they can muster up that same emotion. I just think they avenge last year’s loss in this game.

Joe’s Pick: Baltimore

San Francisco 49ers v. Atlanta Falcons – This will be a game of big plays. Here’s one thing about the Falcons in that they’ve played against this type of quarterback who can throw and run earlier this season. They’ve played against Russell Wilson last week and Cam Newton in the regular season and they know to be concerned against this style of quarterback. If the 49ers can get pressure on Matt Ryan – which I think they can do – they should win this game. I also like Frank Gore running the ball in this game, especially with everyone wary of Kaepernick. I see the 49ers winning a high scoring game and being in control of this one by early in the fourth quarter.

Joe’s Pick: San Francisco

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