38% of football fans believe the New England Patriots will not only win Sunday's AFC Championship Game but go on to capture their fourth Super Bowl victory.
This according to a new Rasmussen Reports survey of 941-professional football fans. The San Francisco 49ers coming off a dominating victory over the favored Green Bay Packers last week are the pick of 32% of fans. Decidedly underdogs the Atlanta Falcons are picked to win it all by 11% of those polled in spite of having a home field advantage in the Conference Championship Game. The Baltimore Ravens who will play at New England later today are picked by 10% of fans.
According to Rasmussen polling done in late-November the Niners were the favorite to win the Super Bowl. 17% picked them to hoist the Lombardi Trophy in February and with just two more rounds remaining they are one of four teams left standing.
In terms of individual awards NFL fans believe the Most Valuable Player trophy should be handed out to Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson. 23% think Peterson, who rushed for more than 2,000 yards this season, is deserving of the honor with Denver Broncos quarterback Payton Manning a close second at 18%. Another 10% meanwhile believe Redskins rookie QB Robert Griffin III, the odds on favorite for 'Rookie of the Year' honors, also earns league MVP recognition.
More unscientific but highly revealing polling done through ESPN also sheds some light on how public opinion views the upcoming Conference Title match ups. In the NFC the visiting 49ers are favored by 74% of "Sports Nation" voters to defeat the Atlanta Falcons according to more than 417,000 votes cast as of noon Sunday. Only in their home state of Georgia, where the Atlanta is favored by 75-25%, are the Falcons the pick by a majority of voters. 65% of ESPN voters are also rooting for a San Francisco victory. That includes the vast majority of US states although 87% of Georgians support their home Falcons as do a majority of their southern neighbors in Alabama and South Carolina. Perhaps believing that it would be easier to take down Atlanta in a would-be Super Bowl match up a majority of those residing in the New England states of Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Maine are also rooting on the 'Dirty Birds'.
On the AFC side things are bit more closely divided but the Patriots are still the predicted winner by a considerable majority. 58% of voters think New England will reach the Super Bowl for the sixth time in twelve seasons. That total includes a majority in every state except for the Ravens home of Maryland, the nearby District of Columbia and bordering Delaware where starting QB Joe Flacco attended college.
The Ravens do hold the edge over New England in the category of which AFC team do most fans want to see win on Sunday. Baltimore leads by a 54-46% margin of more than 51,000 votes cast nationwide. The Patriots dominate their home region of New England winning the popularity vote in all six states, including 93% support in their home state of Massachusetts. Baltimore meanwhile is the popular choice in every other state, including 86% of Marylanders, except for Ohio which is evenly divided between the two teams. This probably the result of lingering bitterness towards Ravens owner Art Model who moved the franchise from Cleveland to Baltimore in 1996.