Saturday, January 23, 2010

NFL Weekend Preview: Conference Championship Weekend

The Saints and Vikings clash in Louisiana in the more anticipated Championship game, we'll have to see if it lives up to it's billing as the better game.

This is officially the home stretch. Only two games this weekend, and the winners go to the big game with the Roman numbering system. This is the most painful weekend to lose, because ultimately you're forgotten, but the sting of losing hurts the most when you were thisclose to making the Super Bowl. So clearly, a lot is at stake here. This is one of my favorite weekends of the sporting calendar, as the games are so important, and often they are very good. Hopefully we get two good games, but I'm doubtful, as the Jets are prominently involved in one. I don't know what it is about Gang Green, but whenever the Jets play, the games take on a sloppy, sticky feel, as if the entire football game has been doused with maple syrup or something. I want the Jets to win because the underdog story is fun, but the Super Bowl will be better if the Colts are involved. As for the NFC, no matter who wins, we should get a good Super Bowl rep, so hopefully that means the Saints...because, well, Brett Favre. Here are the results that I divined from my clearly cloudy crystal ball:

New York Jets at Indianapolis:
Is anyone else struck by how ridiculous it is that the New York Jets are one of the last four teams still playing? This team has certainly has been lucky, having the last five field goals attempted against them all be missed is bizarre, and the fact that they weren't down by twenty at halftime against the Chargers is crazy...they were getting destroyed in that game, only the Chargers somehow kept getting just stopped by the Jets. I guess that's the whole point of playing defense, but some serious luck was involved.

Well, the luck ends this weekend. Matt Sanchez has not been playing all that well, perhaps you can win one game or maybe rarely even two with a subpar quarterback, but I don't think you can win a championship with a quarterback who was widely considered to have potential that he has clearly not yet reached. The defense is good, and the running game has been solid, but if the Jets are somehow able to win, they might be the weakest team to ever reach the Super Bowl.

Contrast the Jets with a team that hasn't lost a game in which they clearly tried to win since last year's playoffs. The Colts are strong, Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterbacks of all time, and the Colts suffocated a team from Baltimore last week that is the mirror image of the Jets. The Ravens had a questionable quarterback, a great running game, and a strong swarming defense...and they lost 20-3. The Jets are in for a similar fate.

I'm cheering for New York, because Rex Ryan is terribly interesting and who doesn't like a fat boisterous coach. Plus the idea of the chaos that would ensue as the Jets faithful try to figure out a world where their team is actually in the Super Bowl appeals to me...we could potentially see some Jets fans heads explode with confusion. Sadly, I don't think it's meant to be. Not even close. Colts 33 Jets 13

Minnesota at New Orleans: This game to me is a coin flip, and is there any doubt that this game is the more anticipated contest of the weekend? Although both of these teams kind of stumbled to the finish in the regular season, the idea that the momentum you bring to the playoffs took a major hit last week, as despite both teams bringing very little "Mo" into their first postseason contests, they both dispatched their first round foes with ease. The Vikings throttled the Cowboys, and the Saints easily eliminated the Cardinals. So now, unlike the AFC, the two teams in the NFC that looked like the class of the Conference for the lion share of the regular season will be battling for the NFC spot in XLIV, which is how it should be.

The Vikings defensive line is scary when it gets rolling, and they were rolling against Tony Romo and the Cowboys last week. The Saints offense will rely on Drew Brees making quick smart decisions, which he is pretty good at doing. The Vikings offense also looked good, although Adrian Peterson has not been quite as good as advertised this year. Of course, he was advertised as making blind men see and turning water into he may have been slightly over-hyped.

Long time readers will know that I have a dislike of Brett Favre, so that clearly colors my Vikings predictions. I don't want the Vikes winning, and that is only because of Brett. The franchise has great and long-suffering fans who have lost four Super Bowls and deserve their share of happiness, but I just don't want that happiness to be delivered by Favre. The Saints have never been any further than they are right now, and it would be fun to see the people of New Orleans relish in a Super Bowl. They would certainly celebrate appropriately...especially since I get the impression that the Saints mean just a little bit more than they should to the city. (A fact which I really enjoy and endears Saints fans to me, by the way.) This game is very close, I could see it going in any direction. I can see either team winning by blowout, and I can see either team winning a close game. I'm hoping for the close game, since there have been precious few of those in this postseason, and I have a feeling the early game will continue the tradition of crappy postseason football this year. Since I have no feel for who will win, but I have a definite rooting interest, I'm going to go with my heart. Saints 31 Vikings 28

My Picks Scorecard:

Last Week: 2-2
Regular Season: 161-95
Playoffs: 4-4
Playoffs Against the Spread: 3-5
Year to Date: 165-99

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