AFC/NFC Title Games: The General Makes Tough Choices
The AFC and NFC championship games have become nearly as big as the Super Bowl. I’ll bet that’s why I am SO torn over who to pick in these games.
My boss told me to “Go with the stronger team”, and threw a little emoticon on the end of that one because everyone knows this is tough. The Colts, Jets, Saints and Vikings ALL have major strengths and weaknesses. It’s my job to decide which ones will “leave a mark” on Sunday.
I’m going to make the picks one at a time and need everyone to bear with me as I talk myself into a pick. I’m pretty sure I know what I “think” will happen, but as I write this I’m still “riding the fence” if you will.
Here goes nothing…
The AFC Championship — Jets @ Colts
The Colts have one of the most potent offenses in football, and the Jets have the #1 defense in the NFL. I’d say that makes for some indecision!
Peyton Manning is the ultimate “defensive nightmare”. He calls his own game and he’s the “Mike Shanahan” of QB’s who can make any receiver into a 1000-yarder. Plus, he rarely hits the turf. How do you defend him?
Darelle Revis. Darelle Revis is going to hanging all over Reggie Wayne on Sunday. Why does that matter when Peyton can make anybody into a 1000-yard Receiver?
Peyton kills people when he can go to Reggie Wayne for the “dagger in the heart”. He can dink and dunk to Dallas Clark, me, anybody during the course of the game, but he needs a “big play”. Do we think Darelle Revis is going to allow Reggie Wayne to make that catch? Nope.
I know, I know that Pierre Garcon is coming into his own and he might be the “big threat”. We can say that, but we’d also be saying that Lito Sheppard is a slouch. I don’t think so.
Lito Sheppard can keep Garcon locked down enough to probably hold him under 35 yards receiving as well as Revis will hold Reggie Wayne under 35.
Am I discounting Colts’ offensive line? No, because I just saw Jeff Saturday say in a press conference that their team is not built to run the ball 35 times a game. Since I think I’m right then that means the Colts will have to win the game throwing to Dallas Clark all day long.
The Jets’ Offense Does Have To Score…
I hadn’t forgotten the Jets Offense or the Colts Defense. Let’s start with the Colts Defense.
The Colts defense features an older and more beat-up Dwight Freeney, rookie Cornerback Jerraud Powers, and NO Bob Sanders. It’s true that Powers and Freeney are both going to play, but injuries take their toll.
In Freeney’s case the Jets’ running attack will be running right down the throat of the Colts defense time and time again. The Jets weren’t the #1 running team in the league this season for nothing.
You could say that Freeney will only play on 3rd Downs to keep him fresh, but who’s to say that he’ll get to Mark Sanchez on the small number of 3rd Downs that happen in ANY game?
You could say that the Colts haven’t had Bob Sanders for months and they’ve done just fine. I say that Bob Sanders was the “heart and soul” of their 2006 Super Bowl winning team, and eventually they’ll miss him. Other guys can hit hard, but who will lead them on the field?
The lack of on-the-field-leadership is going to leave an injured Jerraud Powers alone with Braylon Edwards on Sunday. Just to refresh your memory: Braylon Edwards is 6’3″ while Jerraud Powers is 5’10″. I think that says it all.
What Am I Missing?
Some might say that I’m forgetting about Bart Scott, Shaun Ellis, and David Harris being injured and limited in practice. I would ask those people this question:
Do you really think that those guys are going to feel a thing on Sunday? Experience is great and it may help the Colts, but it leaves them less “jazzed” for this game than the Jets. Bart Scott is the one I would watch in this game. He had this same chance with Rex Ryan last season in Baltimore.
There is no way in the world two insane/ego-maniacal/defensive monsters like Ryan and Scott are losing the AFC Championship Game AGAIN. I don’t care if they’re with Baltimore, New York, or Pango Pango. The Jets are driven by the pain of Rex Ryan and Bart Scott losing to Pittsburgh last season.
I never said I didn’t like the Colts. In fact, it’s very hard for me to say they’ll lose, but I can’t ignore the obvious. I picked against the Jets and they smashed the Bengals. Next I rode them to a victory over [my] hated Chargers, and now they’ll run to the Super Bowl. You can’t delay the inevitable, and the Jets are inevitably going to the Super Bowl. Now.
NYJ – 27 IND – 21
The NFC Championship — Vikings @ Saints
I said to someone yesterday that this game was easier to pick. I was wrong. This game is incredibly hard to pick for so many reasons. I could just take the sexy pick and say “Oh the Saints are rolling the Vikings”, but that would be stupid of me.
I could just make the “unpopular” pick and say the Vikings are going to stun the Saints and let that be that: This is another stupid choice. I’ve got to look at each team and make an honest assessment of whether they can win in the Superdome. Yes, even the hometown Saints.
Here’s the problem with the “Superdome advantage” that everyone is so crazy about. If the Vikings have a hard time communicating won’t the Saints ALSO have a hard time communicating?
“But the Saints are used to it!”
So what? Brett Favre has a daughter in college. Don’t you think he’s more worried about some sloppy-drunk loser getting all over his daughter than some loud Saints fans? Plus, wouldn’t it be a GROSS underestimation of Brett Favre to assume that he would be flustered by loud crowds?
Am I mistaken or is Brett Favre 14-1 in dome stadiums in the past 3 seasons? This dude is 40 years old and he’s playing the best football of his LIFE. I was wrong when I said he would throw the “wrong interception at the wrong time”. I admit it. I was wrong, wrong, wrong. Favre has never played better. Basically, he’s Warren Moon only WAY better.
But Percy’s Hurt
I know that Percy Harvin is hurt and may not be able to play in this game, but I think Brett Favre already has a solution for that.
Sidney Rice showed everyone who’s the #1 in Minnesota last weekend. Does anybody realize that this dude swept a lineman’s legs, got up immediately, and caught a TD pass as he feel backwards towards the endzone in last week’s game?
Sidney Rice will get open this Sunday because that’s what Sidney Rice does. You can say that Darren Sharper will get him and that may be true…after Rice already has the ball!
The Saints’ pass rush is VERY strong, but there’s something that tells me Brett doesn’t care. A 40-year old guy with nothing to lose who has better things to worry about will stand in the pocket forever if that means someone will get open. Granted, he may get sacked a couple times, but that is not daunting. The pressure isn’t on the Vikings.
They can run Adrian Peterson as much as they want and sit back to wait for something to open up. It seems that it has almost all season. Not having Percy Harvin reduces their arsenal, but it only redirects the firepower.
Did we forget about Bernard Berrian? He’ll catch more than his fair share of balls on Sunday, and that will keep the Saints backfield honest. There’s too many ways for the Vikings to score for me to say “They can’t do it”.
The Saints Have An Offense Too!
Drew Brees has played “lights out” all season, and I cannot deny that. However, I don’t see how sandbagging the final 3 games of the season only to get a good game from Reggie Bush last week makes this team the winner.
I admit that the Saints winning the way they did last weekend made them the “Vegas favorite”, but that doesn’t mean they’ll win. The Saints have to hang their hopes on a couple things.
First, the Saints have to hope that Marques Colston has a great game. Second, they have to hope Jeremy Shockey has a great game. Shockey’s still hurt and that doesn’t bode well for the Saints. He’s just not a very tough guy in my opinion.
Next, the Saints have the pray really hard for another monster game from Reggie Bush. I know I said that I saw Reggie Bush figure out how to run in the NFL, but that was against a horrid defense. The Vikings have a defense that’s built more like a brick wall than Swiss cheese.
The Saints just aren’t going to pound the football enough to make a difference. All of the “bounce-outs” that Bush had against the Cardinals won’t be there against Minnesota. The Vikings tackle way too well for that.
There’s something nagging at me that says “Drew Brees can sling passes all day long, but there won’t be much after the catch”. I don’t think that means Brees has a bad game, but his passes won’t “go the distance” like they did against Arizona last week.
It’s Time To Make Up My Mind
Here’s the part I’ve been hinting at, but altogether avoiding. I think Brett Favre takes the Vikings to the Super Bowl. There, I said it!
As soon as I realized that Brett Favre is 40, playing better than he’s ever played, and he’s more concerned about drunk college boys than crowd noise… I knew I had made my pick.
The Vikings have a STRONG defense that will keep the Saints in check. Basically, they’ll play Brees the way NBA teams play Kobe and LeBron: Let them play, but stop everyone else. Reggie Bush isn’t running very far on Sunday. None of the Saints’ receivers will go very far “after the catch”, and the Vikings defense WILL get to Brees a couple times.
You could say the same about the Vikings offense, but they have Adrian Peterson and a fearless Brett Favre. Brett Favre has nothing to lose. Drew Brees and the Saints have EVERYTHING to lose. Who knows if they can repeat this season again?
The NFC South is a very fluid division. The Falcons are going to fix themselves. The Panthers finally gave up on Jake Delhomme and we think the Saints can just “rinse and repeat”? I don’t think so.
The Saints are afraid of screwing this thing up, and that’s just enough pressure to make them do just that. I can’t deny the obvious.
MIN – 38 NO – 30 (that’s going to be a ROUGH 30 points for the Saints)
Don’t I Have Any Shame?
I am not picking the Jets and the Vikings to go to the Super Bowl because they aren’t the favorites. I’m picking these teams because they have proved things to me over the course of the season that I can’t deny.
The Jets believe. The Vikings know better than to bet against this “new” Brett Favre. Rex Ryan is TOTALLY undaunted by the situation. Sean Payton is on edge.
I truly believe was can have the “Revis v. Favre” Super Bowl that no one saw coming. I can’t wait to see Darelle Revis FORCE Brett Favre to use his 2nd and 3rd option to win a title. Nothing would be more entertaining than watching a 40-year old man play his best game in the Super Bowl.
You know you want to see it, too. Don’t lie.