Thursday, January 21, 2010

Conference Championship Previews


By now, you've heard the story-line. The Colts phoned it in by resting their starters at the end of the year. Consequently, the Jets pounded their second string, enabling them to make the playoffs. Now, there's a rematch at the scene of the crime. The Jets wouldn't be here if it wasn't for the Colts. Which Peyton Manning will we see?
We're hoping for Cry-Baby Manning

No rookie QB has ever made it to the Super Bowl. Could Mark Sanchez be the first? The only way that will happen is behind a strong running game. Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene (who we absolutely loved coming out of Iowa last year) will have to shoulder the load. In all honesty, the Jets O v. Colts D matchup is reminiscent of the '06 Colts-Chiefs Wild Card game. The Chiefs came in with one of the best rushing attacks in the league and you knew they were just going to pound the rock. Well, so did Tony Dungy and the Colts. They completely shut down KC's running game and got the first win on their road to the Super Bowl XLI title.

The obvious difference in that analogy comes on the other side of the ball. The Jets defense is one of the best in the league, as can be expected from a Rex Ryan unit. Darrelle Revis probably should have been the Defensive Player of the Year for the type of season he's had. He'll be one-on-one with Reggie Wayne this weekend. Manning has plenty of targets he can use, but if Revis essentially nullifies Wayne, Dallas Clark is going to have to bear most of the burden of the passing game. The Jets are going to bring pressure, pressure, and more pressure, forcing Manning to get rid of the ball quickly. Behind that, the Jets will be playing press coverage on the receivers. Manning isn't very good when he has to move his feet and make plays out of the pocket, so you have to think the Jets defense actually has a fighting chance here.

We absolutely love the way the Jets have been playing with a strong running attack and great defense. However, they're going to have to look to the '05 Steelers for the formula on how to beat the Colts in the playoffs, because they certainly won't do it in a shootout. If Sanchez can take advantage of some play-action passes and catch the Colts safeties flat-footed, the Jets offense could put some points on the board before Indy has time to adjust.

Ian's Prediction: Colts 17-13

As much as I'd like to see the Jets win, their formula for winning this game is holding Indy to Field Goals and not turning the ball over. With Freeney and Mathis back in the swing of things, you have to believe Indy is going to stack the box and force Sanchez to beat them with his arm. If the Colts get a lead in this game, that might be all she wrote for the Jets season.

John's Prediction: Colts 31-21

While I am also mostly rooting for the Jets, I also realize they have no business being in the playoffs. The Colts will not be so generous this time around, and I feel they will dominate this game with a balanced attack despite their troubles on the ground this season. The final score will not be indicative of Indianapolis's superiority.



Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre. Brett Favre.

There, we got that out of our system. These were, without a doubt, the best two teams in the NFC this year. New Orleans has the most potent offense in the league, and they have proven that they can run and throw the ball with success. Minnesota has the best defensive line in the league, but their ends, while potent in the pass rush, can get caught pinching down in run defense. The Steelers had success, in particular, running to the right (aka away from Jared Allen). The Steelers had the most success when they were able to get to the outside, as Minnesota's linebackers aren't the best. For the Saints, this means bruiser Pierre Thomas and Reggie Bush might play a big role in the game. If Bush can get into the open field, either on designed runs, swing passes, or screens, he can nullify the defensive line of the Vikings.

The Vikings secondary is susceptible, and no one sees the field better than Drew Brees. The Saints had 7 receivers catch over 30 passes, and Brees threw touchdowns to 10 different receivers over the course of the season. Marques Colston was the only receiver on the team to surpass 1,000 yards.

On the other side of the ball, Minnesota's offense has been driven by Brett Favre's play, but Adrian Peterson is the real juice in the engine. Even though Peterson hasn't had a 100-yard game since November 15th, he still got 24+ carries in 5 of the team's last 8 games (including the Dallas game). The offense is still going through Peterson and Favre has made big plays in the passing game off of play-action. Sidney Rice is really coming into his own as a receiver, but Favre will have to contend with former Viking Darren Sharper lurking in the secondary. Sharper finished tied for the league lead in interceptions with 9, taking 3 of them back to the house.

I like the Vikings running game against the Saints run defense, which has been porous as of late. Will Favre put forth an epic performance to get to the Super Bowl or will we see another late-season collapse? I think the game will be close, and, as is usually the case in the playoffs, the defense that creates the turnovers will win.

Ian's Prediction: Saints 38-34

This one has all the makings of a shootout. Remember the Chiefs-Colts game in 2003 when there were no punts (the only playoff game in history with no punts) and the Chiefs lost because they committed one turnover? This game could go like that. Minnesota's defense is better than either of those teams from 2003 but their offense is also prone to stalling out at times. I would love to see New Orleans be able to pull this off. It would be great for the city and great for the team, one of 5 NFL teams that have never made the Super Bowl.

John's Prediction: Vikings 27-20

It is a known fact that the Vikings are a different team at home, but I feel their play of the past two games will travel with them to New Orleans. I absolutely despise Brett Favre, but with the best running back in the league due to explode, and a plethora of other weapons, with or without Percy Harvin, the Vikings will match the Saints offense and find a way to earn a trip to Miami. Besides, do you really think the NFL won't find a way to get Favre another chance at a championship?

1 comment:

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