Thursday, January 17, 2008

NFL Picks - Conference Championships

It's going to be hard to top last week, let's get that out there right now. After an intensifying as the game progressed snowstorm in Green Bay to the Jags giving the Pats a decent battle on Saturday, followed by the Colts-Bolts see saw game to Big Blue showing a ton of grit and teamwork to shut down the Cowboys on Sunday, it was a tremendous 48 hours. To top it off, we went 3-1 as well, as only Indy didn't fare as expected.

Obviously, it sucks to be a team comes this far and loses. That gets compounded when you are the team that is expected to do well, only to find your season suddenly over. Despite all that, only in rare cases can a team say "we were robbed" or "they didn't win the game, we lost it!" or some such things, and 99% of the time these statements are made when the loss stings like a fresh wound, so they're taken with a grain of salt. None of this, however, applies to the idiotic statement by Dallas coach Wade Phillips a full day after his top seeded Cowboys were bounced by the Giants. "The better team didn't win", said the coach. Really, Wade? Let's have a look at that, shall we?

Is that "the better team" which committed a staggering 11 penalties (for 84 yards), many of them devastating?

Or is it "the better team" whose offensive line was gasping for wind in the fourth quarter as the Giant defensive lineman blew by them?

Perhaps it was "the better team" who had receivers aligator arming several passes, while dropping several others?

Sorry, Wade, but the better team emerged with the win on Sunday, despite what the yardage and time of possession numbers say. And, you are now 0-4 in the postseason.

The biggest highlight of the weekend, maybe the entire season however, had to be this:

Man, we're getting teary just watching it again, but these are from laughing so damn hard. What an ass.

On to the picks...

AFC - 3:00 PM EST
NEW ENGLAND (-13.5) over San Diego
All things being equal, the Pats are the clear choice, despite the fact that their games have gotten tighter as the second half of the season wore on. Toss in the number of dings to key Charger players and it seems like the Bolts will have a hard time keeping this one close at all. The Pats can taste it now, and the realization that they are just 2 games away from immortality is all the motivation they'll need. Throw in some stupid comments by Igor Olshansky, and the general douchebaggery that is Philp Rivers, and you're just adding more fuel to the fire.

KEY PLAYERS: San Diego - Antonio Cromartie. The ball hawking, big play abilities of this guy can play a huge factor in how well the Patriots offense can produce. Cro is always around the ball, and has an uncanny knack for finding the end zone (see last week's called back TD just before halftime, on what was a pretty bogus call). If he can disrupt Moss, Welker and the rest, it could force Tom Brady to check off and look for his 3rd or 4th option - perhaps giving Shawne Merriman and the gang a chance to knock Brady on his butt. For New England, we'll go with Randy Moss. He caught only one ball last week, but his presence alone caused matchups which allowed Wes Welker to grab approximately 57 balls, and Brady to be near perfect. If he draws double coverage, look for a repeat of last week. If not, he'll be a human highlight reel.

The Pick: No sense picking against what has seemed to be inevitable for months. Patriots 34 Chargers 15

NFC - 6:30 PM EST
NY Giants (+7) over GREEN BAY
First things first, the weather will be just as much a pain in the ass to Brett Favre as it will be to Eli Manning. Though it was a Winter Wonderland in Wisconsin last week, it wasn't accompanied by bone rattling temps and sub-zero wind chills. You don't have to look back very far (Week 16 in Chicago) to see how this severe weather affected Favre - he was brutal, as was the entire Packer team in a 35-7 loss. Manning has been no day at the beach either in these types of situations, but all this talk of "Packer Weather" and what not just sounds like posturing at this point. Both teams have solid running games, and the one that proves more effective and mistake free will likely lead its team to the Super Bowl.

KEY PLAYERS: New York - Eli Manning. Should the game plan work as designed, Eli should have to simply manage the game, not force any passes, and keep his cool, just like he's been doing since the Week 17 kickoff against New England. He's done a good job thus far, and doesn't get rattled in hostile environments, however if the G-Men fall behind early it will be interesting to see how he responds. For Green Bay, let's go with Ryan Grant. The ex-Giant had the game of his young career last week, and the fact that he bounced back after two disastrous early fumbles which resulted in Seattle touchdowns made his day even sweeter. He won't have the slippery field advantage this week, and the Giants showed they could clamp down on the run in the second half last week. Suffice it to say that if Grant gets his yards, the Packers will be hoisting the Halas trophy around 10:00 on Sunday.

The Pick: Somehow, Favre makes it happen, and the NFL gets the match up it wants.
Packers 24 Giants 21

Last Week: 3-1
Playoff Total: 4-3-1

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