The New York Jets win again? The Cardinals let another team score 40 points? The surging Cowboys hit a brick wall? Ravens choked? The answer to all those questions is yes. This weekend brought a series of unexpected outcomes and boring games. The trend of the weekend was for the winning team to get up early and watch their opponent flail and get forced into turnovers. The Cardinals loss is not a big shock to me, no team in the NFL has a passing game that can equal the ability of Drew Bress & co.
The Ravens once again suffered a series of unfortunate events. Ed Reed was there to make the game changing play twice and both times his efforts were foiled, the Ravens offense is still inept with the exception of Ray Rice. If Joe Flacco was a better game-managing QB, meaning he could at least get his team a passing touchdown then maybe the Ravens could get Ray Rice, McGahee and McClain more room to run.
And the Chargers…wow. Rex Ryan and his Jets are silencing the nay-sayers week-in and week-out; another strong running performance, solid numbers from Sanchez, and the defense shut-down the San Diego running game and limited Phillip Rivers to 298 yards, 1 TD and 2 INTs.
But the Cowboys?! There was definitely some shock in their inability to get their offense going. Tony Romo was under pressure from the Vikings defensive lineman the entire game and never had the chance to look downfield or find an open receiver. The advantage for the Vikings were the turnovers and three-and-outs forced. Adrian Peterson was silenced but no one in the Cowboys secondary could tried to stop Sidney Rice.
At the end of the weekend though, we have two VERY interesting matchups in the Conference Championships; Saints-Vikings and Colts-Jets. Who takes the Conference crown and moves on? See what we have to say below.
NFC Conference Championships
The talk in the sports world says that this match-up is a “dream QB matchup,” and the reasoning is clear. Drew Bress and Brett Favre are great QB’s and silenced any critics who thought they lost an edge during the bye week. With that said, each team will do their best to establish the game in their favor. For the Saints that means a big lead early-on and setup defensive vulture, Darren Sharper, to make plays. The Vikings will also try to get in front early and run the clock to keep the Saints offense on the sideline.
No matter how you plan it, both of these teams can score. In the regular season, the Saints averaged 31.9 points per game and the Vikings were second at 29.4 points per game. Adrian Peterson has to be more effective than he was versus the Cowboys, 23 carries for 64 yards and a 2.4 YPC. He may not be the focal point of this offense anymore but when he can break free for a long run and break tackles it makes the Vikings a team to be wary of. The Saints use many different receivers…Colston, Henderson, Meachem, Shockey, Thomas, Bush, and Brees can turn any of those guys into a threat. Therefore, what’s left is to stop the Saints run-game which is the most underestimated part of their offense. I think we’ll see a lot of pressure from the Vikings defensive line and a lot of Cover 2 in the backfield.
The Vikings have the favor of being a balanced squad and as long as they can keep the game close and in the 20s they have a strong chance at winning. The Saints will look to run the score as high as they can, as usual. I’m really not sure who comes out on top but I’m in the Saints’ court today.
Prediction: Saints 34 – Vikings 30
AFC Conference Championships
This is not a dream match-up per-say but you can’t help to think that Peyton Manning and the Colts feel that beating Rex Ryan and the Jets is their responsibility. After all it was the Week 16 win by the Jets over the Colts that put them back in contention for a Wild Card spot and the Jets have been on the rise since then. The big controversy behind that game falls to fact that the Jets played most of the game against the 2nd and 3rd string players in which case the Colts gave the win away because they didn’t play their hardest. So dispute what you will…that any football team can lose, that the Colts didn’t try, that the Jets were the better team that day…now it doesn’t matter because whoever wins this AFC Championship game will officially be the better team, no discussion.
This is an interesting match-up in these 2009-2010 playoffs because both of these teams play a different game, something we haven’t seen in a match-up thus far. The Jets play a grime slugfest, to quote my Uncle, and they will need Sanchez to continue as the steady game-managing QB. This offensive is predicated on limited turn-overs and a powerful running attack, this was the team that was 1st in rushing for the 2009-2010 season with 172.2 yds rushing per-game, the Colts were 32nd dead-last in the league with an average of 80.2 yards per-game. The Jets will run and run until they reach pay-dirt with Thomas Jones and Shonne Greene, the rising rookie, they now host a powerful two-headed monster of a running game. The Jets running game and game-managing pass attack supports what could be the #1 defense in the NFL; 1st in points-allowed-per-game at 14.8, 1st in total yards allowed at 252.3, 1st in passing yards allowed at 153.7 and 8th in rushing yards allowed at 98.6. And if there is one thing the stats don’t say its #20, Corner back Darrelle “Revis Island” Revis. Darrelle Revis can and will shut-down any team’s top receiving threat. In short the Jets have to limit the Colts scoring opportunities because if Peyton Manning gets the lead by +14 points its over.
Okay so I practically put the Jets on a seemingly untouchable mountain. But, that’s not the case. Peyton Manning is himself, one of the greatest QB’s of all-time who can easily turn a game around at any moment and summon up a clutch drive to keep his team in it. The Colts receivers are a dangerous group lead by Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark with support from the young Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, all four have shown they can be a threat…and there is only one Darrelle Revis to stop one of these guys. Although the Colts do not host a powerful running attack it is solid enough to be respected and that spares Peyton Manning from being overly pressured in the passing game. I think the big difference maker for the Colts will be on defense, they need to shut-down the run (something they haven’t done all season) and use their defensive ends to pressure Mark Sanchez into mistakes.
I will say that if the Jets win here, the Super Bowl may as well be theirs, the swagger and brashness of their head coach shouldn’t be underestimated.
Prediction: Colts 28 – Jets 13