Championship Sunday always has that special vibe about it, and this time is no different. Maybe not in San Diego, Dallas, and Baltimore, but certainly in Indianapolis, New York, Minneapolis, and New Orleans. It all comes down to this to see who will get the right to rest their Pro Bowlers as they get ready for the big game. So who will it be? Peyton, Favre, Brees, or the rookies Mark Sanchez and Rex Ryan? Home teams in CAPS.
COLTS (-8.5) over Jets
How many Colts, do you think, had in their mind that they may end up playing the Jets that they laid down in front of in Week 16? I can tell you that its probably less then one. So wouldn’t that make for poetic justice if the Jets won this game because the Colts opted not to go for history? Sure, but that’s not going to happen.
The Jets were incredibly lucky to make the playoffs, but the more they won, the more respect they are getting. They have the best running game, the best defense, and a true shut-down corner. They have a swagger about them stemming from Rex Ryan who doesn’t think they are going to win, he tells you he knows they will win. They are aggressive and make the opposing quarterback make quick, rash decisions. If you look even further, Sanchez has been minimizing his errors, and his receivers, although they drop way to many passes (cough cough Braylon Edwards), have some serious talent. You win in the playoffs with running and defense, so why won’t this team win?
The Answer is the team they are playing the Colts. Let’s not forget that the Colts have not lost a game they have tried to win this year. Furthermore, Peyton Manning owns a 4-1 career record in games with nine touchdowns, two interceptions, and three sacks versus Rex Ryan’s defenses, and his only loss coming in a game where Curtis Painter finished it out, and we can safely assume that won’t be the case in the AFC Championship game. If you look at their regular season matchup, the Jets didn’t score but three points in the third quarter with Robert Mathis only playing on passing situations. The Jets’ defense in centered around many different blitzes, but Peyton has the quickest trigger in the league. If the Jets don’t get pressure on the Colts, this game will be over fast.
They key for the Jets will be getting off to an early lead. If the Colts score quickly, the Jets will have to leave their game plan and pass. As long as they can keep feeding Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene the ball and mostly eliminate Mark Sanchez’s mistakes, they will be able to stay in the game. The only problem is I don’t see that happening. The Colts have the best pass rush left in the league with Dwight Freeney and Mathis along with the bets receiver duo left in Reggie Wayne and Dallas Clark. The Colts are too good to lose to the Jets, and the game will get out of hand by the fourth quarter.
Vikings (+3.5) over SAINTS
The NFC has been full of shootouts, high-scoring games, and blowouts. This game won’t be too different. The Vikings and Saints have an inordinate amount of quick striking weapons from Reggie Bush to Percy Harvin. The winner will definately have a great story going to the Super Bowl whether it is Brett Favre going back to the big game or how much this would mean to the city of New Orleans. This is a must watch game for every single sports fan.
The Saints have the best offense of the year and they had one guy come out from under his rock that was a huge help last week. That man would be Reggie Bush, former number two overall pick. While you can’t bank on another game of 144 total yards and two touchdowns, but we can expect the running trio of Bush, Pierre Thomas, and Mike Bell or Lionell Hamilton will show up and provide some relief to the top pass attack in the league. Their biggest problem is their defense, which hasn’t been great, except their pass defense which features Darren Sharper and Jabari Greer.
The Vikings’ offense is centered around Brett Favre and their sudden pass-happy offense. The main recepient of Favre’s fastballs is Sidney Rice, who has suddenly likined himself to a young Randy Moss. They also have the aformentioned Harvin, Bernard Berrian, and Visanthe Shiancoe provide even more options for Favre. The biggest X-Factor for this game is Adrian Peterson. If he can be 2008 Adrian, this game won’t be close. If he is 2009 two yards per carry Adrian, Minnesota will have to depend of the Ol’ Gunslinger, which as we know, doesn’t always lead to success. The one other key will be the linebackers because between the Williams Wall, Jared Allen, and Ray Edwards, the Vikings have the best D-Line in the league. If Jasper Brinkley can fill in to be three quarters of E.J. Henderson, the Vikings will have great success.
In the end, these teams are just about completely evenly matched. The linesmakers even know that because the home team generally gets a three point advantage, so they don’t really like either team more than the other. I believe that this game will come down to a field goal or less, so I’ll take Favre and the Vikings, but the Saints in a very, very close game.
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