Well it’s that time of year, when we get two stunning contests between the cream of the NFL. God I love the conference championship games, and this season we have two intriguing contest between four very different teams.
The Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints have shone throughout the season and are the #1 seeds respectively, with the Minnesota Vikings looking good all round and the New York Jets acting out a Disney sports movie script.
I have done a TO and got the popcorn ready, as well as some alcoholic ginger beer (lovely) and some chips and dips. Ok I’ll look like death warmed up in the morning but lets hope its gonna be worth it.
My predicting skills have been pretty average in the playoffs as I have got 5 out of 8 correct so far.
Here goes with my conference championships predictions;
NFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Vikings @ Saints
This game is not exactly your traditional NFC championship, where defense dominates and the score finishes 13-10.
Minnesota and New Orleans are explosive high-powered offensive led teams with lots of talent across the field.
Both play in a Dome, both rely on young studs with speed, agility and soft hands, and both have quarterbacks that are grizzled veterans who both deserve to be playing in the Superbowl for what they have done this season.
This game has all the makings of a wild west shootout, with Brett Favre looking to take the Vikings to a place they haven’t been since Fran Tarkenen and the Purple People Eaters reached four Superbowls in the 1970s (losing all four).
Favre has shown that he can both play disciplined football and also air it our when he needs to, and he has turned Sidney Rice into a megastar, in a way that I suspect Sage Rosenfels or Tavaris Jackson would not have been able to in 2009.
Adrian Peterson has been strangely quiet in the second half of the season and has quite remarkably gone a little under the radar. This I think will all change in the NFC Championship as Peterson will show some of those jaw dropping skills that made him the most exciting rookie since Barry Sanders.
The Saints will simply be unable to bottle up Peterson for 60 minutes, and that my friends will be the difference in the game.
Defensively the Vikings are a remarkable unit up front, with Jared Allen, Kevin Williams and Pat Williams in the middle and the on-fire Ray Edwards at the other end. This is a front four that should have helped a team to reach a Superbowl by now, and they will have to be tackling for their lives against the eel like Reggie Bush, and the the powerful and speedy Pierre Thomas.
The Saints D is led by veteran safety Darren Sharper, who has had an Ed Reed type season, picking off passes and being in the right place at the right time far too many times for it just to be luck or coincidence. Former Jet LB Jonathan Vilma is playing the best football of his life, and underrated pro’s such as Will Allen and linebackers Scott Fujita and Scott Shanle deserve to win today for their consistent effort on a team that has not always been this good.
X-Factors = The obvious x-factors in this game are Reggie Bush for the Saints and Percy Harvin the electric rookie WR for the Vikings.
Thing is I don’t like obvious, and I will instead look at some lesser known players that could be the difference between a trip home and a trip to Miami….
Saints TE David Thomas – With Jeremy Shockey not 100% Martin could be asked to catch 5 or more passes, and this could include in the redzone
Vikings RB Chester Taylor – Taylor has been a passenger in the Viking sailboat that has plundered and pillaged the NFL this season, leaving him fresh for this game. He is the best pass catching back on the team and could break a catch in the backfield and turn it into six huge points.
Prediction – Vikings 33-30 Saints – MVP Adrian Peterson 131 yards rushing and 3 touchdowns
AFC CHAMPIONSHIP – Jets @ Colts
Everyone loves an underdog and the New York Jets , who snuck into the playoffs on the back of the Colts decision to rest their starters in Week 17, are going to have a lot of neutral fans rooting for them. Only problem is Rex Ryan and the Jets don’t consider themselves underdogs, and that positive mentality has willed the Big Apple warriors to the AFC Championship game.
The Colts on the other hand are doing what they always do, winning 12 or more regular season games with relative ease, and without a mind-blowing running game. The last time the Colts won a Superbowl they did it with a precision passing game and a combination of Joesph Addai and Dominic Rhodes in the backfield (sometimes both on the field at the same time). Not much has changed, Addai still has a partner, but this time he is the veteran and Donald Brown is the rookie who knows no better.
Peyton Manning does not need much of a description here, just look in a dictionary for the definition of an All Pro QB and Manning’s face will be there.
Marvin Harrison is gone at WR, but in his place are Austin Collie and Pierre Garcon, who have both stepped up when needed and have helped catapult the Colts to a championship game.
The Jets have won games the way they used to be won, with a big nasty offensive line and a running game that gives opposition DCs nightmares. The combination of ‘the most underrated RB in NFL history’ Thomas Jones, and rookie rocket pack Shonn Greene, is pretty much perfect, and FB Tony Richardson is one of the best in his position in the past 30 years.
New York will go into this game with a rookie under center, and unfortunately this will be the game that brings Mark Sanchez crashing down to earth. It’s not that Sanchez can’t move the ball or pass accurately, its just that Robert Mathis and Dwight Freeney will be more pumped up than the world’d biggest hot air balloon.
We all know that Darelle Revis the Jets CB should have been voted NFL Defensive MVP this season, and we also know that he will do an outstanding job tracking whoever will dare to matchup with him. It’s the rest of the Jets corners that I have bigger issues with.
X-Factors =This comes down to the Jets offense being able to move the ball and the Colts defense showing that their game last week was no fluke.
Colts – Defensive tackles Antonio Johnson and Daniel Muir are pretty much unknown outside of Indy, but they hold the key to this game. If they can hold the Jets running game it could be a long night for Sanchez.
Jets – WR Braylon Edwards. Yes Edwards has had a lot of stick recently for dropping passes, but he has the talent, the speed and the desire to show why he was an early first round pick by the Cleveland Browns. Edwards, if he is given the opportunity by the play calling, could surprise all NFL fans with a monster game.
Prediction – Colts 26-16 Jets – MVP Peyton Manning 289 yards and 2 touchdowns.