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For fans of the NFL, this weekend is the second-most anticipated of the season. Both conferences select their champions today, setting the stage for the Super Bowl on February 4th. Kickoff starts at 3 pm ET for the NFC Championship, and the afternoon should feature two closely-fought contests. This seems a propitious moment for predictions, and I don't want to disappoint.
The Indianapolis Colts will host their nemesis, the New England Patriots, after both teams won improbable victories on the road. The much-maligned Colts defense came up huge against Steve McNair and the Baltimore Ravens, holding them to only two field goals in a 15-6 win. Peyton Manning could not find the end zone, but he was playing against the toughest defense in the league on their home turf. He managed not to lose the game his defense was winning, and last week that was enough.
The Patriots won a game they should have lost last week against a better team. Bill Belichick outcoached Marty Schottenheimer, but the difference was really some foolish playing by the team itself. As Cris Carter put it, "It's not the Xs and Os, its the Willies and the Joes." Tom Brady bounced back from a poor first half to outshoot Philip Rivers, and the San Diego Chargers inexplicably left LaDanian Tomlinson in drydock most of the period.
So both teams have had their seasons extended, a bit surprisingly. Expect the Colts to take advantage of it. Their defense, which played great last week on the road and on grass, plays even better at home and on turf. The Patriots defense, while good, isn't as good as the Ravens, and Peyton will find the end zone more than once today. Brady and Belichick can't be discounted, but they won't be enough today. Final: 28-17 Colts.
In this case, we have the two teams everyone expected to see in the conference final. The Chicago Bears have done domination a little differently this year; they look as though they would collapse every week from a QB controversy. They still manage to win, but they don't win many style points in doing so. They square off against the New Orleans Saints, who have made this a rebuilding year: rebuilding Drew Brees' shoulder, rebuilding the team in the draft, and rebuilding the city. If any team could be considered the so-called team of destiny, this is the one.
I see the Saints winning this one, even on the road. Brees starred at nearby Purdue and knows how to play in the weather. The team is built more for ball control offense than the Bears, and they have more stability in the leadership positions. They should excel at the run game, short passing, and special teams, and that will be enough to end the Bears' season. Final: Saints 24, Bears 14.
Of course, I could be entirely wrong ... which is why I plan to watch the games.
UPDATE: I'm wrong on the NFC. Rex Grossman is still less than impressive, but New Orleans has turned the ball over 5 times and will lose this by a wide margin. Rick Moran should be cracking open the bubbly about now. Let's see if I get closer with the Colts.Sphere It View blog reactions
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Tracked on January 21, 2007 1:36 PM
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