NFL Playoffs: The Final Four

John McCloryAnalyst IJanuary 14, 2008

And then there were four...


This team has to falter eventually, right? Right?

How many more upsets do these guys have in the tank? If you had told me the Giants would upset the Bucs in Tampa Bay, then squeak out a win versus "America's (former?) team," all with Tom Coughlin and Eli Manning at the helm, I probably would've passed out.

Speaking of Elisha, he's doing his best impression of 2007's Peyton Manning. He finally has the chance to shove it in the face of his critics. To take a page out of Booomer Esiason's CBS playbook, Eli Manning is this years Peyton Manning (Uh-oh Dan Marino's glaring at me).

But forget the Giants for a moment, the real story was T.O.'s tear-filled post-game press conference. Let's break this down, I can't resist...

1) Should Dr. Phil set aside some time for this guy? Forget Britney Spears, you could argue T.O. has been the bigger headcase over the years. He's the Andy Kaufman of the NFL -- he's mysterious and often bizarre in, and out, of the spotlight. No one really understands him, yet we crave more. When he inevitably fakes his own death ten years from now, I won't be the least bit shocked.

2) His off-the-field antics are all over the page. He bashed his former quarterbacks, played mind games with Eagles management and the entire city of Philly, called out a retired wide receiver and a pop singer, had a suicide attempt/accidental overdose incident -- and that's just a brief synopsis. On the field he has the potential to lead the league in drops and TD's. Figure that one out.

3) Even Adam Morrison, Mark Cuban, and the "Leave Britney Alone" YouTube guy/girl must've thought T.O.'s emotional post-game breakdown was a tad excessive. I'm sorry, you can't have it both ways, Owens. Throwing everyone under the bus, then all but confessing your undying love for Tony Romo and defending his Mexican getaway, is a bit much for fans and the media to absorb. Seriously, someone diagnose this guy with a disorder so we can give him a free pass for once.


Is there anyone who doesn't want to see Brett Favre in the Super Bowl?

Fans and media, alike, are already playing out imaginary scenarios in their mind of how Favre will execute his final drive to win the Super Bowl. Admit it, you've done it.

Nonetheless, the Giants will have their hands full yet again. The passing game has been relentless, the defense is as tough as they come, and the running game appears to be revived.

Some athletes simply refuse to let their team lose. Michael Jordan possesed this gift and Favre definitely has a hint of it as well. It's a gift that can't be thoroughly explained, but it has something to do with willing your team to victory time and again.

Picture it: the Pack execute a narrow, yet impressive, win over the Giants at Lambeau. The post-game interviews feature an ecstatic Favre gushing about his team's 4th quarter heroics. Erin Andrews, or one of the sideline gal's (isn't there a dozen or so?), ask the obvious question of how he pulled it off. Favre stares blankly into space with his mouth wide open for a moment, then stammers, "I...I don't know..." Sure enough, when the Bolts or Pats view the game tape they're also at a loss for words of how the Pack were victorious.

That's the 2007-08 Packers in a nutshell. They (especially Favre) improv better than any team in the NFC and execute several head-scratching plays per game.

The Giants must get to Favre early and often. Oh, and that Ryan Grant fellow seems to be a potential threat now.

(By the way, if Strahan gets to Favre in this game will that qualify as the oldest DE sacking the oldest QB in NFL playoff history? Or how about NFL history? Find me the answer and claim your prize.)


The Bolts added an anti-climatic ending to the former Super Bowl champs season.

The talking heads love to give the Pats credit for "winning in a variety of ways," but Norv and co. seem to win in ways no one thought possible.

That's right, boys and girls, Norv Turner is defying his borderline morbid career under the headset. The Chargers appear to have enough depth on the sideline to form another NFL franchise. Finally, they look strong on paper and on the field.

TomDanian LaLinson (I'm boycotting the L.T. nickname and citing copywrite infringement) is hurting but it might take a vicious act of violence to keep him out versus New England. In fact, all the offensive playmakers are torn to shreds after their trip to the RCA Dome. Gates is doing his best impression of Shaq O'Neal with a toe injury and Rivers is, well, too busy jawing at Indy fans to worry about his tweaked knee.

So wait, the Jay Cutler incident wasn't a fluke or misunderstanding? Funny how winning can pull you out of your shell and mold you into a world-class trash-talker. The fans initial reaction, I'm sure, was anger, but on the long car ride home they were asking, "Wait, who was that guy?"

All QB's in the playoffs who completed more than 280 passes during the regular season, please step forward...

Whoa, not so fast, Phillip.

Okay, I'll take it easy on the young buck.  After all, he has made tremendous strides over the last few games.  Just needs to let his game do the talking.

Anyway, the Chargers have nothing to lose at this point. They've already lost playmakers and some fans confidence (Admit it, you were chanting "Marty" by week 5). If they lose we all acknowledge that they were too injury plagued and Norv isn't the right man for the job. If they win we gush about their heart and praise their effort as if we never had a shadow of a doubt.

Teams with every red flag in the book are the most dangerous kind, though.


Everyone has been playing the "This is the Week" game since week 10.

Fans expect the worst at all times. Sure, the Pats are human but that doesn't mean they have to lose. What's so far fetched about this team going 19-0? Have you watched their highlight reel of games? Do you realize just how focused they are? Have you considered the fact that they're infuriated by the asterisk, Spygate, trash-talk that's been looming since week 1 (despite what they say in press conferences)?

At this point, it's not just about winning a football game, it's about sticking it to the rest of the league, too. Sure, Brady and Belichick appear calm and in control on camera, but I can assure you they are talking up a storm in the locker room.

Would it be surprising to discover they have a "hit-list" of sorts posted on the locker room bulletin board? Like Chad Johnson, they go right down the list and cross off each opponent one-by-one.

And you just know they are watching SportsCenter and waiting for their opponent to open their mouth and give them some extra incentive for the upcoming game.

It's all been said before: the coaching, leadership, passing, running, and defense are all a cut above. Well, the defense has been questionable, but stands tough when push comes to shove.

The Pats have everything to lose, but play like nothings on the line. But like Tedy Bruschi said, "I acknowledge that every week, we can be beat by any team."'


Giants 24, Packers 31

Chargers 21, Patriots 27


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