NFL Playoffs: Conference Championship Predictions
Coming into this week, New England is undefeated at home, on the road and anywhere else they decide to play. The Chargers come to town after a nice showdown against the Colts last Sunday. New England is favored (obviously) by a lot, but don't put down the Chargers just yet. There might be some surprises in store.
Patriots. There is no contest here. At all. End of discussion. As much as I like the Chargers, with LaDainian Tomlinson and Philip Rivers hurt, the Chargers won't be able to do much. Granted, the two of them will most likely play, but they will not be able to do much against this talented Patriot 'D'.With LT and Philip 'I'm Better Than Everyone Else' Rivers hurt, the offense will have to turn to backup running back, Michael Turner, to step up and deliver against a potent Patriot defense. As far as San Diego's receivers go, with Antonio Gates continually hobbling around, the team will turn to wide-out Chris Chambers to step up his game and play like a true championship caliber player.
On the other side of the ball, we look at the Patriots' offense. The Patriots have Randy Moss going deep and Wes Welker in the slot. I would most definitely think of this as one of the best 1-2 punches in the league. In addition to Moss and Welker, the Patriots have Donte Stallworth, who always has the potential to stretch a long play. With tight end Kyle Brady questionable, that spot goes to Benjamin Watson. I like what I see from Watson, but he has dropped quite a few catches. Overall, by the end of the game, the Chargers will be too tired to keep up with the depth of the Patriot receiving corps, with New England ultimately winning the battle.
Patriots. The Patriots are ranked in the top ten in each major defensive category. With a linebacking corps consisting of former Charger Junior Seau, Tedy Bruschi, Adalius Thomas and Mike Vrabel, the Chargers are going to be lucky to get fifty yards on the ground. The Pats secondary is pretty good, as well. Shut-down corner Asante Samuel goes against Chris Chambers, while Ellis Hobbs gets whoever else the Chargers decide to play at receiver.
The Charger defensive line is going to have their hands full with the terrific left side of the Patriot 'O' line. They will probably focus on the right side of the line to rattle that side of the ball, avoiding wasted effort on Matt Light.
The Bolt linebacking core is one of the best in the business, with Shawne Merriman leading the way. Laurence Maroney will probably be shut down like he always is, taking this game to an all-out passing raid for both teams. The Charger secondary is pretty good,as well. When Antonio Cromartie matches up with Randy Moss, Cromartie will have his hands full. Too bad the Bolts don't have multiple Cromarties, as that would help shut down the deep receiving corps of the Patriots.
Patriots. Second-year kicker Stephen Gostkowski is a pretty good kicker. I am still not very confident in Nate Kaeding's kicking ability following his fibula injury. Home field advantage will be a problem for the Chargers, obviously. The Patriots need to watch out for Darren Sproles, the quick returner who is one of the more underrated returnmen in the game.
Bill Belichick over Norv Turner. No questions about it. I don't feel like I need to go in depth with this.
If the whole Charger team can step up and make up for injuries, they will have a chance.
Patriots by 13.
Eli vs. Brett. If Eli wins, the Super Bowl would be the rematch from the last game of the regular season. If Brett wins, the Packers have the chance to possibly send Brett Favre off on a good farewell note. In any case, the winner has another chance at knocking off the undefeated Patriots in the Super Bowl.
Packers. Over the course of the season, the Packer's running game has exploded into one of the best running games in the league. It probably helps if you have the second best pass offense in the league as well. Brett Favre has multiple options to throw the ball to, ranging from Greg Jennings to San Jose State product James Jones. In between these two player can be sandwiched receivers Koren Robinson and Donald Driver.
On the Giants' side of the ball, we have Eli "The Punk" Manning. He has played in three consecutive decent-to-good games. Amazing. Expect a breakdown sometime soon, unless he has actually grown up (unlike Rivers). Eli has to get the ball into the hands of Amani Toomer or Plaxico Burress. If he cannot succeed in putting the ball in one of those two spots, the Giants will lose. Brandon Jacobs is a very good back who broke out after Tiki Barber retired last season. Look for a very good game from him, but the whole Giant offense, much like it has all season, depends on 'The Punk'.
Packers. With Charles Woodson and Al Harris in the secondary, this Packer defense can probably be seen as the best or second best secondary in the league. Other than that, not much to talk about the Packer unit. They are very solid and work together as a well- oiled machine to get the job done. No guts, no glory. They truly take one for the team.
The Giants defense has more household names like Michael Strahan and Antonio Pierce. My question to the Giants defense is this: can they provide the pressure that Seattle, even with their awesome front seven, could not provide?
I am still not confident in the Giant secondary, though. Corey Webster does not appear to be the guy who can take on a James Jones or Donald Driver-type of player. He got burned on several plays earlier in the playoffs and got burned by Randy Moss twice in the final game of the regular season, even if one did not count (dropped pass).
Packers. I love Mason Crosby as a kicker. Not as much as I love Gostkowski, but Crosby is an amazing kicker. He is probably used to playing in the snow from going to school in Colorado, and he does not seem fazed at all by roaring crowds.
I don't see the Giants getting any leeway in kickoffs and punts because their returners are quite vulnerable. The Packers have experienced returners and good blockers who can give Woodson/Robinson good returns. Home field advantage in the snow? Of course the Packers. No one plays as good in Lambeau in the snow as Brett.
Tom Coughlin over Mike McCarthy. First time I have ever put Coughlin first. Coughlin has more experience and is riding a two-game playoff winning streak.
If 'The Punk' continues to mature, this will be a game to remember. This game mostly depends on the Giants' ability to pressure Brett Favre. Remember, however, no one plays as well as Brett in the snow covered Lambeau.
Packers by 10.
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