The big day is here, the day where we find out which two teams will advance to play for the title. (Can I say play for the Super Bowl? There's so many lawsuits if you use that term without the NFL's permission, I'm not sure if I can even utter it out of my mouth without paying royalties.) On to my bad predictions!
New York Jets @ Indianapolis (-7.5)
Now where the heck have I seen this matchup before? It seems so familiar to me...oh yeah, now I remember! Week 16. Colts are 14-0, on the verge of a perfect regular season. Jets are fighting for their playoff lives. But the Colts have everything clinched. 1st round bye, home field throughout the playoffs--Indy has everything wrapped up already. Rumor is, they're going to yank their starters out of the game about halfway through so as to protect them from a freak injury, because we all know that starters can't get hurt during the 1st half of games. Middle of the 3rd quarter, Colts have just rallied to take a 15-10 lead on the Jets...and here comes something named Curtis Painter to play QB for the Colts as Peyton Manning looks on helplessly. Final score: Jets 29, Colts 15. Goodbye perfect season. Big middle finger to the fans who not only root for the Colts, but specifically the ones who paid good money to see this farce. Ironically, the Colts threw a game to the Jets in order to theoretically give themselves a better chance to get to the Super Bowl and win. And today, who stands between the Colts and the Super Bowl? It's the Jets. The same team the Colts could have killed if they played to win the game (hello?) in Week 16, because a loss would have knocked the Jets out of playoff contention. All karma points toward picking the underdog Jets to stick it to the Colts and beat their starters today instead of their junior varsity. I can't pick that. My thoughts on the Colts last week applies tenfold today--Manning and everyone else on that team have to feel like the Super Bowl is the only acceptable outcome to this season after pissing away a chance at perfection, and even more so today because to lose to the team that wouldn't have been in the playoffs at all had they beaten them would be a monumental boner. I'll call the game like this: The Colts had to rally to take a lead in a defensive struggle in Week 16. But to put the Jets behind means to make them rely more on QB Mark Sanchez through the air than RBs Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene on the ground. Therefore, if the Colts would have kept playing in Week 16, and not let Curtis Painter and the other scrubs in the game to turn the ball over and give up great field position, then the Jets would have had to come back using their passing game. Yes, the 31st-ranked passing game in the league. Don't know in what quarter, but I say Colts get a lead today and never give it up.
My Pick: Indianapolis 24-10
Minnesota @ New Orleans (-3.5)
In the main event of the evening, two heavyweight offenses slug it out in the Bayou for the NFC title. In one corner, an offense in the Saints that seems capable of looking as good as any offense in the league when it's clicking. I talked last week about how awesome the Saints looked against New England earlier this season, but I couldn't pick them over Arizona because they hadn't looked that good since then. Well, last week they looked that good and then some. The bye week clearly did them good. In the other corner, an offense that seems to constantly be at odds with itself, but it didn't matter last week because the Vikings defense terrorized the Dallas Cowboys and didn't allow QB Tony Romo any time to operate. I was afraid of that happening when I picked Dallas, and sure enough, the front four of Minnesota dominated the Cowboys offensive line all day long. They're certainly capable of doing that today to New Orleans, too. But I think about the perfect storm of happenings that have to occur in order for the Vikings to get the job done today: Brett Favre's wild passes have to find Sidney Rice or any of his other WRs in perfect stride while the defensive backs aren't even looking for the ball (honestly, the Cowboys secondary looked like they had no interest in picking up the football in the air, and once it was caught, they had no interest in stopping the receiver from running away), Favre and coach Brad Childress have to co-exist knowing that they have widely differing viewpoints on how the offense should be run, the playmakers on the Vikings secondary that were playing at a high level at the beginning of the season have to get it going against one of the top offenses in the league, AND they have to do it in the Superdome, one of the toughest places for a visitor to play, even though the Vikes sported only a 4-4 road record this season. That's too many obstacles for me. Saints QB Drew Brees wasn't even called on last week to have a great game because the defense and RB Reggie Bush were so effective. So I can see Brees having a tremendous evening in the town that has adopted him in the last few years as maybe the best player in franchise history. And don't forget Favre's tendency to gag in big moments and start heaving up multiple interceptions in desperation. Ask the Jets how that felt towards the end of last year. I'm picking Saints vs. Colts in a very entertaining Super Bowl matchup.
My Pick: New Orleans 38-34