In the NFC, the top seeded New Orleans Saints easily dispatched of the Arizona Cardinals this past Saturday 45 to 14 as 7 point favorites against the spread. The Minnesota Vikings easily dispatched of the Dallas Cowboys this past Sunday 34 to 3 as 2 ½ point home favorites. Now these giants collide.
The top seed in the AFC Conference, the Indianapolis Colts, put a beat down on the Baltimore Ravens 20 to 3 on Saturday as 6 ½ point favorites. On Sunday, the New York Jets as 7 ½ point underdogs upset the San Diego Chargers 17 to 14 to advance to the conference championship.
It’s Minnesota vs. New Orleans in the NFC and the New York Jets vs. the Indianapolis Colts in the AFC for the right to go to the Super Bowl!
Let’s take a quick look at this year’s NFL Conference Championships.
NFL Conference Championships Preview
Theme #1: Quarterbacks
In the NFC, New Orleans Saints will be led by Drew Brees, who finished 2 nd in MVP voting, and the Minnesota Vikings will be led by Brett Favre, who finished 4 th in MVP Voting. Brees put up a 125.4 QB rating in the Saints’ destruction of the Cardinals while Favre put up a 134.4 QB rating as the Vikings blasted the Cowboys.
Both guys have a ton of weapons at their disposal. Favre has Sidney Rice who scored three touchdowns against the Cowboys, Percy Harvin, and the terrific Adrian Peterson in the backfield. Brees has Marques Colston, Devery Henderson, Robert Meacham and the terrific slot receiver Lance Moore to throw the ball to. Don’t forget about his “backup plan”,
the electrifying Reggie Bush, who scored two touchdowns against the Cardinals this past Saturday and the bruising Pierre Thomas.
Favre vs. Brees could be a classic quarterback duel in the Superdome this coming Sunday.
In the AFC, there can’t be more of a contrast between the two participating quarterbacks. For the second year in a row, one of the teams participating in the AFC Championship game will have a rookie as their quarterback (Joe Flacco for Baltimore). The New York Jets’ QB, Mark Sanchez, not only will be trying to win the AFC Conference Championship game as a rookie but he will be doing so as one of the worst starting quarterbacks, stat wise, in the NFL.
Sanchez has completed only 54% of his passes, has thrown for 20 interceptions and 12 touchdowns, has passed for 2444 yards during the regular season, and has posted a QB rating of 63.2 overall.
The other QB in the AFC Conference Championship Game, a fella named Peyton Manning, has thrown for 33 touchdown as opposed to 16 interceptions, has posted a 99.9 QB rating overall, has passed for 4500 yards and won the leagues’ MVP all in one year.
Sanchez, no doubt, is going to have to be much better than he has been all season long for the Jets to beat the Indianapolis Colts again.
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Theme #2: Defense
The Saints’ D held Arizona’s QB Kurt Warner to only 205 passing yards and the Cardinals’ offense to 14 total points. The Colts held Baltimore’s offense to 270 total yards and 3 total points. The Minnesota Vikings held the Dallas Cowboys to 248 total yards and 3 points and the New York Jets held San Diego Chargers’ QB Phillip Rivers to only 298 passing yards, a single touchdown and 2 picks. It also held the Chargers to 14 total points.
Yes, defense does remain supreme in the playoffs.
Best Matchup: New Orleans Offensive Line vs. Minnesota’s Defensive Line
The Vikings’ D line dominated Tony Romo on Sunday, limiting the Dallas QB to 22 out of 35 for less than 200 yards and a pick. They sacked Romo 6 times for a loss of 42 yards.
How the Vikings’ D plays against Drew Brees and the Saints’ offensive line should determine the outcome of the NFC Championship game. The Vikings could have some problems with D-lineman Ray Edwards, who was dominant during the first half of Sunday’s victory. But if they’re lucky they might not have to worry about him as he injured himself and is questionable for this Sunday’s game.
If the Vikings’ can’t pressure Brees, then forget it. The Saints’ secondary is back to its wily ways and will disrupt Brett Favre and Minnesota’s passing game. The Vikings will have to counter by putting Brees on his back. If they don’t, then their chances of beating the Saints are practically nil.
Best Individual Matchup: The Colts’ Reggie Wayne vs. the Jets’ Darrelle Revis
Darrelle Revis was robbed out of the leagues’ Defensive MVP Award. No offense to Green Bay’s Charles Woodson, but Revis was dynamite in all 16 Jets’ regular season games and has been nothing short of spectacular in the playoffs.
Facing Reggie Wayne is a tall order, however, because Wayne and QB Peyton Manning adjust together. If the long ball isn’t available, then the pair will turn to the slant.
Wayne caught only 3 passes for 33 yards against the Jets the first time these two teams met, but Indianapolis pulled their starters early in that game and the 11 yard average that Wayne posted was pretty good considering it was against Revis and the Jets.
Most Interesting “Decision to Haunt” Moment: Indy Resting Their Starters in Week 15
The Indianapolis Colts could be kicking themselves after the AFC Championship Game. In Week 16, the Colts took a 9 to 3 lead into halftime during their game with the New York Jets.
The Colts decided to rest Peyton Manning in the second half, and some of their other starters and the Jets took control and beat up Indianapolis 29 to 15. Now, the Jets have a shot to beat Indy again for a ticket to the Super Bowl.
What really sucks for the Colts about this situation is that they could have ended the Jets’ playoff chances with a Week 15 win. Oh, sure, some NFL experts will say that the Colts rested their starters for a reason and that with Peyton in that game in the second half, Indy would have won, but Peyton doesn’t play defense.
The Colts racked up 29 points on the Jets in that game. They will go into Indy with a ton of confidence. Indianapolis could seriously be kicking themselves after the AFC Championship Game for not burying the Jets when they had the chance to do it.
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