Well, boys and girls, it comes down to this. Two men enter, one man leaves. The Holy Grail of Gambling is just eight short quarters away and I truly believe that we have the two best teams in each conference matched up to decide who gets to plunge into the two-week gauntlet of Sex, Money, and Depravity that lead up to the Super Bowl.
I’m not going to waste your time rehashing the same hackneyed storylines this week. If you don’t know that:
A) Tom Brady is good in the playoffs. Peyton Manning isn’t.
B) Bill Belichick is good in the playoffs. Tony Dungy isn’t.
C) Adam Vinatieri used to kick for the Pats and now kicks for the Colts. He will most likely decide the game.
D) New Orleans was destroyed by a biblical flood and an incompetent government – both federal and local – and the team was displaced as a result. They are what is commonly referred to as a “Feel Good Story”.
E) The Saints love Bush.
F) Sexy Rex Grossman is the most enigmatic player left in the playoffs. The man is either a Football God or the Anti-Christ on any given Sunday.
G) The Bears hit people. Hard.
Then I don’t know what to tell you. Actually, I do. On Sunday, just go to church and pray for world peace and ask God for the two winners. That’s about the only chance you’ll have at not pissing away your bankroll.
Call it a hunch, but if you’re expecting two classic Title Games, I think you’re going to be horribly disappointed. I hate to be the one to break it to you but we’re going to have to endure two blowouts this weekend. Now, I’m not going to tell you who is going to destroy whom (you have to pay for that information!). But I will tell you that my flabby gut is telling me that neither of these games will be decided by less than a touchdown. So if you’re taking the points this weekend you better think your team can win straight up because those three points aren’t going to mean squat come fourth-and-forever in the final quarter of what has been a massacre.
It’s the Conference Championships. Here are my Power Rankings:
1. New England (13-4) – Bill Belichick is 3-0 SU and ATS in AFC Championship games and the Patriots are 5-0 SU in their history. Tom Brady is 10-0 in domes, including a 38-34 win the last time he was in the RCA Dome. Richard Seymour and Ty Warren weren’t healthy, and Rodney Harrison was knocked out on the second play the last time these two teams met. The Patriots allowed a league-low 10 touchdown passes this year. Essentially, they are a team of Godless killing machines.
2. Chicago (14-3) – This Bears defense isn’t what it was in October (they’ve surrendered 300+ total yards in their past seven outings) but man, did they ever come up big in the fourth quarter and overtime against Seattle. In the past 15 years there’ve been three dome teams that have gone outside for the NFC Title game. All three lost by an average of 29 points. The Bears have been practicing outside in the below-freezing temperatures all week. The Saints have practiced indoors. Chicago’s young safeties cannot get beat for big plays. New Orleans had 78 plays of 20+ yards this year, most in the NFL.
3. Indianapolis (13-4) – Hey, I’m not trying to rain on the Colts parade, but I’m still not buying the Defensive Renaissance. Baltimore’s offense is awful, and we’ll see how the Colts game plan against Brady and Co. Cato June will suit up and play this weekend after suffering a concussion last week in Baltimore. He has to play well, as does LB Rob Morris, for the Colts to have a chance. The Colts allowed 6.1 yards per rush on first down and 5.7 overall over their last seven regular season games, but have lowered those number to 4.3 and 3.4, respectively, in the playoffs.
4. New Orleans (11-6) – If Deuce McAllister rushes for over 110 yards the Saints will win. It’s pretty simple. I think Reggie Bush can be neutralized because the Bears linebackers are faster than any that Bush has faced all season. But the Bears only have three healthy DT’s and if New Orleans can pound the ball up the middle they can win. The Saints also have the league’s 10th-ranked special teams units so Devin Hester should be contained. The Saints are 9-4 in their L13 against the NFC and are 8-1-1 ATS against Chicago since 1996.
5. San Diego (14-2) – Just like there came a time to move on and let Drew Brees go to get to Philip Rivers, I think the time has come to let Marty go and bring in someone to light a new fire under the Chargers. Apparently the San Diego brass doesn’t agree. That’s great news for us gamblers in next year’s playoffs though!!
6. Baltimore (13-3) – Do you think the Ravens regret letting Chester Taylor go? That’s the No. 1 thing that this team needs if they want to get back to the playoffs next year: a back with breakaway speed. A wideout with wheels wouldn’t hurt either. Nor would a quarterback.
7. Philadelphia (10-7) -If the Eagles tried to use Westbrook as much in the early part of the season as they did the last seven games he would be hurt by the end of October. They need a bruiser that they can feed in Sept. and Oct. Also, they need some new linebackers to shore up that awful run defense.
8. Kansas City (9-8) – Damon Huard should have been the starting quarterback this year, and should be the starter on opening day next year. They can’t stop building that defense either. Those guys in the secondary aren’t getting any younger.
9. New York Giants (8-9) – Michael Strahan was ordered to pay nearly $15.3 million and hundreds of thousands of dollars to his ex-wife. That means the 14-year veteran will likely be forced to play for two or three more years because he may need the money. Tough times.
10. New York Jets (10-7) – They need help on defense more than on offense, particularly their corners and in the front four. A go-to running back wouldn’t hurt either.
11. Seattle (10-7) – Not sure if you were aware, but on that fateful fourth-and-one call center Chris Spencer snapped the ball on the wrong count. That’s why the timing and execution of the whole play were off. Kind of a microcosm of the Seattle season.
12. Dallas (9-8) – Bill Parcells is more of a problem then Terrell Owens. The guy is just not a top-tier coach anymore.
13. Atlanta – No, I don’t think the Falcons are any good. But I had to get this in here somehow. Ron Mexico got busted at an airport for having a water bottle with an extra compartment in it. In the compartment was weed that he was trying to sneak through security. You can’t make this up. This coming the same week that Marcus Mexico is trying to get a judge to dismiss a $6.35 mil. lawsuit that was brought on by a teenage girl claiming she had a two-year sexual relationship with him. Ha! The Manning Family may be the biggest dorks in the NFL but the Vick Family is definitely the biggest scumbags.