Dave's Sports Views

Analysis, humor and opinion on the sports world

Location: Dallas, Texas, United States

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Conference Championship Picks

A busy week, so I'll make these short and sweet. Last year was the eighth consecutive year in which the conference championship games split, with one home team winning and one visitor winning. Both road teams won in 1998, and both home teams won in 1997. Not sure what that all means, but my picks have the trend continuing.

New Orleans at Chicago -- The Bears' defense isn't the same without Tommie Harris, and Seattle exploited that by using Shaun Alexander to pound the ball straight up the middle. New Orleans has a similar weapon in Deuce McAllister. He wore the Eagles down with his power running and that helped make the sweeps of Reggie Bush and the passing of Drew Brees that much more effective. I think Chicago will be ready for that. The Bears corners can handle the Saints' stretch passing game, and that will allow the linebackers to key on the run. Chicago is one of the few teams that has the speed up front to keep Bush out of the secondary. On offense, Rex Grossman can't let the game get too big for him. He needs to use the dependable Thomas Jones and the resurgent Cedric Benson out of the backfield and take advantage of an older New Orleans secondary. There's certainly a chance that Grossman will completely melt down, but I'm betting that the cold weather disrupts the Saints' offense more than the big stage disrupts Rex. Bears 26, Saints 17

New England at Indianapolis -- Both teams won in unorthodox fashion on the road last week. Indy won for the second consecutive week with a strong defensive performance, to offset another shaky outing from Peyton Manning. Tom Brady was inconsistent and looked rattled at times, but when the Patriots needed a big throw, he provided it. I'm sure the Colts wish they could be facing a team other than their playoff nemesis, but given the choice of playing at home for the chance to go to the Super Bowl or taking to the road, I would imagine they'll take their chances in a loud RCA Dome. They have a few things going for them: their previous losses to the Patriots in the playoffs have been on the road, Indianapolis isn't facing the same high expectations as in past years, and the Colts have Adam Vinatieri on their side this time. Unfortunately, Vinatieri has only been the second-most-valuable Patriot in playoffs past. Brady still plays for New England, and he presents challenges Indy hasn't had to face yet with Trent Green and Steve McNair lined up under the opposing center. The Pats abandoned the run early against San Diego, but against a cover-two defense, you have to stick with a running game, and New England will. That will keep the Colts honest enough for Brady to have a big day. After last week, I can't pick against him. Patriots 34, Colts 31



Anonymous Capital One Witness said...

I’ll take the opposite picks: Saints vs. Colts in the Super Bowl. The first choice is easier for me. The Bears have just not looked like the same team to me, on either side of the ball, since they lost Tommie Harris. Urlacher is their recognized star, and not wrongly so, but Harris is the guy who transforms that team and makes it the dominating, scary bunch they were earlier in the season. I just think the Saints are the better overall team at this point, they have the right amount of experience at key positions, and their clear edge at quarterback tips it for me. I picked the Bears in a close one last week, and that’s exactly how it turned out, but as the game unfolded, I ended up thinking that Seattle really should’ve won. This week the Saints will. I don’t expect them to run away with it, but they’ll win.

And then there’s those Patriots … I understand how, after last weekend, no one would ever be willing to pick against them again. But I just can’t seem to get enough punishment, so I will. Really, on paper, I think you can make a persuasive case for picking either team, particularly since the game is in Indy. I’ll just go with my hunch that things have finally turned around for the Colts in the playoffs, and playing at home, they’ll exorcise their Patriot playoff demons. Peyton just can’t lose forever in these situations, can he?

I guess we’ll find out. I’ll take the Colts by, say, 24-20. The Patriots have defied almost all the conventional beliefs about how, and for how long, teams can win in the modern-day NFL – they’ve stayed hyper-competitive for the entire decade, they’re not afraid to let key players walk, they’re able to plug in no-names at corner and still win big games, you name it. But sooner or later, the fact that they have one bona fide star on offense and a bunch of role players (amazingly productive role players, to be sure) around him has to catch up with them in the playoffs, right? Tomorrow’s the day I think it will happen, but it probably wouldn’t if they weren’t going on the road against a quarterback as good as Manning. My hunch is that it’s finally the Colts’ and Tony Dungy’s year, and I guess I’ve decided I really hope it is.

12:42 PM  

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