Sunday, January 24, 2010

Championship Sunday picks & preview

By Rick Morris

In addition to posting my weekly picks, I will post those from other members of The FDH Lounge Dignitaries' Football Challenge Contest. In the regular season, we each posted our three strongest plays. Here are the standings to this point, including all games from the divisional round:

STEVE CIRVELLO: 29-30 overall, 3-1 last week
RICK MORRIS: 28-31 overall, 1-3 last week (also 9-8 on my 1,000-Star, Gold-Plated Lock of the Millennium for each week of the regular season)DAVE ADAMS: 27-32 overall, 1-3 last weekRYAN ISLEY: 26-32-1 overall, 3-1 last weekSEAN TRENCH: 21-35-2 overall, 1-3 last week

We will each pick every playoff game. Each of our picks will be listed, in addition to the FDH "consensus" pick based on who has the most votes in each game (the FDH consensus picks were 1-3 last week and 2-4 in the playoffs):

NY Jets +8 at Indianapolis
(The FDH NY Bureau) STEVE: NY Jets
RICK: Indianapolis
DAVE: Indianapolis
RYAN: Indianapolis
SEAN: Indianapolis
FDH CONSENSUS: Indianapolis, 4-1

Minnesota +3 ½ at New Orleans
STEVE: New Orleans
RICK: New Orleans
DAVE: New Orleans
RYAN: Minnesota
SEAN: New Orleans
FDH: CONSENSUS: New Orleans, 4-1

Additionally, here are my overall Championship Sunday observations, extended thoughts on each game and my predictions for the subsequent round:

^ Championship Sunday is frankly one of my favorite days of the year and I always have over my pals from my fantasy football league. I really love Super Sunday also, but this day is more for the hardcore fans and less for the posers looking to “network” with people at a business-oriented party, hit on nearby women or be concerned only with their “squares.” Having said that, as I expressed on our Facebook page last week, I’m pretty PO’d that the Jets ruined what could have been a dream doubleheader: Chargers/Colts and the one we did get in Vikings/Saints. Instead, we get football’s version of the neutral zone trap as the team who can’t rally from a deficit of more than a touchdown seeks to “muddy down” the skill level. Yummy!

^ There are still some interesting Super Bowl matchups left: Vikings/Jets (Brett Favre Bowl, historic futility vs. historic futility), Vikings/Colts (Favre vs. Peyton Manning), Saints/Colts (Drew Brees vs. Manning) and Saints/Jets (Jonathan Vilma Bowl). Of course, no matter who wins the NFC Championship Game, we as football news consumers come out the real losers by enduring two weeks of overkill storylines (Favre’s latest comeback if the Vikings win, the start of the 1,000th cycle of Katrina stories if the Saints win).

^ Conference championship games have rarely been contested in domes, but both of these games will be. Of these teams, the Vikings lost a heartbreaker on Championship Sunday in 1999 at the Triple H Metrodome, while the Colts got over on Bully Belichick and the boys three years ago.

Coaches love them some “us against the world,” and with the aforementioned desecration against the art of football that the Jets represent by making it to Championship Sunday, Rex Ryan didn’t have to hunt far to find material. Nobody except Jets fans (and also, let’s be honest, Colts fans) wanted the outcome we saw in SoCal last Sunday night. However, games like this prove the limits of such psychological manipulation. Shrieking “no respect” doesn’t provide a semblance of a certifiably viable passing game that can allow a team to play a well-rounded game. Darrelle Revis may well render Reggie Wayne the latest castaway on his island, but that just gives Peyton Manning many other chances to spread the rock. The Jets hold the edge in terms of the running game, but guess what? So did the Ravens last week and Indy ground out countless short-gaining carries just to add the necessary variety to the game plan. We saw then how the Colts deal with such one-dimensional teams. Late Sunday afternoon, when Ryan is begging Jim Caldwell (aka George Seifert 2K10) to put in the scrubs again, he won’t get his wish for a second time. Colts 23, Jets 6.

Vikings/Saints … now we’re talking! The contest that loomed as a dream matchup for ¾ of the season before both teams tanked down the stretch snapped back into place last week as both teams thumped tremenous opposition to make it this far. We know about the explosive capability of both offenses (even if Reggie Bush’s awesome running last week – particularly between the tackles – was quite the revelation, although entirely meriting the “let’s see him do it again” skepticism of FDH Senior Editor Jason Jones), but the respective performances on defense will seal this one either way. The Saints play a very opportunistic style contingent on key turnovers like we saw last week against Arizona; in a game like that, particularly at home (more about that in a minute), they will flat-out boatrace you. The Vikes key everything off of their latest version of the Purple People Eaters on the line with the otherworldly Williams “brothers” up front and Jared Allen up front. They can be beaten downfield, although you would never have known it from Jason Garrett’s cowardly and pathetic playcalling last week. But then again, Minnesota is going to have to outfox Sean Payton this week, and I just don’t see them doing it. Factor in the home dome, which Colin Cowherd rightfully notes is one of the most powerful in the league and more akin to a collegiate atmosphere, and a game that would be very difficult to predict on a neutral field appears to come into clearer focus. Saints 34, Vikings 24.

Saints 34, Colts 27

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