Sunday, January 24, 2010

NFL Playoffs - Championship Weekend

New York Jets vs. Indianapolis Colts

We all know the formula for the Jets if they have any plans on making the trip to Miami for the Super Bowl. Run the ball. Play the hell out of some defense. Seems easy enough right?

New York’s battle will begin with the play action pass. Mark Sanchez is young. We know this, and when he gets confused bad things happen. But to have an over reliance on the run game here will not surprise the Colts. It will be fun to watch the balancing act of New York in trying to protect the mistakes of Sanchez while also trying to confuse the Colts defense with some play action downfield to help keep the defense honest.

Thus far, Sanchez has held his own in terms of making the right decisions…but one has to think that the simplicity of the Jets offensive scheme has to catch up with them at some point. If the Jets can somehow win the time of possession battle they will put themselves in good position to win the game. If they use their offense as an extension of their defense by keeping the Colts off the field with long drives that eat up the clock, then it will just mean that much less time to worry about Peyton Manning and the rest of the Colts offense. On defense, they face a similar task as last weeks matchup versus San Diego. The upgrade from Philip Rivers to Peyton Manning is substantial, as Manning is smarter at the line of scrimmage and adjusts better to defensive pressure on the fly. In most cases, Manning adjusts to the defense faster than defenses adjust to him…which is what makes him so damn good. New York simply has to hope that they land a few body blows with a confusing blitz package that gets to Manning a few times. Maybe we will see Manning audible at the line after he sees an alert, only to have the Jets disguise a blitz coming from the other side. It will be fun and interesting to watch.

The Jets are playing with house money here. They were almost left for dead midway through the season before backing into the playoffs with some help and now they have caught fire at just the right time. They do have a formula in place to advance even further, but I am going with the smarter and more experienced team who has been there before. Remember, the Colts were winning 15-10 in their late season matchup with the Jets before pulling most of their starters and gift wrapping a New York victory.

Colts 24-17

Minnesota Vikings vs. New Orleans Saints

This game pits the saga of the Brett Favre comeback with the resurrection of post-Katrina New Orleans. One storyline has become as dilapidated as the figure it follows while the latter is one of community and hope.

The Saints came out last week and played like bats out of hell. Ever since this team began to slump towards the end of the regular season, I have been hesitant to put all my chips into the middle with them. Thankfully last week they reminded everyone why they were the most dominant and exciting team in the NFL for the seasons first 13 weeks. The secondary remains underrated as their numbers on paper are skewed due to the fact that they have been holding big leads for the high-powered Saints offense for most of the season. What they are at its core is a physical, ball -hawking defense that forces turnovers and makes big plays. It is almost amazing to think that teams would even start to think about sleeping on Adrian Peterson, but he has really slowed down his production as Brett Favre and company have stressed the passing attack downfield. I think Peterson gets loose today.

If this game gets into a shootout, Minnesota will lose this game handedly. They simply do not possess the same game changing scheme as New Orleans do.

Minnesota’s front seven is intimidating and can get to the quarterback without bringing much exterior pressure. However, their secondary can be exposed and will be if they are unable to take Drew Brees down. Brees and company will look to attack, attack, attack downfield and once the Vikings secondary starts playing on its heels they will look to gash on the edges with super versatile duo of Reggie Bush and Pierre Thomas. If they are unsuccessful pushing the ball downfield, they will lose this game.

When it comes down to it, I think Adrian Peterson finally breaks out of his slump and goes for 100+ yards on the ground as Minnesota will look to take some pressure off the offense and resist getting into a shootout. That being said , I am going to roll with the home field inspiration and a team that looks close to unstoppable on offense when things are clicking…and they usually are.

Saints 31-24


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