Rule #1 when gambling. Never bet with your heart. I rarely, if ever, throw money on the Broncos. Going into this weekend, I have to make tough decisions. A battle between my heart and my head, and when marital bliss is involved, the hear t will win every time. Let's take a look at the games --
NFC Championship -
New Orleans +3 @ Chicago -- Is anyone outside the Chicago metro-area actually rooting for the Bears tomorrow? After what this team, and the city it represents, went through last year, practicing on a high school field, showering in a tent in a parking lot, playing what worked out to be 16 road games, it seems like destiny that this team would turn around that quickly. Can it be anything else but fate that Drew Brees would end up in New Orleans after it was Miami that looked like a sure landing spot? Reggie Bush was the sure #1 pick until the Houston Texans decided a defensive lineman would make better use of the first pick overall, allowing Bush to fall into the Saints' laps. A rookie head coach, who not only had to build a team, but help put a city back together as well. It is very easy to root for a team like that, and even though the Bears are at home, and have an impressive 14-3 record, the Saints are the better team, making my pick of them to reach the Super Bowl an easy one as well.
The Bears defense hasn't been the same since Mike Brown went down, and have been downright sift since Tommie Harris was lost for the season, allowing 26 points per game. The Seahawks, a bad offensive team, put 24 on the Bears, and probably should have won. The Saints possess the best offense in football and should have no problem scoring, even on the road in Chicago. The question will be whether or not the Bears offense can keep up. Not a chance, with Rex Grossman doing more harm than good. Look for the Saints to get to their first Super Bowl in the feel good story of '07. Saints 27 - Bears 17
AFC Championship -
New England +3 @ Indianapolis -- Remember, never bet with your heart, right? Every ounce of me says the Colts are the better team and will win this game. My heart, er, wife, on the other hand, Boston native and devout Patriots fan says otherwise. After picking against the Pats last week I promised I wouldn't pick against them again. Sure, I guess I can re-nig on that promise, but I like being married. Besides, after the Broncos beat the Pats in the playoffs last season she didn't talk to me for three days. Tell me about it...
Now I have to try and justify the pick. It is the Pats we are talking about, who have seemingly won every big game over the past 6 seasons except when up against our Broncos. Including playoffs, the Pats are 82-29. All of a sudden going with them doesn't seem so hard. Yea, I know, the Colts have won the last two meetings in New England, but teams like New England don't play for regular season success. They focus on getting to the playoffs. That's when all the fun begins.
Last week, the Patriots used the Jedi Mind Trick on San Diego. They made the Chargers believe that L.T. wasn't going to beat them. Their 2nd half play-calling demonstrated as much. Only 9 touches the last 30 minutes. Even though L.T. averaged over 6 yards a touch and was unstoppable. That's the magic of Belichick. Many times he has you beat before you take the field. That's why Denver has had so much success against him, Shanny is going to do what he does, regardless of the opponent. Most other coaches try and out-coach Billy Boy and end up getting away from what they do well.
The Colts will have to avoid this. Like the Pats, the Colts have out-foxed their opponents this off-season, playing a Chiefs team decided their best chance to win was to run-run-pass every possession, then a Ravens team that felt throwing the ball all over the field was the best way to win. The Colts have advanced with Peyton Manning playing mediocre at best, relying instead on a stout defense. That's the reason I think the time might be right for the Colts. They, like the Pats, seemed to play this season with a bigger prize in mind other than regular season success.
In the end, I look at the Quarterbacks. Peyton Manning has found ways to lose big games at every level he has ever played. While at Tennessee, he never beat Florida, and it was the season after he left that the Vols won a National Championship with Tee Martin at the helm. Tom Brady, on the other hand, barely played at Michigan, sitting behind Brian Griese and Drew Henson. In the pros, he was a 6th round pick before going to to greatness and 3 rings. I like that experience, and playing in the dome might be a blessing in disguise for the Pats. The longer it stays close, and every mistake Peyton makes, adds to the pressure squarely on Indy's shoulders. As far as I am concerned, pressure + Manning = Indy Loss. Patriots 27 - Colts 23
Oh, and how could I forget the explosiveness of the Vinatieri situation. Dude has yet to miss in doors this season, and the Patriots will need to find a way for this game not to fall to his right foot, or their refusal to re-sign him could be costly, to say the least.