Conference Championships Preview

The Conference Championships are always a bittersweet moment. It’s the last real Sunday of football, in the sense that the six-plus hours of on-field action are at least a match for the hours of televised pre-game hype. The teams in this final four are playing for huge stakes, the last “win or go home” games of the year, and the matchups rarely disappoint.

The underdog “us against the world” Jets take on the mighty Goliaths from Indianapolis, a team whose perverse generosity in Week 16 let these New Yorkers storm into the playoffs. And this football era’s most iconic player at quarterback, Brett Favre, gets one more chance at getting to the promised land. You couldn’t ask for two stronger “stories” to root for in these games.

With that said, though, anything less than a Colts-Saints pairing in the Super Bowl will be a disappointment. I’m going to enjoy these games for what they are, but come Monday, if either of those teams is on the sideline, the championship pairing will lose luster.

The Colts and Saints have been juggernauts all season — at least when it counted. When the Rams hosted both in back-to-back home games, it felt as though we were welcoming royalty, teams from a higher football plane. And when the Rams nearly toppled the Saints in the second of those games, it was our own Super Bowl. It was as though the Rams had learned how to play at that higher level, somehow absorbed a depth of ability and a necessary intensity from being bullied and stomped on for the season’s previous weeks.

The Rams continued to fight, despite numerous injuries, to the season’s end. But as we watch these teams face off, we can’t help but wonder how long it will take — how much new talent will be required, how much evolution needed from our rookie class of coaches — before we are ready to rejoin this pantheon. How long will it be before we have a chance to fight for a chance to play in the season’s last game?

Pregame reading from around FanBall, after the break:

Colts vs Jets

Turn On The Jets:

  • This week’s edition of TOJ TV is a must-see, especially if you’re into self-produced rap videos.
  • TOJ’s game prediction is predicated on a complete dissection of the “NFL is a passing league” truism. Joe finds the Colts several counts shy of championship grade, and predicts a 23-20 Jets win.
  • Also, TOJ argues for keeping a heavy dose of Thomas Jones in rotation with Shonn Greene — not a bad idea for those that remember how important the dual threat of Brnadon Jacobs and Derrick Ward was for the championship Giants squad.

Colts Chatter

  • CC looks at the matchup between these two teams, and thinks it all starts with the contrasting styles and attitudes of their coaches, Rex Ryan (“all mouth and trousers,” as the Brits say), and the classy, Dungy protege, Jim Caldwell.
  • Analysis of a key matchup: despite the fact that Darelle Revis held Reggie Wayne to 33 yards on 3 catches in Week 16, CC still thinks Wayne will not be “lost on Revis Island.” This matchup is symbolic of the entire argument for the Colts — that they have something to show this week that they did not show four weeks ago.

Saints vs Vikings

The VikingsThrone still sits empty, looking for a new correspondent to wear the crown. But the Saints’ Who Dat Blog covers ground for both teams in this matchup.

  • WDB’s only regret from last week’s “perfect week” was that maybe the Cowboys could have done more to cast some doubt on the VIkings. The Saints’ ability to get to Favre better than the ‘Boys did will be key.
  • WDB links to O-line guru Bryan Douglass’s study on the matchup, which features this ominous quote:
    It may be fair to suggest this [Vikings] line could have the best individual talent in the playoffs (they don’t, but it could be debated), and it may be fair to suggest left guard Steve Hutchinson is the best offensive lineman in the game (he was last year, he’s not now… that would be Donald Penn), but it is also fair to note this line seems to consistently fail in meeting expectation more than any other line in these playoffs.
  • Finally, Mark Hooper of WDB was interviewed alongside a Vikings correspondent for a NFC Championship preview at The Good Point, and offers a 34-31 Saints final score prediction.