NFL Playoffs: Championship weekend

Matt Lichtenstadter ('12)/Eastside Staff

Last week, I lost my super bowl pick and went 2-2. Can I get both games right this week?

AFC Title Game: 5 New York Jets @ 1 Indianapolis Colts 3 PM EST SUN on CBS

This is very reminiscent of Super Bowl III. The Jets are David. The Colts are goliath. Will David slay Goliath once again?

Jets Offense vs. Colts Defense:

Mark Sanchez has thrown for 288 yards in 2 postseason games. Peyton Manning almost equaled that last Saturday. Mark Sanchez was reigned in, and this Sunday should be no different. The Jets running game will go up against a undersized Colts D, but is very fast off the edges, and should be able to get the Jets backs, Thomas Jones and Shonn Greene, on the edges because they run more sideline to sideline. If the Jets can’t establish the run early on in the game, Mark Sanchez will have to throw more than he has in both postseason games and Indy can cause turnovers with Dwight Freeney and Robert Mathis running around off the edges of the offensive line. LT D’Brickashaw Ferguson and RT Damien Woody will have to contain the dynamic Colts pass rushers. If they do, Mark Sanchez will have the chance to take 7-step drops and throw the ball effectively. Overall though, the Colts D is just too fast for the Jets running game, and the offensive line, to handle.

Advantage: Indianapolis

Colts Offense vs. Jets Defense:

Peyton Manning is great against the blitz. Why do I bring this up? In these playoffs, the Jets have blitzed more than they did in any regular season game. Peyton Manning, even under duress, can always find the open receiver by simply shuffling his feet a couple of steps to find the slot receivers open. His passer rating against the blitz is better than almost any other in the game today. The Jets have 2 ways to counter this, one being Revis Island, and the other, being that the front 3 gets pressure. No matter who Darrelle Revis is covering, he will likely shut them down, so the other corners, mainly Lito Sheppard, will have to bring his A-game. Also, if the pass rush manages to get to Peyton Manning, a tough feat in itself, he will not be able to make great plays as he isn’t a mobile QB. If the Colts O-Line holds up like it had all season, the Jets are in trouble. I think Indy has a clear advantage here.

Advantage: Indianapolis

Intangibles: The Jets have nothing to lose. They weren’t supposed to be here anyway, and the only thing they need to back up is their coach’s guarantees. The Colts still need to prove if the rest or rust thing plays a factor here. Whatever the case is, when the Colts were going full out, no matter how close the game was, the Colts always won. The Colts are going full out.

Advantage: Indianapolis

X-Factor- Jets Offense

If the Jets have a good day running the ball, the passing game will follow suit. If the running game struggles, the Colts will make mince meat of them. All in all, the Jets offense doesn’t have the QB or firepower to compete with the Colts, no matter how good their D is.

Pick: Colts

NFC Title Game: 2 Minnesota Vikings @ 1 New Orleans Saints 6:40 EST SUN on FOX

The Saints have never hosted a NFC title game, until Sunday, and have yet to make a super bowl. The Vikes haven’t made the Super Bowl since 1976, although they have made it to the NFC title game twice since then.

Vikings O vs. Saints D:

As it has been proven (excluding the time when Matt Leinart was the QB), the Saints D is average unless they force turnovers. Brett Favre has been very judicious with the ball this season, while still being the gunslinger we all know him to be. He has single-handedly made Sidney Rice into a pro bowler, and even though he has struggled, they still have all day AP. The Saints will need to amp up their pass rush to even get Brett Favre into turnover prone situations, unless he has a gunslinger moment. If the Saints don’t get a pass rush, then it will be a long day for the Saints D. And, they have to eliminate the big play on D and special teams with Percy Harvin, migraines or not. Overall though, the Vikings have the advantage.

Advantage: Minnesota

Saints O vs. Vikings D

Drew Brees proved why he is an all-pro last week, simply shredding the Cardinals D. We must remember though, that was Arizona. Even though the Vikes pass D has struggled of late, they still have an amazing pass rush, highlighted by the 2 Williams, Jared Allen, and Ray Edwards, who exploded last week for 3 sacks. As it was proven in week 15 against Dallas, when Drew Brees is under pressure, he struggles and so does the Saints offense, and the Saints can’t allow 6 sacks like Dallas did. Yet, if Drew Brees has the time to throw, he may be able to exploit some coverage weaknesses on the edges with the great receivers he has. Even though the Vikes pass rush is awesome, I don’t expect them to replicate their 6 sack effort from last week, leaving Drew Brees with time to throw, which will lead to points, which the Vikings can give up in bunches.

Advantage: New Orleans

Intangibles: While the Vikings did go 9-0 at home, and they are playing in a dome, it is a completely different environment than the Metrodome. The Vikings showed their struggles on the big stage on the road and that is exactly what this is. The Saints crowd will be pumped and rockin’, and that is all the advantage the Saints will need.

Advantage: New Orleans

X-Factor: Whose RB’s are better?

On paper, the Vikings have better back by far, so you would think this is no contest. But, Reggie Bush had a big game last week, and Pierre Thomas is a very good back. The Vikings need their backs to produce, and I think they will in this huge environment with the Saints D being as opportunistic as it is. Even though I normally go with the hotter item going in, the Vikes backs are better, and will provide a major difference in the game.

Pick: Minnesota (barely)

See you in 2 weeks for the Super Bowl!