NFL conference championship breakdown
Green Bay Packers
by JONG LEE
You have to be crazy to pick the New York Giants against the Green Bay Packers. The only way I would take the Giants is if you give me 10,000-to-one odds, because you always take 10,000-to-one.
The Packers are not the Dallas Cowboys, and that benefits Green Bay. On offense, the Packers present more mismatches for the Giants than the Cowboys did with wide receivers Greg Jennings, Donald Driver and James Jones and running back Ryan Grant.
On defense, the Packers should present more problems for Giants’ quarterback Eli Manning than the Cowboys did. Pass rushers Aaron Kampman and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila should keep Manning at bay.
Even more important for the Packers are their cornerbacks Al Harris and Charles Woodson. They will shut down Manning’s receivers and give Kampman and KGB the time they need to get to the quarterback.
Safety Atari Bigby may play the biggest role. The hard-hitting Bigby poses the threat of taking anything away in the middle, unlike the Cowboys’ Roy Williams.
But what this game comes down to is Packers’ quarterback Brett Favre. We don’t see the old gun-slinging Favre as much as we used to because he now trusts his teammates. Favre looks better than ever, and he won’t let this team lose.
New York Giants
by RONNIE TURNER
Sure, the New York Giants have all the odds stacked against them in Sunday’s NFC Championship game against the Green Bay Packers, but it’s not as if they haven’t defied them before. In the last three weeks, they’ve taken the league’s best team (the 17-0 New England Patriots) to the brink in a 38-35 loss and then beat a No. 4 seed (Tampa Bay Buccaneers) and a No. 1 seed (Dallas Cowboys) in two road playoff matchups, so nothing scares them at this point.
The Giants are playing with a load of confidence; no one more than fourth-year quarterback Eli Manning.
In his last three games, Manning completed 70 percent of his passes for 599 yards and seven touchdowns and had only one turnover. He’s managing games much better than he did earlier in the season and making fewer mistakes. Plus, it helps that running backs Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw are helping to take the heat off Manning with solid rushing performances. Combine these factors with a dominant pass rush that had Dallas quarterback Tony Romo running for his life in the fourth quarter of last week’s game, and a secondary that’s playing tough despite injuries, and you have the makings of a Giants upset victory.
New England Patriots
by KEITH CORDERO JR.
In week two of the regular season, the New England Patriots beat the San Diego Chargers 38-14 in Foxboro, Mass. They also beat the Chargers in San Diego during last year’s playoffs, leaving little reason why they won’t do it again.
One key reason is that the Patriots are healthy and the Chargers aren’t. Running back LaDainian Tomlinson, tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers, three of the team’s best players, are all nursing injuries.
New England will control the ball, and with a veteran defense led by Rodney Harrison and Mike Vrabel, they will shut down Tomlinson and the rest of the Chargers offense.
The Patriots will thrive off of the cold weather and home field advantage to knock off the streaky Chargers.
The Chargers got a nice win last week against the Indianapolis Colts, but these are the undefeated Patriots, and as a two-touchdown underdog from sunny southern California, the Chargers don’t have a chance to beat a team of destiny.
It’s going to be lights out for linebacker Shawne Merriman and the Chargers, as the Patriots will advance to the Super Bowl.
San Diego Chargers
by ERIC LLOBET
Tune in to CBS on Sunday and witness the biggest upset of the season, as the San Diego Chargers will defeat the New England Patriots.
The Patriots run a pass-first offense, which can easily be thwarted with adverse weather conditions, something that Foxboro, Mass. is well accustomed to this time of year.
The Chargers, on the other hand, employ a run-first offense that has the nastiest 1-2 running duo in the NFL with LaDainian Tomlinson and Michael Turner. Even Darren Sproles, the team’s No. 3 running back, is known to cause damage to a defense’s rushing stats.
If tight end Antonio Gates is healthy, the Patriots will really have to be careful. Not only is he a great blocker who can create gaps for the running backs, in the red zone he is one of the most dangerous receiving weapons in the NFL.
The New England defense, slowed down by the field conditions, should put up an entertaining, but losing battle.