Three teams with bye weeks are among the four teams left, so the rest has done the Colts, Saints, and Vikings some good. The upstart Jets are still alive and will face the only team left in the playoffs that has gone all the way in the last few years. The Colts and Saints were both undefeated very deep into the season and while the Saints tried for the perfect season and lost, the Colts stopped their perfect season voluntarily. What’s more is the Colts stopped that perfect season at home against the Jets. Now, the Colts can have their revenge. Or, the Jets can try to prove their win in Indianapolis was justified.
Before we get to our predictions and Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em for the Conference Championship Round, let’s recap the Divisional Playoff Round:
Divisional Playoff Round Top Fantasy Performers
1. Brett Favre MIN – 41 points (15-for-24, 234 yards, 4 TD (47,16,45,11), 0 INT)
2. Drew Brees NO – 29 points (23-for-32, 247 yards, 3 TD (17,44,2), 0 INT, 3 rushes for -3 yards)
3. Philip Rivers SDG – 19 points (27-for-40, 298 yards, 1 TD (13), 2 INT, 3 rushes for 4 yards)
1. Shonn Greene NYJ – 22 points (23 rushes for 128 yards, 1 TD (53), 1 catch for 4 yards)
T2. Reggie Bush NO – 20 points (5 rushes for 84 yards, 1 TD (46), 4 catches for 24 yards)
T2. Tim Hightower ARZ – 20 points (6 rushes for 87 yards, 1 TD (70), 3 catches for 27 yards)
1. Sidney Rice MIN – 40 points (6 catches for 141 yards, 3 TD (47,16,45))
2. Devery Henderson NO – 18 points (4 catches for 80 yards, 1 TD (44))
3. Marques Colston NO – 12 points (6 catches for 83 yards, 1 TD (2))
1. Jason Witten DAL – 19 points (10 catches for 98 yards)
2. Antonio Gates SDG – 17 points (8 catches for 93 yards)
T3. Dallas Clark IND – 12 points (7 catches for 59 yards)
T3. Jeremy Shockey NO – 12 points (3 catches for 36 yards, TD (17))
T1. Garrett Hartley NO – 11 points (1-for-1 in field goals (43), 6-for-6 in extra points)
T1. Matt Stover IND – 11 points (2-for-2 in field goals (44,33), 2-for-2 in extra points)
3. Ryan Longwell MIN – 10 points (2-for-2 in field goals (23,28), 4-for-4 in extra points)
1. Vikings MIN – 16 points (1 INT, 6 sacks, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 points allowed)
2. Saints NO – 14 points (1 INT, 1 sack, 1 fumble recovery, punt return TD (83), 14 points allowed)
3. Colts IND – 12 points (2 INT, 1 sack, 2 fumble recoveries, 3 points allowed)
CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP WEEKEND SCHEDULE
Sunday 3:00pm – N.Y. Jets at Indianapolis (-7.5)
Sunday 6:40pm – Minnesota at New Orleans (-3.5)
Conference Championship Picks:
NYJ-IND: Colts win, but Jets (+7.5) cover
The Jets have won by 10 over the Bengals and by a field goal over San Diego. There will be enough Jet fans in Indianapolis so that the crowd noise will not be a huge factor. The Jets have won already won close in a hostile environment in the playoffs, but Indianapolis has seven fourth-quarter comebacks this year. Indianapolis may have the best quarterback in NFL history, one of the best tight ends in the game, one of the best wide receivers in the game, and an underrated defense that gets at the quarterback and may have figured out how not to let the run beat them. The pass rush from the ends for the Colts makes their defense go.
For the Jets to win, they will need to keep from turning the ball over, run the ball effectively, and pressure Manning and hope he gets happy feet. Darrelle Revis has to neutralize Reggie Wayne and the rest of the defense has to make it tough to get the ball to Dallas Clark. There will be a big defensive takeaway by the Jets if there is an upset. I see how it can happen, but most of the weapons are in the Colts’ favor. But, that hasn’t stopped the Jets before. It didn’t 41 years ago.
MIN-NO: Saints win and cover (-3.5)
Speaking of weapons, this game is a call to arms. Both teams have devastating playmakers. The Saints have the new and improved Reggie Bush and their receiving corps who can run after the catch, led by Marques Colston, Robert Meachem, and Devery Henderson. The Vikings have Adrian Peterson, Percy Harvin, and Sidney Rice. Both quarterbacks are among the elite and Drew Brees can join the elite with two more wins this year. Brett Favre is already there and if this is his swan song, he will be remembered as one of the two or three greatest of all time.
For the Vikings to win, they have to shake their road blues. They will have to cover the Saint receivers well. They will have to shrink the pocket for Brees and force the Saints to lean on their running game because defending the run is the Vikings defensive strength. Harvin has to come up big in the receiving and the return games. Everyone is waiting for Favre to start throwing interceptions and Darren Sharper will be the X-factor in the Saints defensive backfield. Keep the ball away from Sharper and the passing game can thrive for the Vikings.
Start 'Em/Sit 'Em
QB: Drew Brees NO (start) vs. Peyton Manning IND (sit)
Both quarterbacks have their crowds behind them. But, Brees has more weapons and Manning is facing a better pass defense. Also, Manning has not had to put up fantastic numbers in order to get his team to advance in the playoffs.
RB: Shonn Greene NYJ (start) vs. Reggie Bush NO (sit)
The flavors of the month are squaring off here. Greene has a better chance to keep their train moving. I’ll admit, I drank the Jet Kool-Aid on Greene, but he has protected the ball while spelling Thomas Jones and making plays for big gains. Bush’s best chance to change the game for the Saints is through the return game, which does not count in our fantasy scoring. If your league counts return yardage and scoring, sit any other Saint running back.
WR: Devery Henderson NO (start) vs. Reggie Wayne IND (sit)
Pick a receiver, any receiver, for the Saints. Meachem had a good end to the season. Colston is their star. I’ll take a chance that Henderson will be about to duplicate his performance as the second-best receiver in the playoffs this week and find the end zone again. Wayne draws Darrelle Revis, who brings the great resume. We picked the top receiver on Revis’s Jet team as the “sit” last week, but Revis was not on him very much and, consequently, Vincent Jackson hauled in seven catches for 111 yards. Revis has not allowed a 100-yard receiver that he has blanketed all game.
Last Week’s Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em Results (0-3)
QB: Tony Romo DAL (start) vs. Kurt Warner ARZ (sit) – (L, Warner 6, Romo 3)
RB: Willis McGahee BAL (start) vs. LaDainian Tomlinson SDG (sit) – (L, Tomlinson 2, McGahee 0)
WR: Robert Meachem NO (start) vs. Vincent Jackson SDG (sit) – (L, Jackson 11, Meachem 0)
Playoff Team Rankings – Conference Championship Round
1. Manning IND, 2. Brees NO, 3. Favre MIN, 4. Sanchez NYJ
1. Jones/Greene NYJ, 2. Peterson/Taylor MIN, 3. Bell/Thomas/Bush NO, 4. Addai/Brown IND
1. Wayne/Garcon/Clark IND, 2. Colston/Meachem/Shockey NO, 3. Rice/Harvin/Shiancoe MIN, 4. Cotchery/Edwards/Keller NYJ
1. Longwell MIN, 2. Feely NYJ, 3. Stover IND, 4. Hartley NO
1. Payton NO, 2. Ryan NYJ, 3. Childress MIN, 4. Caldwell IND
1. NYJ, 2. MIN, 3. NO, 4. IND
1. MIN (13), 2. NYJ (14), 3. NO (16), 4. IND (17)
Playoff Pick Standings
Straight Up: 5-3, NO (W), IND (W), MIN (W), SDG (L)
Against The Spread: 5-3, ARZ (L), IND (W), MIN (W), NYJ (W)
Start ‘Em and Sit ‘Em: 2-4 (Starts: 23 points, Sits: 28 points)
We will break down each of the four Divisional Championship matchups on Sports With The StatMan (#43) this Sunday night, January 24th. Join us at our new time, 8-9pm Eastern. We will break down the Jets-Colts AFC Championship Game and talk about the Vikings-Saints NFC Championship Game, which will be in-progress. There are no a lot of free agents left in baseball. We’ll look at the slim pickings left for the Mets and the ultimatum made to one free agent by the Yankees. In hockey, we’ll break down the Devils-Islanders two-game set this week and Marian Gaborik dropping the gloves for the Rangers.
Here are the ways to follow along and get in touch with the show:
• Show Page: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/The-StatMan
• Twitter: http://twitter.com/gstatman
• “Random Musings” blog: http://gstatman.blogspot.com