Friday, January 18, 2008

Quarterbacks and dynasties aside, this is really what it's all about on Sunday. Note the snow and note the short sleeves on Cleveland's rookie left tackle Joe Thomas. You may not be surprised to learn that Thomas' Browns won that snowcapped game in Buffalo, the Lake Erie Lake Effect Snow Bowl. The high on Sunday for the Giants-Packers NFC championship game will be -14 and a still-respectable -4 in Boston. Just about any game becomes worth watching when it's as cold as it is in Green Bay.

The San Diego Chargers, the surprising challengers in the AFC championship game, will come to Foxborough having won 8 in a row. Overall, they are 13-5 compared to New England's 17-0, though it's certainly worth noting that they didn't have to resort to cheating in order to win any of those games. Though they fight the good fight, the Chargers will find themselves outflanked by Bill Belichick's troops, much as the Confederate Army did under Robert E. Lee at the Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863. The Chargers can be as dangerous as any team in football, the Patriots included, but they will have to play the perfect game and the Patriots will have to falter slightly.

San Diego will probably be able to pressure Tom Brady a little bit. Matt Light will face a very tough assignment all day in Shawne Merriman, as will the rest of that airtight Patriots offensive line. On the other side of the ball, it won't be hard to move the ball after putting up 411 yards against the best defense in the league last week. Still, New England isn't going to have a problem moving the ball, and will have fewer problems doing so than the Chargers. It's always important to score touchdowns instead of field goals, especially so since Chargers kicker Nate Kaeding is very erratic. The loser will be the one that falters most on offense, and it's easy to see the mouthy Philip Rivers doing that. If he even plays. The Patriots have too many receivers to stop, and they will score too many points for the Chargers to keep up.

I don't care what happened last week, I'm not going to pick Eli Manning to win a third straight playoff game on the road. The Giants could be playing the 1920 Grey Cup champion University of Toronto Blues under the bubble at Varsity Stadium, just up the street from here, and I wouldn't pick them. The Blues haven't won a game since I was in middle school and the stadium, with a seating capacity of 5,000, couldn't hold most first-year classes, but I still wouldn't pick Eli Manning to win again.

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