Monday, January 21, 2008

NFL Conference Championship Games

The matchup is now set for Super Bowl XLII, as the New England Patriots will face the New York Giants in Glendale, Arizona. The game is a rematch of the largest rated game of the regular season, as the Patriots went into New York and beat the Giants to finish the first 16-0 regular season in NFL history. Some "experts" thought that the Giants foolishly expended themselves and were doomed to playoff failure*, while others thought that it was the performance that pushed them into the playoffs with great momentum. Whether that game made a difference in the Giants season or not is unknowable - what is knowable is that in less then two weeks, we'll see these two teams again, in what will almost certainly be the highest rated television event of the year.

  • There's been a lot of talk about how bad Tom Brady was yesterday. And he was - by his standards, it was an awful game. Here's one thing that's worth considering, though. When he threw his third interception of the day, to Antonio Cromartie in the end zone, he was 14-25 for 133 yards, with 1 TD and 3 picks (passer rating of 44.67) and the lead was 14-12. From that point to the end of the game, the Patriots had two more drives. One of them covered 67 yards on 8 plays and ended in a touchdown. The other covered 65 yards on 15 plays and consumed the last 9:13 of the game, finishing with the Patriots taking a knee. Over those two drives, Brady was 8-8 for 76 yards with a touchdown pass and no interceptions (passer rating of 145.83). That doesn't excuse the first 2 4/5 quarters, but when the team needed the quarterback to perform - well, he performed.

  • The Patriots game was not a blowout. Obviously. But it's worth noting that New England took the lead for good with less than 2 minutes gone in the second quarter. The game looked close, for a long while, but the Patriots led for the last 43 minutes.

  • And the Packers' season ends as a result of a Favre interception. Gosh, who saw that coming?

  • In the four games before the New England game, Eli Manning was 58 for 125 (46.4%) for 709 yards with 3 TD and 4 INT (passer rating 59.1). In the next four, New England and three playoff road games, he's 75 for 117 (64.1%) for 853 yards, 8 TD and 1 INT (passer rating 105.1). I don't know what happened, but those are two very different quarterbacks. Is it real? Is it sustainable? Only time will tell.

  • If I'm the Giants, I don't want a week off at this point. (I also really, really, really don't want to face the New England Patriots in perfect field and weather conditions.)

  • My opinion of Philip Rivers went up significantly. He put together a really good performance in tough conditions, on two non-functioning knees.

  • Just so the suspense doesn't get out of hand, I'll be picking the Patriots in the Super Bowl, to win and to cover. I think that they'll score 40+.

* - The relevant "expert" in question here is, obviously, me. Apparently, it was yet one more piece of NFL analysis, in a long line, which could not possibly have been more spectacularly incorrect.

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