The divisional playoff round was like a lense into the souls of the NFL's final eight teams. Everyone was revealed for what they really were. Some lived up to expectations, others fell far short. But with only four teams still breathing in their quest for Lombardi's trophy, I can now make me call as to who will compete for it and who will hoist it.
In the AFC, the Chargers showed that they have more fortitude than any other team in the NFL. Think about it. Who else would have been able to triumph on the road with their starting QB and RB watching in the 4th quarter in a close game? I don't think even the almighty Patriots could have done that. But on the other hand, maybe they could have given how inept the Colts looked today. They just weren't the same team that won the Super Bowl last year. The Chargers escaped with the victory because they refused to give up, but more so because the Colts couldn't get the job done. I think the AFC champion can already be crowned at this point. The Chargers are not healthy, and they narrowly defeated a Colts team that played poorly. The Patriots will certainly not play poorly. I think the Jaguars had the best shot to knock off the Patriots in the AFC. The Chargers are in for a rude awakening next week. The Patriots are going to blow them out.
In the NFC, the Giants won because they flat outplayed the Cowboys. They didn't need the good fortune the Chargers did to get the win. Once Dallas lost their stride late in the regular season they just could not recapture it. The Giants deserved that win any way you slice it. They are at the top of their game right now, but like the Chargers they are about to run into a buzzsaw. No one was more impressive this week than the Packers. They are determined and they are ready to carve up the Giants next week at Lambeau. The Giants won't be embaressed quite as much as the Chargers, but nonetheless they'll be watching the Super Bowl from their living rooms.
So that sets up the main event, the match-up that everyone wants to see: Patriots v. Packers, Brady v. Favre. They are without question the two premier teams and QB's in the NFL this year. But if you think the Patriots are going to just ride off into the sunset 19-0, then it is finally time for me to disagree. The Packers are the one super power against whom the Patriots have not yet been tested. These teams match up so well because neither seems to have any glaring weaknesses. The only way the Patriots can be beaten is if they are forced to surrender possession to their opponent without scoring at least a few times in the game. They seem to effortlessly move the chains and march into the endzone every time they have the ball. Then the other team has to be able to keep possession long enough and convert a couple more first downs than the Patriots. I believe the Packers can do that. Their running game is going to be the deal breaker. I expect a high scoring game, I expect the lead to go back and forth, and I expect it to come down to the wire. But the Patriots bag of miracles in the 4th quarter is finally going to come up empty. Say what you will, but I'm sticking to my guns. Favre is the guy that has the Patriots' number. And as a Bears' fan, you can't possibly accuse me of any type of favoritism. Packers over the Patriots in Super Bowl XLII by less than 7 points.