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Published:January 18th, 2010 19:22 EST
NFL Sets Championship Game Match-ups

NFL Sets Championship Game Match-ups

By Geoff Dean

 I must offer a special thanks to the New York Jets for giving me something a little surprising to talk about. Not so much their upset win as my perfect predicitons for the weekend (I`m not bragging-I was perfectly wrong on the wild card weekend predictions so I have crawled back to 4-4). If it weren`t for the Jets pulling one on the Chargers, the wild card round would have been totally unnecessary. Just take the top two teams and hold a championship game right away.

 The weekend started off Sunday morning, for me, here in Tokyo, as the Cardinals tried to deal with the Saints. My daughter, age 14, immediately declared that the Saints would win because they had the better uniforms and logos on the helmet. I don`t if that`s what really did it, but she was right.

 I had been wondering how a defense that gave up 45 points to the Packers, would do against the balanced and explosive Saints attack. The House of Cards defense which made the Packers` Aaron Rodgers look like a Dan Marino-style comeback artist, made Drew Brees look like, well, Drew Brees. At least, you can`t fault them for consistency, giving up 45 points to the Saints, as well. Unfortunately, even a good offense like the Cardinals can`t overcome a 45-point deficit every week.

 For the Saints, the downside may be that this was less of a playoff struggle and more of an extra bye week, not exactly good preparation for the showdown with the Vikings.

 The Vikings got me up early on Monday morning, by the time I managed to get out my toasty futon, the Cowboys were already toasted, too. The Cowboys, supposedly the hottest team in the NFC, could only manage 3 points and were unable to hold their opponents to 2 or less. In fact, Farve, being Favre, managed to upset the Cowboys with a late touchdown, running up the score. Maybe he should have saved it for the Saints. He will need all the points he can get.

 The Colts were able to beat the Ravens by holding them to a similar 3 points, the thrid blow-out of the weekend. The Colts` defense, while not stopping the Ravens` offense cold, did a good job of taking away at key moments. The forced fumble on Ed Reed, after the Ravens star made an excellent interception, returning the ball to the Colts, was particularly demoralizing for the visitors. While Manning was Manning, it was the defense that made the difference. As a matter of fact, if you look at Colts` playoff wins in the Manning era (there are not that many), they were usually when Manning had a reasonable to sub-par game and the defense played stellarly. When Manning was at his best, it often was not enough.

 The Jets, as mentioned above, put the suspense into an otherwise lack-luster weekend, by beating the heavily favored Chargers, the supposed hottest team in the AFC, in San Diego, with a lot of help from Nate Kaeding, San Diego`s pro bowl kicker who never misses unless it costs the most. It, also, made good on Jets` coaches Rex Ryan`s boast that the Jets should be favorites to win the Super Bowl.

 The NFC Championship should be a brutal match up between the explosive Vikings and the even more so Saints. Hold onto your seats. I think the Saints are just too balanced for the Vikings but Favre may just have one or two surprises left up his elderly sleeves.

 The AFC championship will feature two rookie head coaches and an intriguing match up. For the Colts, the Jets will be a lot like the Ravens, strong, hard-hitting defense, lesser known but dangerous offense. And for the Jets, the Colts will be a lot like the Chargers, an explosive team that you can afford to fall too far behind of. Ultimately, I think it comes down to how the Colts` defense plays and if they can establish a running game. I am confident of the first and more doubtful of the second.

 My Super Bowl prediction:

 Saints vs. Colts (I sure went out on a limb on that one!)