Playoff Previews:

Steve O Speak

Colts Heading to the Big Game:

Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets have been the underdog team throughout this year’s postseason. Now their road to the Super Bowl goes through (ends) in the place where in many ways it started. After a tough Week 15 loss to the Falcons, the Jets playoff hopes were all but over. They had to win their next game, which just so happened to be at Indianapolis. At the time the Colts were 14-0, and seemed likely to keep up the intensity for at least one more week (at least that is what I believed building my fantasy roster that week). Instead with a 5-point lead in the 3rd quarter, the Colts pulled their starters, and the Jets responded, winning 29-15.

That victory propelled the Jets on their unbelievable playoff run (pretty sure the Bengals and Chargers have taken the Colts off their Christmas card list) that will now come full circle. The Jets have won with defense, running the ball, and a little bit of luck, and will need all three factors in place today if they hope to overcome their playoff benefactor. This time though the Jets will have to contain Peyton Manning and company for 60 minutes, and that is a task that no one has been able to accomplish this season.

The Jets defense is great and one of the best we’ve seen, but so is the Manning and the Colts offense. New York will get after Manning and try to disrupt his timing, but he is so smart back there I don’t think they have a chance. While Darrelle Revis will probably take away Reggie Wayne for most of the game, the Colts have too many other weapons. In fact the best defense against the Colts scoring attack is the Jets own offense.

As long as the Jets offense is on the field, Manning is not and their defense can stay rested. Time of possession usually is something that is unimportant to the Colts (they won a game earlier this season with having the ball less than 15 minutes), but against the Jets that could be an exception. The Jets defense is good enough to slow down Colts to the point where they will need all the possessions they can get. The problem with the Jets is their offense won’t be able to control the clock, with long time consuming drives. While they are an excellent running team, they lack the passing attack to be complete. So far they’ve relied on big break-away runs, which are nice and worth 6 points like any touchdown, but not the sustained drives that they need. Putting up points is always good, but taking minutes off the clock is just as important.

In the end Manning will be too much for the Jets defense to handle. And while the Jets’ ground game may find some success, their lack of a passing attack will end up being the key today. Colts win 21-10 and begin packing for Miami.

By Fanspeak Contributing Writer Geoff Nelowet:

The New Orleans Saints Will Earn their First Super Bowl Birth:

The Minnesota Vikings have not made it to the Super Bowl since 1976, and the New Orleans Saints have not sniffed the Super Bowl in their franchise’s history. In 2007 the Saints played in their first NFC Championship – a game in which the Chicago Bears handled them with ease by the score of 39-14. In short, both franchises are overdue for a Super Bowl appearance. Unfortunately, one team has to be sent home on Sunday.

The Saints have been the team to beat over the course of the regular season, and they are the top playoff seed. Drew Brees has led one of the most prolific offenses in football, and the fast-paced aerial attack will be a different animal for the Vikings’ defense. Brees has been connecting with an assortment of talented receivers this season, and Marques Colston, Devery Henderson and Robert Meachem have combined for nearly 3,000 receiving yards and 20 touchdowns. Along with their production, Reggie Bush has been a major spark on both offense and special teams, and last week against the Cardinals, Bush looked dominant with 217 all-purpose yards and two touchdowns. Bush is the quintessential X-factor for the Saints.

The Vikings are coming off a dominant win over the Dallas Cowboys. In their 34-3 win, they proved that not only can they beat a good team, but they can dominate a good team on both sides of the ball. Their defense shut down a stellar offense, and Brett Favre led the Vikings down the field with ease against what looked like the best defense in the playoffs. The Vikings stumbled down the stretch of the regular season, but they bounced back resoundingly.

The Saints and Vikings are clearly the two best teams in the NFC, and Sunday’s match-up will be a narrowly decided game. The key to Minnesota winning comes down to how much pressure they can get on Brees. Last week, Jared Allen led the defensive line with an unyielding amount of pressure on Tony Romo, and if he can replicate his performance against the Saints, the Vikings will win. The Saints, though, have a better offensive line, and Brees delivers the ball much quicker than Romo, so it will be exponentially more difficult for the Vikings to shut down the Saints’ offense. Furthermore, Reggie Bush looked dominant last week, and when he is healthy, he adds yet another dimension to the Saints’ attack. Minnesota will not find the same success on defense this week, and the Saints will win at home for their first Super Bowl birth. Final Score: New Orleans 33 Minnesota 28.

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