Two wins and you're in the Super Bowl
Although not high on drama, four NFL games proved to at least entertain over the weekend, as three out of four favorites won. Tampa Bay was the lone exception, bowing out to the New York Giants. Some of this weekend's games have the potential to be not-so-entertaining. All four of the favorites are playing at home after a week off, and the smallest margin by which a team is favored is 7.5 -- that being the Cowboys' spread over the Giants.
Considering the regular-season record of the four home teams (55-9), and the fact the road teams are a little beat up after recent hefty battles, this could be a two-day snooze cruise.
That said, the Patriots will put their compelling unbeaten streak on the line against Jacksonville, so I'll watch at least a quarter of that one. Weather -- the X-factor that can even things up in a hurry for underdogs -- could make things fun in New England and certainly in Green Bay.
If I had to pick one upset, it would be Seattle at Green Bay, as Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck performs well in these types of pressure situations. I'm also wondering if the Packers and Brett Favre can keep this fairytale season alive. It almost seems too good to be true. Green Bay played a weak schedule in a weak conference.
Assuming the favorites do win, next week's two Conference Championships should be plenty interesting, with the two winners, of course, heading to Glendale for Super Bowl XLII.
San Diego (12-5) at Indianapolis (13-3), Sunday, 11 a.m. MST Line: Indianapolis -9. Prediction: Indianapolis 37, San Diego 21.
San Diego was less than impressive in their win against Tennessee, but Philip Rivers did step up when he needed to in the second half. His play is key for the Chargers, although one of his main weapons, tight end Antonio Gates, dislocated a toe and may miss this game. The Colts, on the other hand, may have another weapon at their disposal as future Hall of Famer Marvin Harrison could return after missing the last 10 games. There's no reason to believe the Chargers can win this game, but there is a reason they play these games.
Jacksonville (12-5) at New England (16-0), Saturday, 6 p.m. MST Line: New England -13 Prediction: New England 30, Jacksonville 17
Jacksonville won two games in Pittsburgh this year, including one last weekend, but this isn't your average road game. The Patriots are well-rested and there doesn't seem to be a lead that's large enough when Tom Brady is on the field in the second half. Jaguars QB David Garrard is a cool customer, but he still threw two interceptions in the second half on Saturday against Pittsburgh (he threw three all season). Jacksonville will have to play flawless football, with no turnovers, and it will also have to establish the running game early to control the clock -- and that's just to make this one close. Look for the Patriots to pull away in the second half.
Seattle (11-6) at Green Bay (13-3), Saturday, 2:30 p.m. MST Line: Green Bay -8 Prediction: Seattle 24, Green Bay 20
A lot of folks are rooting for Brett Favre to make it to Arizona for a potential match-up against Tom Brady and the Patsies, myself included. But I don't think it will happen. The Packers have played a soft schedule (including teams from the AFC West), and beating Seattle and Dallas over the next two weeks will be a tall order. I think this game will come down to the last couple of drives, and Green Bay will come up a bit short. Seattle is not a team that dazzles on a consistent basis by any means, but you don't need flair at this time of year, just consistency. The forecast, as of Monday, for the frozen tundra: 26 and clouds. The Seahawks don't mind cold clouds.
New York Giants (11-6) at Dallas (13-3), Sunday, 2:30 p.m. MST Line: Dallas -7.5 Prediction: Dallas 24, New York 14
Dallas has won its two games against the Giants this year by 10 points and 11 points, respectively. The line in this game, however, is less than that, given the fact Giants quarterback Eli Manning has looked good the past two weeks against New England and Tampa Bay. Plus, everyone is probably wondering if Jessica Simpson (fling of Dallas quarterback Tony Romo) has some influence here. Every once in a while it's no-show Romo, especially when his sweetheart is walking around Texas Stadium. This should be a hard-fought battle, but the Cowboys just have too many weapons. If the Dallas defense doesn't give up any long TDs, look for the Cowboys to be in control most of the way.
Any Coincidence the Carpet is (Patriots) Red?
Fox announced that Ryan Seacrest will be performing interviews on a red carpet that leads into University of Phoenix Stadium on Super Bowl Sunday. (It's time for this guy to take a couple months off, isn't it?) Celebrities at the Super Bowl are a given, but is it a given the Patriots will be in town that weekend?
Many Patriots fans have already booked their tickets to Arizona, and I can't blame them. Vegas oddsmakers would probably put the chances of New England advancing to Arizona around 80 percent, and their chances of hoisting the Lombardi trophy at 70 percent. I hope they're right.
Not that I love the Patriots, but depending on the match-up, Super Bowl XLII could go down as the most anticipated and most-viewed Super Bowl ever. That would provide a great atmosphere here in the Phoenix area, and it would bring more exposure to our state. Patriots fans would travel well for the chance to see perfection, while Green Bay and Dallas fans would prove passionate, as always (if their teams advance).
Super Bowl XLII could be even more compelling than the 1996 Arizona game that pitted the Steelers against the Cowboys. Usually it's easier to root for the underdogs, but I've found myself rooting for the favorites this postseason. If they advance, Super Bowl parties, from Old Town Scottsdale to our living rooms, will be that much more exciting.
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