Four teams remain less than three weeks before SBXLII. Just like we all thought, New England is still alive in the AFC. And the Packers, unsurprisingly, are also playing for their conference championship. But who would have thought Chargers fans and Giants fans would still be running around in a state of euphoria?
Let's just say I should probably stop offering predictions for these games. I knew there would be an upset last weekend, but I picked the wrong one (Seattle). Then, as big underdogs, San Diego and New York stepped up to knock off Indianapolis and Dallas. Not sure who had that parlay, but if you did, you're either psychic or psychotic.
This weekend's games both take place on Sunday, and both home teams are heavily favored. New England struggled in the first half against Jacksonville, but then came on strong as usual. The Patriots' chances of winning SBXLII are about 80 percent -- they were 2-1 favorites to win it all even before the season began. With all the winter storms in New England, I'd advise Pats fans to skip the AFC Championship and take the first flight to Phoenix. Their team's charter will follow shortly thereafter. Trust me on this one.
As for Green Bay, most observers said they would have done well just to go 8-8. However, players such as Ryan Grant (nearly 1,000 yards and 8 TDs) and Greg Jennings (nearly 1,000 yards and 12 TDs) have emerged to become stars.
The Chargers and Giants both have their hands full. Yet, both are on incredible rolls, and obviously both are playing exceptionally well just to have gotten this far. The Chargers (the No. 3 seed in the AFC) are winners of 8 in a row while the Giants (the No. 5 seed in the NFC) have won two playoff games on the road.
San Diego (13-5) at New England (17-0), Sunday, 1 p.m. MST Line: New England -14 Prediction: New England 34, San Diego 20
San Diego traveled to Gillette Stadium in Week 2 and got clobbered by New England 38-14. This is a new season obviously, but now RB LaDainian Tomlinson's knee is banged up and QB Philip Rivers is basically playing on one leg, if at all. It was absolutely incredible to see Billy Volek lead the Chargers on a game-winning drive in the fourth quarter against Indy, perhaps putting an end to Tony Dungy's coaching career, for now. Volek brings eight years of experience to the table, but he is no Tom Brady. The Patriots defense has shown some holes, but as long as Brady stays healthy, look for New England to continue to roll. Brady didn't even need Randy Moss -- who had just one catch -- en route to completing 26 of 28 passes on Saturday (an NFL postseason completion percentage record).
New York Giants (12-6) at Green Bay (14-3), Sunday, 4:30 p.m. MST Line: Green Bay -7 Prediction: Green Bay 31, New York Giants 27
How valuable is it to have an experienced, Hall-of-Fame QB like Brett Favre? He has seen pretty much everything and isn't the kind of guy who panics when he's down 14-0 like he was on Saturday. Here are some vitals ... he is 38 years old and in his 17th NFL season. Favre's PDF bio on packers.com is 6.38 MEGS and takes almost a minute to download (my computer is not slow). He has more than 5,300 completions and more than 61,000 yards passing along with 442 touchdowns (all NFL records).
He has had more injuries than most doctors have diagnosed and played through them all. When you talk about intangibles, they go to the Packers and Brett Favre in this match up, although Eli Manning is coming into his own. He looked cool under pressure against Dallas and the Giants have quietly built a storm of momentum that should be lauded and recognized. Sunday's game should have lower scores, but obviously the Packers can put some numbers up if necessary. Big advantage to the Packers.
It's Gonna Get Crowded
All things are pointing toward the Brady-Favre showdown that would be highly anticipated. Geographically speaking, all of the Pats and Packers fans would appreciate a break from the snow if they attend SBXLII. Both teams have a loyal following, although I assume the Packers fans would outnumber the Pats fans almost 3 to 1. Perhaps we are getting ahead of ourselves a bit here. New York fans would certainly travel well too, and San Diego is just a short jaunt away, which means thousands of Chargers fans would flock to the Valley just for the Super Bowl experience, not necessarily to spend $3,000 on a ticket to go to the game. No matter what happens, a LOT of people (maybe as many as 200,000) are going to pour into the Valley soon, so either get out the welcome mat and get ready to party, or close your blinds if you don't enjoy the hoopla, festivities and fun surrounding this worldwide spectacle.