Thursday, January 17, 2008

NFL Weekly Predictions: Conf. Championships

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

San Diego @ New England (-14)

New England's quest for the perfect season continues with a date with the Chargers in a rematch of last year's divisional playoff game, a dramatic 24-21 Patriot win in San Diego. It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Chargers, who had to stomach the spectacle of the Patriots celebrating on the Chargers mid-field logo.

"As I recall," says Bill Belichick (Magnet), "LaDainian (Uncle) Tomlinson accused me of having no class. Well, L. (B.L.) T. is right. I have no class. I have three rings, and none of them are 'class' rings. In Tomlinson's house, even the phones have no rings. Prince Albert has more hardware than L.T. All joking aside, we realize that most people want to see us fail. Well, you're either with us or against us. And if you're against us, then you're simply not Patriotic. So, essentially, the 1972 Dolphins support terrorism.

"In any case, we won't take the Chargers lightly, although we should. San Diego gave up 402 yards passing and forced only one punt against the Colts. That has to have Tom (Slim) Brady and Randy Moss (-ed Salad) salivating. Sure, the Jaguars held Moss to only one catch, but that was at the expense of Wes (We Have No Bananas) Welker's nine catches and Ben (Elementary My Dear) Watson's two touchdowns. Randy's been playing decoy lately, so I think we'll let him work underneath on Sunday."

"Normally," says Moss, "the only slant route I run is a trip for Chinese takeout. But if that's what coach wants me to do, I'll do it. If one catch results in a 31-20 win, then so be it. It's interesting that making one catch for the 16-0 Patriots means I was covered, while one catch for the 3-12 Raiders means I'm lazy. Coach Belichick has made me appreciate the skill it takes to block downfield. Who knew that pushing off had dual purposes: blocking and getting open?"

Norv (Trick) Turner vanquished the NFL's model of decency, the fair and good Tony Dungy, in the Chargers somewhat surprising 28-24 win over the Colts in Indianapolis. Now, Turner's attention turns to eradicating the NFL's resident evil, the cold and calculating Belichick, the man who severs ties with former colleagues with the same dull and uneven cutting manner used on the sleeves of his ratty, hooded sweatshirts. With the Patriots opening as a decided favorite, Turner and the Chargers know it will take a nearly perfect performance to strike down New England and avenge last year's playoff loss, as well as Week 2's 38-14 defeat in Foxboro.

"Let's not take anything away from Belichick," says Turner. "Sure, he's only a slightly better dresser than Nick Nolte in a mug shot, but he knows football, and he's certainly a master game-planner. And, contrary to popular belief, he doesn't have cloven hooves, nor does he have a mysterious '16-0' mark on his scalp. Of course, you can't believe every insane claim made by Gregory Peck, who has to be the biggest homer ever for the 1972 Dolphins. Look, another dead guy pulling against the Patriots. Atticus! Atticus!

"Anyway, to advance to the Super Bowl, we'll have to be flawless, much like I was when I shredded every single note to 'Michael, Row the Boat Ashore' and 'As T.O. Gently Weeps' on 'Guitar Hero,' or when I raised the price of a barrel of oil to $150 and forced Americans to buy $4.00 per gallon gasoline, which results in a perfect score on the Middle East's hottest new video game, 'Qatar Hero.' As for the Patriots offense, primarily we need to make Brady uncomfortable in the pocket. That means we have to hit him as often as we can, or just once, if it knocks him out of the game. I don't want to say there's a bounty on Brady, but I've already wired some upfront money to Shawne (Robin Hood and His Band of) Merriman's offshore account in the Cayman Islands."

The Chargers gave up their share of yards to the Colts, but each of those yards came with a cost. The San Diego secondary laid hit after hit on Indy receivers, and once hit Reggie Wayne so hard that Terrell Owens cried. If Peyton Manning can have his way with the Charger secondary, then Brady certainly can. I mean, really, if you can have your way with a Brazilian supermodel, then taking advantage of Drayton (The Flashpoint of the L.A. Riots Was the Intersection of) Florence (and Normandy), Quentin Jammer (I Hardly Knew Her), and Marlon (Nanny) McCree should be no problem. Antonio (Eat) Cromartie will likely get Moss duty, and hope that a temporary restraining order placed on completions to Moss will be effective. The key for the San Diego backfield will be pounding the Patriot receivers with big hits after catches and hopefully forcing fumbles, or at least intimidating Moss, Walker, and cronies into some easy tipped passes for interceptions. Moss has been known to get "alligator arms," and, on those occasions, he often sheds "crocodile tears."

San Diego can't win this game without forcing a few turnovers, a few huge special teams plays, and some serious pressure on Brady. They may pull off one of those, but all three? Doubtful. Belichick has a scheme for every situation, including planting someone to run on the field in a Colts jersey to be creamed by a Patriot, as the crowd boos, then cheers. See, it pays to be a 14-year-old girl in a Patriots jersey in the RCA Dome. Crybaby. Belichick reaches into a hat and pulls out the name of the player who will be the star of the game. It's Kevin Faulk, who catches a touchdown pass and has 103 total yards. Donte (Two Carolina Panther Cheerleaders in a) Stall (Is) Worth (Another Look) adds a score. New England wins, 31-16.

NY Giants @ Green Bay (-7)

The celebration in Green Bay began on Saturday, after the Packers beat the Seahawks 42-20, and continued well into Sunday, culminating when the final gun sounded in the Giants 21-17 over the top-seeded Cowboys. That New York win gift-wrapped a home-field conference championship game for the Packers, and they'll host the G-Men on Sunday in frigid Green Bay.

"It may be too early to do the 'Super Bowl Shuffle,'" says Favre, "but now is the perfect time to do the 'Curly Lambeau Shuffle.' Talk about a home-field advantage. With temperatures forecast to be like a Vince Young Wonderlic score, in the single digits, we feel like we have the upper hand. Like well-diggers' asses, or witches' titties, we feel right at home in that temperature. More importantly, we don't have to hear any more about Tony Romo and Jessica Simpson's Mexican escapade, or Terrell Owens' bad ankle. The last time an ankle in Dallas got this much publicity, Nate Newton was being taken away in shackles. And what's the big deal about Romo and Simpson? No one made a big deal when I crossed the border with a beauty with a nice rack. Of course, I was just returning from Saskatchewan with an eight-pointer, but, nevertheless, it wasn't news, despite the fact that we shared a hotel room for the night.

"As for the Giants, who would have thought it would have been Eli Manning, and not Peyton, standing in the way of a Tom Brady/Brett Favre Super Bowl? Actually, I'm less concerned with Eli than with the New York defensive line. Michael (His Wife's Gone A-) Strahan is the second-most dangerous gap-toothed threat to my security, right behind Condoleeza Rice, and (My) Osi (Weighs a Ton) Umenyiora, well, that name alone sounds like something I should run from, or at least wear protection to prevent."

The Giants will try to leave Green Bay with their third-straight road playoff win and a berth in the Super Bowl. So far, the G-Men have done it with their ferocious pass rush and the steady play of Manning, who has been efficient and nearly error free in wins over Tampa Bay and Dallas.

"Of course, it didn't hurt that Tony Romo didn't know how to throw the ball away before taking a sack," says Manning. "His mind was obviously elsewhere, possibly in a daydream about carne asada. But don't cry for him, Argentina, or Terrell Owens. And please, don't tell me that I'm 'coming of age.' That term always reminds me of Disney cartoons, or a heartwarming tale of young acolytes finding manhood, thrust upon them by kindhearted Catholic priests. Anyway, confidence is high. I repeat, confidence is high. I've already received warm wishes of good luck from a cavalcade of New York icons, including Roger Clemens, with whom I discussed 'Rocket Science.' A word of advice when taking to Roger: never say 'inject' when you mean to say 'interject.' And if he says 'B-12,' whatever you do, don't say 'Bingo!'

"It was an odd feeling, though. I felt like I was being secretly audiotaped and videotaped at the same time. Then Eric Mangini walked by and winked. In any case, people have questioned the necessity of winning three consecutive road wins to make the Super Bowl. Well, that's hogwash. We've already won two. We only need one to get to Arizona. Sure, it will be cold in Green Bay, so it will be bad news for players with ice water in their veins. All the players, as well as the fans, will have to deal with many of the same weather-related issues, most notably 'frozen balls.'"

If the Packers can successfully manage the pressure from the G-Man rush, and Favre can clumsily sidestep the heat when protection breaks down, then the Giants are in trouble. That rush, and the sacks, hurries, knockdowns, and smackdowns that accompany it, has taken all the pressure off on the New York secondary. Given sufficient time, Favre can attack as he pleases, with short, intermediate, or long routes to his favorite targets, Greg (Shooter) Jennings and Donald (Hard) Driver. The long passes will be risky, of course, because it's not easy catching a 60 miles per hour Favre pass in five-degree weather. Of course, in the extreme cold, the Pack will try to establish the run with Ryan (Under the Radar) Grant.

The Giants will counter with their own power running game and Brandon Jacobs (Ladder), and their receiving tandem of Plaxico (This Cold Weather Makes Me Say) Burress and Amani (Exchange) Toomer, as well as emerging tight end Kevin (Who's the) Boss (? It's Bruce Springsteen). In the end, the weather, the Lambeau Mystique (a new fragrance by Faberge), and the aggressive Packers defense is too much for the Giants. Much like Foxboro in January was to Peyton Manning, Green Bay become Eli's Waterloo, and Manning faces exile at home for the Super Bowl, while the Lambeau public address system blares the ABBA hit from its speakers as he dejectedly leaves the field. Green Bay wins, 23-14.

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