Manning Bowl

For the past 6 years or so people have seen this one coming.  Thing is, I think we all conceptualized it as the Colts of Payton Manning and the Giants of Eli Manning making the big game the same year.  We didn’t ponder one of the sons playing the team of their father Archie Manning for the simple reason that it involved placing the New Orleans Saints in the Super Bowl.  However that is exactly what we have after yesterday’s conference championship games.

I don’t think the AFC game takes a great deal of analysis.  The Jets got off to a great start, then the Colts figured out what New York was doing and how they could beat that.  Obviously the Colts touchdown at the end of the first half, after the Jets only got a field goal on the Addai fumble in scoring position, was huge in turning the game.  But the Jets did what they could and made a nice run getting this far.  Mark Sanchez looked very comfortable in these playoff games.  The offensive line aside from Alan Faneca is relatively young.  The stars of the defense are not old.  The Jets figure to be a factor for awhile.  Forcing a historical reference they could remind you of the 1984 Bears of which Buddy Ryan, Rex Ryan’s father, was the defensive coordinator.  They made the NFC title game before getting manhandled by a 49ers team that had gone 15-1 and won the Super Bowl.  The next year the Bears went 15-1 and won the Super Bowl.  So maybe the Jets were a year away this year.

As for the NFC game the obvious thing is to fixate on that ghastly interception Favre threw in the waning seconds of regulation, the play that could theoretically be the last of his storied career (I will believe he is retired when he is actually not on a roster next November, but that is another story).  But I put the blame on the Vikings strategy the previous couple plays.  They got the ball down to the 31 with roughly a minute remaining and called two very vanilla dive into the middle of the line running plays.  Which is to say, they settled for a 48 yard field goal.  Stay aggressive, you are handling the Saints defense.  Get a TD, or at least get it into chip shot field goal range.  Then after an inexcusable 12 men in the huddle pushed them to the edge of what was theoretically doable for their kicker, they obviously felt the need to put the ball in the air, and that was when Favre made the mistake.

Of course, generally speaking the Vikings blew this game in many places, starting from the fumbled hand off that equaled zero points after the Reggie Bush muffed punt late in the 1st half.  They had other scoring range turnovers also.  They outgained the Saints by a 2-to-1 margin and should have won this game.  But, credit the Saints for stripping the ball on some of those fumbled and for taking advantage of their opportunities, including the 50-50 gift of the coin toss, driving the ball and not giving the Vikings another chance.

As for the Super Bowl, Vegas has installed the Colts as about a 4 point favorite.  I think the game is more or less a tossup.  I could see it being the highest scoring game in Super Bowl history, or at least close to it.  I think both teams are too prolific on offense to be stopped consistently by mid-pack level defenses.  So it will probably come down to who takes advantage of more opportunities, chances to get off the field defensively on 3rd & long scenarios, turnovers, avoiding turnovers that deny scoring points, etc.  Should be fun either way.  Get your popcorn ready!

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