NFL Playoff Preview: Championship Sunday

New York Jets at Indianapolis Colts
3:00 pm ET

The New York Jets and their brashly confident head coach Rex Ryan just keep believing they can beat anyone. And while rolling over the fading Bengals twice was impressive, going into San Diego and beating a Chargers team that many expected to go to the Super Bowl was another thing entirely. Sure, they had a few breaks go their way, like Nate Kaeding missing three field goals, but the Jets came to play, and they held Philip Rivers and that high-flying offense to 14 points. It goes without saying that facing Peyton Manning’s Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium will be just as challenging, if not more challenging for Ryan’s upstart squad, but anyone who counts out their “ground and pound” offense and stifling D isn’t paying attention. Meanwhile, the Colts will not be pulling their starters in the third quarter as they did against Gang Green in Week 16, and they proved to everyone last Saturday that resting those players allowed them to be a step quicker than the wild card Ravens. Sure, the Ravens held the Colts to 20 points, but the Colts’ defense squashed the Ravens’ #5 ground game, allowing just 3 points, and they hope to do the same to the Jets’ top-ranked rushing attack, daring rookie QB Mark Sanchez to beat them through the air. Last week, Sanchez made just enough plays, but he needs to be wary of that quick, opportunistic defense of Indianapolis that forced four turnovers against Baltimore. THE PICK: COLTS 20, JETS 16

Minnesota Vikings at New Orleans Saints
6:40 pm ET

While both the Vikings and Saints struggled at bit down the stretch, they both flexed their collective muscle last weekend while eliminating the Cowboys and Cardinals, respectively. Minnesota sacked Tony Romo six times while holding a hot offense to just 3 points, and their own QB, old man Brett Favre, threw four touchdown passes and looked like a man half his age running around the field. New Orleans, after allowing a 70 yard touchdown to Tim Hightower, allowed only 7 more points the rest of the way, and D-coordinator Gregg Williams made all the necessary adjustments to stop Kurt Warner from keeping up with the Saints’ high-flying offense. And as for that offense, Drew Brees kept his gaudy completion percentage up high by going 23 of 32 (71.9%) for 247 yards, 3 scores and zero picks. And Reggie Bush was absolutely electrifying, rushing for a 46 yard touchdown and returning a punt 83 yards for the score that ultimately put the game out of reach. So what happens when these two superpowers meet in the, ahem, Superdome? It’s easy to say it will be a high scoring affair, but not when you consider how good each defense looked last week. More likely, it will be a close game, and one that will be determined in the final minutes or even in overtime. I’m getting goose bumps just thinking about this game, so I’ll say it….get your popcorn ready! THE PICK: SAINTS 27, VIKINGS 24

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