By Tony McClean
Updated: January 17, 2008
NEW HAVEN, Ct. — And now there are four. And talk about four different routes to the conference finals. One team opened 0-2, but refused to lose another road game and avenged their one road blemish last week.
Another team began with a miserable 1-3 start, rallied to win its division, and then knocked the defending Super Bowl champs out of the playoffs. The other two teams have been among the cream of the crop all season.
One is riding off the emotion of its veteran leader who many thought (yours truly included) should have retired years ago. The other is trying to become the first team in league history to go 19-0 under much scrutiny and media hype.
Much like college basketball’s “Final Four”, the NFL’s final four teams standing all reached this moment through four completely different paths. Even though both games are regular season rematches, unlike the arrogance of baseball, no one will feel that those previous meetings will spoil Sunday’s games.
No matter how you look at it, the best of the NFL is being showcased. In action this Sunday will be the NFL’s career leader in quarterback wins and touchdown passes (Brett Favre), the season TD-pass record-holder (Tom Brady), the season sack leader (Michael Strahan), and the running back who has led the league in rushing the past two years (LaDainian Tomlinson).
Now it just becomes a matter of “Who Wants It More??”
FACTOID OF THE WEEK
As the Giants prepare for their third consecutive road playoff game in Sunday’s NFC title game at Lambeau Field, they are aiming for their 10th consecutive win away from Giants Stadium. New York’s 9-1 road record (.900) this season includes a team-record nine consecutive road victories. The 2007 Giants have joined the 2005 Steelers as the only teams in history to win nine road games in a single season. New York is the only team to win nine straight on the road in one year. The 2005 Steelers won six road games during the regular season and three more in the playoffs en route to a victory in Super Bowl XL.
With his interception last week, New England’s Rodney Harrison tied an NFL playoff record with a pick in four consecutive playoff games. Who is he tied with?
A. Herb Adderley
B. Darrell Green
C. Aeneas Williams
D. Paul Krause
(The answer comes at the end of this article).
LAST WEEK: 2-2 (5-3 in postseason)
According to my picks last week, I must know more about the NFC than I do about the AFC. We nailed both NFC games, but lost both AFC games. While I knew we were taking a chance with the Jags at Foxboro, I had no idea that the Bolts would skunk the Colts at Indy. However, we did call the Giants upset after sweating through the Packers falling 14 points down early. Thank goodness for turnovers mixed with snow, huh??
(Chargers at Patriots, 3 pm ET, CBS)
Surprisingly, the Chargers and Team Tivo have more in common than most football fans may think. Most importantly, their dependency on turnovers. San Diego led the league in takeaways (48; with a league-leading 30 interceptions), while New England had only 15 giveaways, best in the league (and only nine interceptions, third-best). In fact, San Diego has given up averages of 13.1 points and 285.1 yards over the last eight weeks — all wins — while forcing 26 turnovers and totaling 26 sacks. That being said, does San Diego really have a chance? I know a lot has changed since that Week Two debacle at Foxboro (a 38-14 Pats win in which they outgained the Chargers 407-201), but in reality New England hadn’t even hit its stride then. When you consider the fact that Tom Brady was damn near perfect last week (26-of-28 for 262 yards and three TDs) and only threw one pass to Randy Moss in their dismissal of Jacksonville, it makes you think that San Diego has to play a flawless game Sunday. No disrespect, but I think they used their last “get outta jail” card last week in Indy.
(Giants at Packers, 6:30 pm ET, FOX)
When these two teams met in Week Two, Ol’ No. 4 took advantage of a Giant team still adjusting to a new defensive scheme by completing 29 of 38 passes for 286 yards and three TDs as the Cheeseheads won 35-13 at East Rutherford. Needless to say, the dogs were out for both coach Tom Coughlin and Lil’ Eli after that loss. However, Big Blue adjusted on both sides of the line and would eventually make the playoffs. After being tied for the league lead with 20 picks, Lil’ Eli has shined in New York’s two playoff road wins with a total of four touchdown passes and no interceptions. While the weather in Green Bay is being a bit overplayed (remember, New Jersey in February ain’t exactly Jamaica!!). While both teams followed script last week by overcoming a deficit to win, this week’s game will likely play out a bit differently. Big Blue’s secondary is a bit banged up after last week’s win and Green Bay’s offense seems to be peaking. Everything about this match up screams a trip to Arizona for Favre. However, I truly think these “Road Warriors” from Gotham have one more successful road trip left in them.
C. While with playing the Arizona Cardinals and St. Louis Rams, Aeneas Williams set an NFL postseason record with an interception in four straight playoff games.