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22nd January 2010

NFL Talkboard: Conference Championship Games | Paolo Bandini

Have your say on all the week’s news and post your predictions for the AFC and NFC title games below the line

Welcome back to the NFL talkboard. For those of you who have stumbled upon it for the first time, this is the dedicated place on the Sportblog where people can talk about American football.

The blog stays open over the weekend, allowing everyone – myself included – to keep chatting about the games as they happen, and afterwards on Sunday and Monday. Last year we ended the Pick the Play-offs competition with the AFC and NFC championship game, but this year we’ll carry it on to include the Super Bowl as well, so you’ve still got one more week left after this one, albeit it’ll only be possible by that stage to make the smallest of climbs up the standings.

An impressive three people nailed all four picks last weekend, so caps off to gioannou, RobbyBobson and donwendyagain, who obviously had more faith in the New York Jets than the rest of us. The overall postseason standings can be found at the bottom of this blog.

New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts

Twice I’ve picked against the Jets and twice they’ve stuffed my words back down my throat. On the one hand I feel like I really should have learnt my lesson by now but on the other … can they really beat this Indianapolis team?

On paper it’s a non-contest. Jets corner Darelle Revis actually didn’t shut down Vincent Jackson last week, but I’d still back him to do a number on Indianapolis’s top receiver – Reggie Wayne. Even if he does, though, Peyton Manning still has one of the game’s great receiving tight ends - Dallas Clark – and two very able receivers - Pierre Garcon and the rookie Austin Collie – to throw to. Crucially, after Nate Kaeding’s spectacular meltdown last week for San Diego, the Colts also go into this game with a kicker who has shown he can make a postseason field goal (Matt Stover went two for two against the Baltimore Ravens last week).

But special teams aside, Indianapolis’s strengths really aren’t that different to those of the San Diego team who lost to New York last week. Neither, crucially, are their weaknesses. The Jets have got through their two play-off games so far by winning the turnover and time of possession battles. The Colts’ run defence was ranked 24th in the league – four places below San Diego - during the regular season and their rushing offence ranked dead last. Peyton Manning threw 16 interceptions, while the Chargers’ Philip Rivers, picked off twice last weekend, had just nine.

The Colts probably thought they were seeing the Jets for the last time this season when the two teams met in week 16. Back then Indianapolis were up 9-3 at half-time before they decided to pull their starters, having already sewn up the No1 seed. The Jets wound up sneaking into the play-offs on tie-breakers. If the Colts do lose this, they really will only have themselves to blame.

Colts to win

Minnesota Vikings @ New Orleans Saints

There is no hiding from the fact that Brett Favre was signed by Minnesota to win the next two games. The Vikings believed a year ago that they were just a quarterback away from being a Super Bowl team, and now they have him – one of the game’s all-time greats enjoying what is, statistically at least, the best season of his career. On Sunday, though, Favre is going up against the only quarterback in the league who managed to post a better passer rating this season. That should make for a riveting match-up, but the way most of this season’s play-off games have gone so far we probably shouldn’t take that for granted.

Both teams have great offensive lines and plenty of options in the passing game. The Vikings should be better off at running back but Adrian Peterson still hasn’t gone over 100 yards since week 10. On defence, you would probably have to say Minnesota look better, especially on the line with Kevin and Pat Williams dominating in the middle and Jared Allen coming off the edge. They gave up just three points last week, but the Saints did well too, shutting down an Arizona passing attack that had put up such big numbers against the Green Bay Packers a week earlier.

Perhaps most the most crucial fact is that this game is taking place in the Superdome. It’s going to be raucous, and the Vikes will have trouble getting their plays in. That gives the Saints the edge, but it’s a slender one.

Saints to win

Overall standings

Included here is everyone who can still technically win the postseason competition, though obviously it’s going to be fairly tricky for those with just four right so far. Full standings can be found in the comments section of last week’s blog - posted as always by RobbyBobson.

1st RobbyBobson – 7 correct picks

2nd cgioannou, Grooth, HoserinLondon, skipperD, StueyU, TheDailyChe – 6

8th fowlerisgod23, GeoffeyManboob, jasel, johnnyutah01, peteym, Pomme, racingdeavellaneda, rjpacker, Simian, Wodewik – 5

18th donwendyagain, francaise, horne94, JD72, TommyCarcetti, yubeingfunny – 4 © Guardian News & Media Limited 2010 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds

Read the full story at The Guardian

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