Posted 01/21/2008 at 12:00 PM
What a great set-up to the Super Bowl with two outstanding conference championship games. The Chargers earned a lot of respect playing shorthanded and moving the ball effectively against the Patriots. Ultimately the injuries likely hurt their success in the red zone and settling for field goals instead of converting touchdowns was the difference in the game. The San Diego defense that led the league in interceptions did their part as the Patriots were held to just 21 points but the credit the New England running backs for wrapping up the game. Maroney deserves a lot of credit and he did an excellent job but veteran RB Faulk came up with several huge catches to extend drives and deliver big first downs. WR Moss was neither a distraction nor a major factor but the most impressive part about the Patriots is how adaptable they can be and how they can alter their offense to do what they need to do to get the win.
The game in Green Bay was an instant classic even though the play was ugly at times. WR Burress delivered a monster game and set the tone for the Giants offense handling the physical Green Bay secondary and dominating CB Harris. The Giants had some success running the ball as RB Jacobs punished defenders early and shifty RB Bradshaw had several key runs in the second half. Packers RB Grant broke one solid run all day but really did not get enough opportunities as the Packers ran the ball just six times in the second half. Ultimately Favre will take some blame for the costly interception but the offense never really got going all day and the coaching staff and the players are equally responsible. If you take away the 90-yard touchdown to Driver in the second quarter the statistics would have been overwhelmingly one-sided. That said, as bad as the Packers played on offense, the opportunities were still there as a couple of loose balls could have easily changed the outcome.
The lopsided action on the Packers in Vegas should have given you a sound warning that something might be amiss. As our recent article warned, there is a strong recent history for road teams in conference championship games as now at least one road team has won outright in the conference championship games in ten of the last eleven years. The early look at the Super Bowl line sees a very high number, just shy of two touchdowns. The Patriots were a similarly lined favorite in the final regular season game in New York, but recall that almost everyone believed that the Giants would be resting starters and not putting up much of fight against the attempt at 16-0.