SAN DIEGO (12-5) AT INDIANAPOLIS (13-3)
WHEN: Sunday, 11 a.m. MST
WHERE: RCA Dome, Indianapolis
The potential absence of Antonio Gates because of a dislocated big toe — he is listed as doubtful could prove significant, if not a fatal blow to the Chargers’ hopes. If Gates can’t recover, Indianapolis’ safeties and outside linebackers will be free to adapt to whatever San Diego tosses their way. If the Chargers focus upon the run, they can creep forward and use some “eight in the box” formations upon the snap. If San Diego opts to go outside and get Chris Chambers and Vincent Jackson more involved, they can rejigger their focus accordingly.
“Well, it’s going to make it vital that we get it started if Antonio is not able to go, because obviously we’re losing a weapon,” Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson said. “Antonio attracts a lot of attention. And so not having him, then a lot of attention is going to go moreso on the running game. And so it’s just going to make it that much more important to establish it.”
The potential is there; Indianapolis’ run defense was a fairly pedestrian 15th in league rankings this year. But with Gates likely out, there’s little reason for the Colts to play San Diego honest down the middle. Look for them to attack Tomlinson, Michael Turner and anyone else who carries the football.
Above all, though, I can’t extricate their Week 10 meeting at Qualcomm Stadium from my mind, and the circumstances that defined it.
… Peyton Manning had arguably the worst game of his career, throwing six interceptions. He only threw eight in the other 15 games of 2007 …
… The Chargers scored twice on returns in the fourth quarter, both by Darren Sproles …
… The Colts averaged just 2.9 yards per rush …
… Indianapolis had an overall turnover ratio of minus-3 …
… Colts kicker Adam Vinatieri missed two field-goal attempts, including a potential game-winner from 29 yards out.
And in spite of that confluence of Colts calamities, the Chargers nearly lost. At home. There’s no way that San Diego gets so many gifts this Sunday.
MASON’S PICK: Indianapolis, 20-10. San Diego’s fleet defense will ensure that the Chargers can stay in the game on the fast RCA Dome turf, but the absence of Gates will force the Chargers’ passing game to play with one hand tied behind its back — hardly a promising scenario with Sanders looming in the opposing secondary.
OTHER PICKS FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE:
MIKE RICE, NEWSRADIO 850 KOA: Indianapolis, 41-21.
KYLE MONTGOMERY, BRONCOTALK: Everyone mentions how Peyton Manning threw 6 interceptions and the Chargers had two special-teams touchdowns to win their first matchup earlier in the year. The truth is that neither team played well, and both are more healthy than they were then. In the end, though, the Colts should take care of business. Colts 21, Chargers 17.
JOHN BENA, MILE HIGH REPORT:: Indianapolis. I can’t stand the San Diego Chargers. Sure, they are a divisional rival who has put a beatdown on the Broncos the last four times the teams have met, but it goes deeper than that. No team talks as much, celebrates as much, jumps around as much, as the Chargers on every play. Then, they have the audacity to cry when teams do it to them.
JONATHAN DOUGLAS, BRONCOTALK: Dear Peyton Manning, won’t you please, please send the Chargers home? Pretty please with a cherry on top? Colts.
N.Y. GIANTS (11-6) AT DALLAS (13-3)
WHEN: Sunday, 2:30 p.m. MST
WHERE: Texas Stadium, Irving, Texas
I really don’t want to mention Jessica Simpson in this piece. I don’t think she’s as fetching as most red-blooded, heterosexual males seem to believe.
(Not that she isn’t striking, but I can think of at least 57 celebrity-type ladies who I find more attractive. I know that former DenverBroncos.com staffer J. Michael Moore would disagree, but, hey, the world don’t move to the beat of just one drum. I’m also not a fan of her music, and the thought of her rendition of These Boots Are Made For Walkin’ left me scurrying to YouTube to find Nancy Sinatra’s version to get Simpson out of my head.)
But the hubbub over her and Tony Romo heading to Mexico during the latter’s bye weekend … let’s just say it was the first thing I heard on the radio Friday morning, which did not bring my day of blogging and traveling to the most pleasant of starts.
As I write this, there are 387 listings on Google News for “tony romo mexico jessica simpson.” Three-hundred and eighty-seven too many, I reckon.
I don’t see the problem here.
It’s a bye week. He and his teammates earned it by not only notching the best record in their conference, but by vanquishing the top challenger en route to earn home-field advantage. And just like with the regular-season bye week, some guys want to get away … perhaps to family, or perhaps for a weekend with a significant other.
Did he miss a practice or a meeting?
Enough of this garbage. Sure, Romo had a lousy game against the Philadelphia Eagles last month when Simpson showed up and captivated camera operators with her shimmy in her man’s jersey.
But if Romo falters Sunday, it’s not because he canoodled with some overhyped singer/”reality” television star. It’s because he made some bad throws, because Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora and other Big Blue defenders collapsed the pocket, or because he committed too many turnovers.
Besides, in this game, there’s a few things larger than the Mexican holiday of one player.
1) NFC No. 1 seeds have won six successive playoff games.
2) Terrell Owens was limited in practice Friday, but says he’ll play Sunday. “I’m good,” Owens said. “See you Sunday.” Whatever that means. But with the Cowboys’ season — and his legacy — at stake, there’s a better chance of McDonald’s serving beef at Bangalore locations than Owens missing this game. (By the way, check out the Chicken Maharaja Mac.)
3) Dallas has won three straight in the series — including two on the road — and averaged 38.0 points per game agains the Giants in 2007.
4) Dallas is the only team left in the NFC playoffs with an offense and defense that both rank in the league’s top 10. The other clubs in the entire postseason that can make that claim are the Colts and Patriots.
5) The Cowboys are 11-2 in home playoff games since 1980.
Of course, I could be wrong, and Terry Bradshaw could be right.
In his playing days, Bradshaw shared the company of some celebrities of the day. He married Jo Jo Starbuck. I thought that was the name of a character on Battlestar Galactica, but evidently she was once a figure skater of some note.
So perhaps he’s more well-equipped than most to opine on the situation, as he did to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram:
“If only Tony had called me and said, ‘Terry, Jessica and I are going to go to Mexico,’ I would’ve told him: ‘You crazy? Don’t do that! The paparazzi is going to find you, man. You’re a star. She’s a star. It’s just going to happen.’”
MASON’S PICK: Dallas, 28-20. The Giants have yet to prove they can consistently shackle the Cowboys’ potent offense, and I would be personally shocked if Owens can’t play.
OTHER PICKS FROM THE BLOGOSPHERE:
MIKE RICE, NEWSRADIO 850 KOA: Dallas, 34-17.
KYLE MONTGOMERY, BRONCOTALK: The Giants are on a big hot streak and the Cowboys are hurt. The ‘Boys are also swirling in controversy after Tony Romo went to Mexico with Jessica Simpson. I was neutral on the subject until I heard Jerry Rice’s comments on a Sirius radio interview — never in his wildest dreams would he ever consider taking a weekend vacation the week before a playoff game. Now the pressure’s on Romo, and from what I’ve seen, he hasn’t been able to handle that pressure. Giants 19, Cowboys 18.
JOHN BENA, MILE HIGH REPORT:: Giants. No way the NFL playoffs can stick to the chalk, can they? In a word, no, which means I am taking the Giants. Every year there is a team that barely gets in, but when they do they get on a roll. The Steelers rode that wave to a Super Bowl title in 2005, winning 3 road games on their way to winning Super Bowl XL. I know, painful memories. I’m not saying the Giants are going to go that far, but they have all the ingredients to make a serious run.
JONATHAN DOUGLAS, BRONCOTALK: Even though TO is a question mark this week, I want to see Dallas vs Green Bay next week (specifically Romo vs. Favre), so I’m pulling for Dallas this week.