The Divisional round of the playoffs had three blowouts and one tight game, and left us with a championship weekend that has two of the most intriguing games of the playoffs.
The two top teams from most of the season in the NFC will square off, and the AFC matchup pits the top defense in the league against an offense led by the league’s MVP.
Without further adieu, here’s a closer look at each game.
Sunday, 1 p.m. MST
NEW YORK JETS at INDIANAPOLIS COLTS
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: The AFC Championship provides a matchup between one of the best offenses in the league — the Indianapolis Colts — and statistically the best defense in football — the New York Jets.
The Jets play a style of football that many believe is the formula to win championships — they have the No. 1 rushing attack in the league and the No. 1 defense. It has proven successful through the first two rounds of the postseason, as they defeated the Bengals by 10 points in the Wild Card round and upset the Chargers by a field goal last week.
The Colts are led by league MVP Peyton Manning, who completed 30 of 44 passes for 246 yards and two touchdowns in last week’s 20-3 victory against the Baltimore Ravens. Indianapolis has shown that with a leader like Manning, it can win games no matter the situation — like when it held the ball for over 33 minutes last week, or less than 15 minutes in a victory in Week 2.
Manning has plenty of weapons at his disposal, from receivers Reggie Wayne, Pierre Garcon and Austin Collie to tight end Dallas Clark to running back Joseph Addai. The talented Jets defense will have its hands full against such offensive talent, but then again the Chargers boasted a top offense last week, and New York came out victorious.
It will be billed as a matchup between the Colts offense and Jets defense, though the ability of Indianapolis’ defense to slow down the New York rushing attack, and rookie Mark Sanchez’s ability to play smart throughout the game could be what decides the contest.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Jets cornerback Darrelle Revis. Revis has said he will rotate receivers throughout the game, trying to slow down the Colts passing attack. All signs point to him lining up against Wayne for much of the game, and if he is able to keep him in check, it could go a long way toward the Jets leaving the field with a W.
Sunday, 4:40 p.m. MST
MINNESOTA VIKINGS at NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: The NFC Championship looks on paper like it should be one of the more entertaining games of the season. The Vikings and Saints put up a combined 79 points and 741 net yards of offense in the divisional round of the playoffs, so offensive fireworks could ensue with a trip to Miami on the line.
In the Vikings’ previous game, Brett Favre threw for four touchdowns, three of which went to Sidney Rice. In the Saints’ victory, Drew Brees tossed three touchdowns to three different receivers. Athough both quarterbacks have put together MVP-caliber seasons, the running game could play just a big a role in the championship game.
Last week, Reggie Bush rushed for 84 yards and a touchdown in addition to his punt return touchdown for the Saints. On the Minnesota side, Adrian Peterson managed just 63 yards rushing last week, but he ranked fifth in the league with 1,383 rushing yards during the regular season, and is always a threat for a homerun.
Occasionally overlooked in this offensive battle are two defenses that provide a lot of problems for opposing teams. The Vikings boast a ferocious pass rush led by defensive end Jared Allen, and two run stuffing defensive tackles in the middle in Pat and Kevin Williams. Meanwhile, the Saints pass defense snared 26 interceptions — good for third in the league — returning five of them for touchdowns. The unit also returned three fumbles for touchdowns, giving them the msot defensive touchdowns in the league.
Needless to say, there should be a lot of excitement come the second game on Sunday.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Saints safety Darren Sharper. Sharper tied for the NFL lead with nine interceptions in the regular season, and kept the playmaking going in the divisional round of the playoffs, recovering a fumble on the Cardinals’ second posession of the game. The veteran safety, who played with Favre as a Packer and against him as a Viking, certainly knows some of the Vikings quarterback’s tendencies, so watch to see if he can lure Favre into a mistake or two.
-Gray Caldwell, DenverBroncos.com