Not much to offer by way of an intro this week. I’ll just say what I have to say about the games and leave it at that. Here’s what not to expect.
San Diego (+14) at New England
I don’t even know what to say about this game. Because the thing of it is, San Diego isn’t beating New England. I don’t care who starts and who doesn’t for San Diego’s offense. I don’t care if the Chargers defense has picked off 946 passes in the past three weeks. And I extra don’t care if the Chargers are or aren’t the same team the Pats manhandled half a lifetime ago. What do I care about? I care about the fact that you can’t cover Randy Moss and Wes Welker without exposing yourself to Donte’ Stallworth, Lawrence Maroney, Kevin Faulk, Ben Watson, and Jabar Gaffney. (And if it sorta starts your head spinning just to see all those names one after another, think about what it feels like to be Norv Turner and Clarence Shelmon right now.) I care about the fact that, unlike the Colts, the Patriots are not missing a key component of their defensive front. I care about the fact that the Pats O line matches up better with the Chargers’ defensive front than San Diego’s O line matches up with New England’s defensive front. And I care about the fact that the Chargers, successful as they’ve been over their last eight games, have not exhibited an ability to do the one thing you absolutely must do if you’re hoping to beat the Patriots: play mistake-free football for 60 minutes. I don’t think they’re suddenly gonna figure out how to do that in their second consecutive road game against an elite opponent. So I’m looking for a Patriots win by a score of 38-23.
NY Giants (+7) at Green Bay
I could tell you that last week finally brought me around to believing in the Giants. But I’d be lying. Well, not entirely. Hey, the Giants have to be for real or they wouldn’t be playing this week. (It’s just too easy to call the Cowboys a choke team and walk away.) That said, I don’t think the Giants can play with the Packers over the entirety of what promises to be a very hard-fought game. On average, Green Bay scores more points and allows fewer than the Giants, which is meaningful. More meaningful, to my mind, is giveaway/takeaway differential (yes, here I go again). Green Bay finished the regular season at +4 and remains at +3 even after Ryan Grant‘s two fumble start last week. New York went -9 in the regular season. The Giants come into this game -5 overall, which is to say they’ve had four takeaways in the playoffs to date. That’s gotta be encouraging to Giants fans, but I’m more interested in long-term trends than short-term, so I expect things to even out this week. And one of the reasons for that is one of the larger reasons I expect to see Green Bay come out ahead: It’s the difference between Eli Manning and Brett Favre. That’s the key difference between these two teams. And it’ll be the key factor in determining the outcome of this game. Green Bay wins, 27-23.