The two best Sundays of the NFL season are the first one and this one.
The first Sunday is filled with hope. Today theoretically determines the two best teams in football, with the NFC and AFC championships. Generally the games live up to the hype — unlike the Super Bowl, which too often is less entertaining than the commercials.
Both games have great story lines. In the AFC, the New York Jets haven’t lost a game since losing to the Falcons last month. (Afterward, the distraught Jets coach, Rex Ryan, said: “This obviously is t0ugh because now we’re obviously out of the playoffs, and it’s unfortunate.”) But even with the league’s No. 1 defense, it’s difficult seeing the Jets upsetting Indianapolis. Even if they slow down Peyton Manning, it’s hard to see the Colts scoring less than 20 points, or New York scoring even that many.
The NFC game is harder to call. The Minnesota Vikings are a better overall team than the New Orleans Saints, if only because of their defense (No. 6 vs. No. 25). But having covered games in almost every stadium and arena in the country, I can tell you that none is louder than the New Orleans Superdome, particularly after the fans have had several hours to “prep” on Bourbon St. That’s something Brett Favre will have to deal with. (The Metrodome in Minneapolis is close to the Superdome in noise level, but fans obviously are quiet when the Vikings have the ball.)
This might be a prediction stemming more from desire than my head. But I’ll go with the Saints. (Favre winning would justify — in his mind — all of his prima donna actions leading up to this season. My stomach couldn’t take that.)
Drew Brees and the offense seem to show us something new every week. The team has shown a t0ughness and resolve this season that often has been missing in the past. Suffice to say, the win would be a huge boost for a city that needs it, and for a franchise that never has been to the Super Bowl.
When the games are over, I’ll have Falcons coach Mike Smith break it all down. I plan to speak to Smith after each game for a column that will be posted tonight. If you have any particular questions you want me to ask Smith, let me know.
Until then, I’ll be here watching the games and blogging live (from my couch). Coffee time. Back in a few minutes.