Sunday Football thoughts
The National Football League conference championship games are being held this afternoon. In the early game, the New Orleans Saints travel to Chicago to play the Bears. This evening the Indianapolis Colts will host the New England Patriots.
The Bears at 13 - 3 had a better record than the Saints (10 - 6). Despite this I'm picking the Saints to upset the Bears in a close low scoring game. A good deal of the Bears success this season is attributable to special teams and defensive scoring. Kick off and punts returns for touchdowns are great but not necessarily repeatable at will. Additionally, the Bears secondary was very porous as the season wound down. The weather will likely limit the passing game for both teams. With Cedric Benson and Thomas Jones the Bears have two good running backs. However, the Saints tandem of Deuce McAllister and rookie Reggie Bush is more explosive and capable of picking up yardage in large chunks. I expect the Saints to mix up the plays between McAllister and Bush and keep the Bears defense off balance. Final score: 23 to 17 Saints.
The Indianapolis Colts have a well documented history of struggling against the Patriots in the playoffs. That history ends tonight. This Patriot defense is not the same defense that stymied Peyton Manning in seasons past. Additionally, this is the first time the Colts have faced the Patriots at home in the playoffs. The Patriots will likely concentrate on Manning's favorite target - Marvin Harrison. This should result in a big game from Reggie Wayne. Will the Colts defense continue their strong play against the run? If they limit the Patriots running game and force them into a shoot out I see the Colts winning 31 to 27.
In other football news the San Diego Chargers retained head coach Marty Schottenheimer but didn't extend his contract. Predictably, his assistant coaches started looking for jobs with greater security. Offensive coordinator Cam Cameron has taken the Dolphins head coaching job and tight ends coach Rob Chudzinski has been hired to be the Browns new offensive coordinator.
ESPN is reporting that the Steelers are going to name Mike Timlin as their new head coach. Timlin is currently the Minnesota Vikings defensive coordinator. At 35, he would be the youngest head coach in the NFL. However, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is reporting that Russ Grimm will be the new coach for the Steelers. Somebody got this one wrong.