Northeasterners, prepare to hurl insults: Colts and Carolina will head to Houston
AFC Championship Game, Indianapolis at New England: It took me too long to get on board with Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts, but times have changed and now I’m a believer. I’ll go ahead and pick them now to win the Super Bowl, over Carolina no less, when the big game comes to Houston.Oh yeah, I can already hear the Boston fans preparing a volley of their legendary, creative, slanderous expletives to send my way. Here at The Vail Trail football headquarters we’ve learned, through the year, that Pats fans tend to send the most colorful e-mails, typically graced with the word “you” combined with the vernacular term for intercourse.But to paraphrase my boy Jack Johnson: Manning is the man with the million-dollar plan. I hate to sound like a Lexus add, but Manning has the precision, timing, and excellence to lift his team to new heights.Gillette Stadium, though, will be a cold place to play (again), and there’s little chance we’ll see Indy put up 38 points like they did in Kansas City. And the Pats defense isn’t full of pushovers, although I suspect they’ll be missing Lawyer Malloy after Marvin Harrison does at least two of his NFL-best end-zone celebrations (which involves two steps: toss the ball to the referee and jog back to the sideline. That’s it. No cell phones. No B.S. All class).New England’s 16th-ranked pass defense will struggle a bit against Manning’s brilliant on-the-line play calling and seven-touchdowns-in-two-games accuracy. But Bill Belichick is no slouch, last I checked, and he knows his fourth-ranked run D can squelch Edgerrin James’ running game, forcing Manning to go to the air.All that’s fine with the Colts, who have hit their stride at just the right time. Colts +3 seems plenty generous to me, and something’s really going to have to click if more than 43 points are going to be scored. I’m feeling pretty smug after a lucrative trip to Vegas last weekend, but I have a feeling I’ll be Mr. Moneybags heading into the Super Bowl: Indianapolis 23-19.NFC Championship Game, Carolina at Philadelphia:Now if there’s one group of fans who could qualify as more “verbally creative” than the Boston kids, it’s gotta be the Philly Phanatics. No doubt my fan mail (or anti-fan mail) is going to be scalding hot this weekend.But the fact of the matter is, Philly was lucky to get away with a win against Green Bay last weekend, and they’re simply not lucky enough to get away from Carolina in the NFC Championship.Everybody seems to love Philly, which is why they were afforded a ridiculous 5.5 points against Green Bay in the divisional playoff despite the fact that they never had the lead in that game (until it was over, of course).And to be honest, I’d love to see Philly get to the big game because they deserve it. This is their third NFC Championship Game in as many years, and the only time they went to the Super Bowl was 1980, when they lost.Still, justice and history have no place in football. That’s why we love sports, because the bottom line is simple and winners are decided by the final score. Which, by the way, will be in favor of Carolina, a squad full of guys who don’t give a hoot about Philly’s troubled past.Stephen Davis has a strained quadricep, which doesn’t bode well for the Panthers. But Jake Delhomme has proven that, although he looks like a puzzled schoolboy in post-game interviews, he’s far from that on the field. And our loose connection to the long-snapper for Carolina (go #56!) gives The VT the psychic edge to finally come away with that flat-screen TV we need to properly enjoy watching the Super Bowl.It’s going to hurt those Philly fans to be desperate and puzzled at halftime and in the end, their harsh home-town crowd will work against them when things aren’t going their way. My only wish? Don’t blame it all on my third-favorite QB in the NFL (after Brett Favre and Jake Plummer, of course). Donovan McNabb will get his due one day, just not now. Carolina 23-20.
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