Big Weekend for Former Boilermakers

No kidding, right? Unless you live under a rock (okay, or if you're not an avid Purdue follower), you know that there are Boilermakers on every team left in the NFL's final four. So while we do sometimes talk NFL around here, we've been doing less of it lately -- however, over the next couple weeks, I think you'll be hearing a little more about it. Let's look at the combatants and the games this weekend. Because, hey, everyone else is.

New Orleans Saints versus Minnesota Vikings

One of Purdue's proudest sons is one win away from the Super Bowl for the second time in his four seasons with New Orleans. People forget that in Mr. Handsome's first year with the team, in 2006, they lost the championship game to the Bears. This was the year after they won only 3 games while playing their entire season away from New Orleans following Katrina. I remember this vividly because Drew had just gone to New Orleans and that August I was in Las Vegas and I put down a bet on the Saints to be NFC champs -- at 35-1. I was a believer in Drew. And I remember not telling anyone I had done that until they were eliminated, so as not to jinx it. Alas, the sucko Bears managed to Rex Grossman their way into the opportunity to get waxed by the Colts.

I'll be pontificating/hero-worshipping Drew a little more in a separate post later today, but for now let's get to this game.

I'm worried, and I'm not afraid to admit it. The Saints biggest weakness has been their run defense. And what is one of the Vikings strength? Of course, Adrian Peterson who, make no mistake, is an animal. I love this guy and let's all just agree that he's the reason Brett Favre has had an admittedly terrific season. Brett, to his credit, bought into the Vikings plan to run the hell out of Peterson until other teams committed to stopping him -- and then they'd punch 'em in the throat with a Brett Favre pass. This of course only works if Favre avoids his trademark crippling interceptions (all-time leader in INTs, by the way, though I don't recall them stopping the game for any ceremonies for that), which has done an amazing job of. This is Favre's lowest interception season ever -- EVER. And he still quietly threw for 4,200 yards. So as much as we collectively dislike this disingenuous hillbilly, he's playing possibly the best football he's ever played -- or at least his best in ten-plus years.

However, the playoffs are when the wheels often come flying off for Fav-ray. So we shall see.

Both sides have pretty decent defenses, but certainly their defenses are not what the teams are known for. On the Minnesota side is our old friend Ray Edwards, who terrorized Tony Romo, much to my delight. Seriously, is there anything better than seeing the Cowboys lose? Jerry Jones deserves nothing. He had one of the best coaches in the game, but his ego forced him to hire a series of bozos (not including Parcells, who eventually had enough on his own) and make himself the GM. Yes, a rich doofus owns the team and makes himself the GM. Even Mark Cuban's not that arrogant. But I digress.

Ray Edwards has blossomed into a hell of a defensive player. He's actually missed some practice time this week due to injury and while I never like to see a Boiler down, I'm okay if he doesn't make it out there to pressure Drew.

The Saints offense, as we've seen over and over this year, is explosive. And they're playing in one of the few home venues that truly can be considered a home-field advantage. I've seen games in the Superdome and it's a pretty great experience -- I can only imagine how deafening it is in the playoffs. And deafening is when opponents make mistakes, run the wrong route, etc. Here's hoping.

Saints 38, Vikings 34

Indianapolis Colts versus New York Jets

Alright, let's get something straight -- the Jets aren't even in the playoffs if the Colts and Bengals don't lay down for them the last two weeks of the season. Sure, they've played very well and very opportunistically in the playoffs, but they shouldn't even be here. And let's make mistake -- no matter how much the Jets push their "Are they trying now?" motivation tactic (as they did against Cinci), the Colts are just as pissed off about that previous matchup. The Colts players were not pleased with the decision to lay down -- and that's what you expect out of competitors. I expect the Colts to want to win, and win big, showing everyone that they are indeed better than the Jets when they try for four quarters. Given that, I'm thinking Peyton Manning may get more snaps than Curtis Painter in the second half this time around. Going out on a limb here.

As for the Jets, I don't want to completely minimize them. They have a coach who has convinced them to truly believe and they have. Reportedly, at a team meeting on January 5, Rex Ryan mapped out their daily obligations, meetings, practices, etc., all the way through the Tuesday after the Super Bowl. On that day, the board said "PARADE." I give the fat man credit -- he's pushing all the right buttons.

And who has had some of the most critical catches for the Jetties? None other than Dustin Keller, former monster Boilermaker. Have you ever noticed how whenever they need a critical catch, Keller makes it? Can you remember any drops, legitimate or otherwise? And finally, is it me, or is Keller already one of the best YAC tight ends in the NFL? The guy turns short crossing patterns into 50 yard gains. I love the guy and wish he was on my team.

BUT.... let's look closer at the Jets success. Sure, the Jets have the number 1 rushing offense in the NFL. But that's skewed, because they also have an interception factory in Mark Sanchez. When you have a guy you don't trust to throw the ball, you run it incessantly and hope your defense makes some plays. Many teams have ridden this formula to success, usually with shoddy quarterbacks. And it's worked for the Jets because of the teams the Jets have played.

The Bengals looked listless and the Jets were ahead most of the day -- perfect formula for them. And the Chargers? Well, is anyone surprised the Chargers choked early again? I mean, when can we start piling on them as chokers and underachievers. I'm really tired of hearing about how "this is the year" for the Chargers. They've been good for essentially the entire LaDainian Tomlinson Era and, yet, they almost always seem to fall short of expectations. Cool, calm Phil Rivers leads them to one TD in the first half and winds up throwing a Farvian crippling interception that the Jets returned to the SD 16 yard line.... to a place where even Sanchez couldn't help but score. Suddenly, the pressure was on SD and the Jets ground them down. My point? I'm not impressed with the two teams the Jets beat. How they beat them? Yes, I'm impressed with that. But I don't think the Colts are like either of those teams. Coffee is for closers. The Colts are closers.

Colts 23, Jets 13

Drew versus Brett: Some Thoughts

Who was that masked man??