What I’m Watching on Sunday

This weekend has some really nice matchups.  It also has some really nice gambling opportunities.  Here we go:

Bengals @ Giants:  Bengals are floundering and some say they might have already given up on the season.  If they lose this one consider betting against them the rest of the year.  But I like them this week, getting almost two touchdowns.  Eli is due for a game where he throws 3 interceptions, and the Bengals offense is going to break out in the beautiful weather New York will have on Sunday.  Bet on the stripes.

Rams @ Seahawks:  Things are going to get ugly in St Louis.  The Seattle defense is still pretty good, and the Rams are going to struggle to get in the endzone.  Give the 10 points and take the Seahawks.

Dallas @ Green Bay:  Something most people don’t know:  Al Harris isn’t very good any more.  Look for the Boys to try and get him lined up opposite TO.  The Packers also have a glaring coverage issue wherever Atari Bigby is supposed to be.  Jason Whitten is going to dominate him.  I hate to say it, but I really have trouble believing the Cowboys can lose this one unless Aaron Rodgers plays out of his mind and the Packers passing game can’t be stopped.

Breaking Down the Giants/Packers NFC Championship

I’m going to try and break down this week’s unlikely matchup in the NFC Championship and give an edge where there is one. This isn’t the sort of thing I’ll do regularly here, and this really just came to me as an idea to write a really long post — which I needed to see presented as I develop my “theme” for the blog.

We’ll start with the ball in the Giants’ hands.

Giants’ Interior Line (Suebert, O’Hara, Snee) vs. Packers’ DT’s (Pickett, Williams)
Snee and O’Hara are both excellent run blockers, and when combined with Kareem McKenzie the Giants’ have a ton of success running to the right side. Suebert is a veteran who is an average, dependable player. The Giants O-Line as a whole is an “OK” pass-blocking unit, but the middle of the line generally holds up pretty well.

Corey Williams had an impressive seven sacks from the tackle position, but he can be exploited in the running game. Ryan Pickett is humongous, designed to eat up blocks that let Nick Barnett and AJ Hawk do their work. Both of these DT’s are good at getting their hands in the air and getting a pass deflection.

Overall, this is an area of strength for the Giants. They should run right at these guys.
Edge: Giants

Giants’ OTs (Diehl, McKenzie) vs. Packers’ DEs (Kampman, Jenkins, KGB)

Diehl has proven himself adequate in his first year as a tackle, but he’s not the kind of guy who can keep Kampman in check all game. Kampman and Jenkins both perform well against the run, and KGB will come in for Jenkins on obvious passing downs. This is a big edge in passing situations for the Packers — and something the Giants have to be concerned with.
Edge: Packers

Giants’ TE (Kevin Boss) vs. Packers’ SAM & SS (Poppinga, Bigby)
Poppinga isn’t anything to write home about, and Bigby has been a disaster in coverage — whether it’s man or zone. With that being said, he does look to be improving a little, evidenced by his performance against the Seahawks.

Kevin Boss has done a pretty good job filling in for Jeremy Shockey. If Eli Manning is lacking any confidence in this young TE, it isn’t showing. This matchup is pretty even in that it shouldn’t impact the game much.
Edge: None

Giants’ Running Game vs. Packers’ Front Seven

You could argue the Giants were the best running team in the NFL this season. Brandon Jacobs averaged a robust 5.0 ypc. Ahmad Bradshaw has made a bit of a name for himself in December and January. He’s shifty, strong for his size, and he can break a big one at any time.

The Packers have outstanding speed all over their defense, but they aren’t the biggest group. They are young, and can be susceptible to cutbacks and misdirections. The Giants should have success when they want to run the ball.
Edge: Giants

Giants’ WRs (Burress, Toomer, Smith) vs. Packers Secondary (Woodson, Harris, Collins, Bigby)

Plaxico Burress has looked like a shell of himself for the last two months. Amani Toomer is ancient, but still reliable. Steve Smith is inconsistent, but he had a good game last week.

Plaxico is capable of dominating a game when healthy, but as I said he’s just not close to that. He can’t get much push off of the line of scrimmage, and if Harris and Woodson choose to wrestle with him at the line I think they can be successful. They are excellent cover corners, who should be able to handle themselves well in this situation. The Packers’ safeties can be exploited, especially Bigby, if Eli can find guys up the seems and sidelines.
Edge: None

Packers’ Interior Line (Colledge, Wells, Spitz) vs. Giants’ DTs (Cofield, Robbins)
Much of Brett Favre’s improved performance this season can be contributed to the improved pass protection. He’s not throwing off his back foot as frequently, which has often led to turnovers.  These guys are a solid but unspectacular crew.  The Guards, especially Colledge move well and Ryan Grant has taken the starting job and run with it (ehh).

The Giants’ DTs get plenty of rest in the first part of the season, as the well-known “4 DE” (Strahan, Umenyora, Tuck, Kiwunuka) line was employed on passing downs.  They do a good job against the run, but this Packers group is pounding opponents right now.
Edge:  Packers