NFC SAINTS ATBEARS
It's going to bea week of nonstop questions for Rex Grossman--about his inconsistency and hisinability to handle the blitz and his fear of getting yanked. The Seahawks'relentless blitzing made him look ragged at times, but Grossman (left) paidthem back with long strikes. His 68-yard scoring pass to Bernard Berrian was asbeautiful a deep throw as you could imagine, and the 30-yarder to Rashied Davisthat set up the winning field goal looked like it was fired from a blowpipe.That has to scare the Saints, because for all the magnificence of their victoryover Philadelphia they showed one glaring weakness: vulnerability to the deepstrike. Their secondary lacks speed. Give Grossman time and, guaranteed, he'llhave one or both cornerbacks in tears. The Saints get a good rush from anactive front four, but against the Bears they might send extras to force aturnover or two.
The Saints'attack is beautifully balanced, and the Chicago D is far from being the monsterit was earlier in the season. Another thing I don't like about the Bears: theirspecial teams. The kick coverage unit can be had. All-Pro return man DevinHester muffed it three times when Seattle kicked short and made him field abouncing ball. I'll go for the underdog. Saints 31, Bears 27.
AFC PATRIOTS ATCOLTS
The Colts havedone a 180. Once a soft team that relied on the brilliance of their QB, they'vewon two playoff games with running and defense. Indy stopped the Ravens just asit stopped the Chiefs: Eight men swarm the box on early downs, the DBs strikequickly at passes caught underneath. K.C and Baltimore, figuring the Colts' D(right, Raheem Brock) was small and a bit frail inside, attacked with therunning game from heavy formations, the Ravens often using two tight ends plusa fullback. That played into Indy's hands and created a traffic jam.
The Patriotswon't do that. They'll run from multiple-wideout sets, giving their runnersbreathing room, and occasionally use a second tight end for wham-blocking. Ondefense you can bet New England will have plenty of stunts and blitzes readyfor Peyton Manning. Once he was the master of blitz control, but he made baddecisions against the Ravens and awkward, strange-looking throws. Manning gotlucky because Baltimore dropped at least three balls that should have beeninterceptions. I don't think New England will be as kind.
Tom Brady hasn'tbeen a model of consistency, either. He had three picks against the Chargers,four when the Pats lost to the Colts in November. I see a high-turnover game.The team with the fewest will win. New England will have the fewest. Patriots27, Colts 24.