Saturday, January 20, 2007

NFC Championship

New Orleans @ Chicago

History would suggest the Bears win. The Bears have the home field, better defense, and the Saints are a dome team playing outdoors in a title game. I'm not going to do as long of a write up on the NFC title game as I did on the AFC Title game because there are plenty of good stats and write ups already out there. I'm going to look at the biggest and most over looked mismatch of this game. Turnovers.

Chicago has a +8 turnover differential which is very good
New Orleans has a -4 differential which is the worst of the remaining 4 teams.

Chicago ranks #1 in the NFL in take aways with 44
24 interceptions is #2 in the league
20 fumble recoveries are #1 in the league.

Now if Rex Grossman didn't turn the ball over so well, the Bears could have had the best turnover differential in the league but his interceptions trimmed that differential.

Now the Saints offense have protected the ball pretty well this season, not giving up a lot of giveaways, but the Saints defense doesn't force a lot of turnovers. In fact, the Saints only have 11 interceptions this year which is one of the worst in the league. That doesn't bode well against a feast or famine player like Grossman.

People love the Saints in this game because they can see how good the Saints offense is, and they don't believe in Grossman. That's what it boils down to. Although Grossman is a streaky player, the Saints defense has NOT been able to generate interceptions. Grossman is a streaky player because he takes risk down field. Some teams make a quarterback pay for those risks, while the Saints haven't been one of those teams.

On the other side of the ball, the Bears are a turnover machine. They have the most picks, and the 2nd most fumble recovers. The Saints have a very outstanding offense, but will they perform on the road, in the cold like so many other dome teams haven't in title games. If I could compare the Saints to a historical team, I'd compare them to some of those Rams teams of the past few years. I'd compare the Bears to the Steelers of last year.

The Bears home field is key in this game.
Cold slows the game down ( Saints offense)
Grass slows the game down ( saints offense)
it could turn a speed game into more of a power game
and throw in the weather forecast of 29 degrees and show showers and it makes it a mess.

The Saints on the road have racked up a lot of offense ( 414 yards per game), but nearly 300 of those yards are passing. The defense, weather, and grass should make passing more difficult. Think back in time how those cold New England weathers helped slow down the Colts, or some of those Rams offense in the NFC outdoors.

The Saints defense have up 135 yards rushing on average, and 5.6 per carry on defense which is piss poor. Everybody knows the Bears will try and run the football, and lighten the load of Rex Grossman. We know that's the plan, and I think they will be able to execute it.

I think most people have picked up on the fact that the Bears defense hasn't been the same since they lost Tommy Harris. Harris is a physical freak of nature. He might not be the biggest DT in the league, but his is one of the strongest and most athletic. There was an earlier play in the year I want to say in the Arizona MNF game where Harris just blew the offensive lineman back 5 yards instantly. Harris didn't sack the QB, but he pushed the 300+ pound offensive lineman right into the face of the quarterback, forcing him to cancel his plans. From a talent perspective, Harris would rival the old Warren Sapp in Tampa. I don't think people understand that these athletic DT's aren't just big guys who clog up the middle of a defense. Kris Jenkins is 6'2, 300 pounds and can dunk a basketball! The Bears haven't been as good without Harris in the lineup, but they have still been winning. Lovie Smith is an outstanding young coach, and one of the most underrated in the game.

Think back to how talented of a coaching staff the Rams had when they won the Superbowl. Vermiel is a master motivator overseeing the operation.
Martz and Saunders are the mad scientist offensive coordinators running the high powered offense.
Lovie Smith was the young defensive coordinator forcing turnovers

The point spread is at 3 points or less, depending on the book, and I believe the Bears both win and cover.

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