NFL Picks: The Conference Championships

Scott Feschuk Last week 1-3 Playoffs 5-3 Season 131-127-6

Scott Reid Last week 3-1 Playoffs 4-4 Season 132-126-6

Permit us to take a moment to quietly celebrate the new contracts given to Wade Phillips and Norv Turner. Now if a few stubborn owners would just sign Andy Reid’s girth, Brad Childress’s beard and Tom Cable’s blank stare to five-year extensions, all our jokes for next season will have already written themselves.

OK, on to the games…

New York Jets (plus 7.5) at Indianapolis, Sunday, 3 p.m. ET

Reid: Are you like me? Have you had enough of the Rex Ryan love-in? Judging by this week’s media love-clench, you’d think he’d just been pushed out of his job by Jay Leno. He’s the George C. Chickenhawk of the NFL. Calling on all comers. Shooting his mouth off. Sticking out his belly. (Ok, that one’s not a put-on). Here’s the thing about this game: Indy cannot lose. Can. Not. Lose. And they will not lose. Rex Ryan’s team could barely beat some guy named Painter when the whole season was on the line. Against Manning, they’ll be fish food. Revis can only cover one receiver at a time and Manning is too fast off the blitz. By the end of the first half, Sanchez is going to look Bill Daily from I Dream of Jeannie: stumbling, stammering comic relief. (Although Daily did his best work on the Bob Newhart Show – much like Sanchez did his best work at USC). Pick: Indianapolis (by a mile).

Feschuk: This is no time for your precious “logic.” After Sunday, we’ve got two whole weeks until the Super Bowl – two long weeks of press conferences and media days, interrupted only by the three-hour patch of comedy relief known as the Pro Bowl (starring Vince Young and – by the time all the Super Bowl contenders and “injured” players drop out – JaMarcus Russell, Jim Plunkett and the chick who played Blossom). And who would you rather be stuck with for those two interminable weeks before the big game? The quick-witted, fast-talking, over-confident Rex Ryan or Jim “Someone Swears They Saw Him Blink Last Tuesday” Caldwell? I love Ryan’s self-serving gumflappery and I love his team. They work hard for their coach, they stick to their system and it doesn’t hurt that Darrelle Revis has six arms and operates using bat sonar. My head says the Jets, like pretty much every team, will have trouble pressuring Peyton Manning and could easily fall behind early by a couple scores. My heart says the Jets will somehow find a way (innovative playcalling? dumb luck? unicorn magic?) to keep it close. My ass says it can’t believe the season is almost over and now can we salve these couchsores? Pick: New York.

Minnesota (plus 3.5) at New Orleans, Sunday, 6:40 p.m. ET

Feschuk: Minnesota v. New Orleans: an intense, historic rivalry that dates back all the way to the beginning of this sentence. To me, there are three critical factors to consider here.

Critical factor No. 1: The New Orleans defence. And there are a number of ways you can look at the Saints D. You can look at them from the perspective of having struggled at end of the regular season, demonstrating all the vitality of Sammy Hagar’s solo career. Or you can look at them from the perspective of Kurt Warner, which is prone, confused and very, very sore, with tiny birdies circling around your head.

Critical factor No. 2: On a neutral field, I think the Vikings might just win this thing. But the Superdome is going to be louder than all airport runways and most Baldwins. Brett Favre will grow confused and overwhelmed and once more turn into his old self – the quarterback who over the past few seasons has been to clutch football games what Billy Bob Thornton has been to the sanctity of marriage.

Critical factor No. 3: Famed Minnesota resident Prince has just written and released a Vikings-inspired fight song (seriously) that’s so bad (seriously) that it makes the Super Bowl Shuffle sound not guilty of all those crimes against humanity. If the Vikings win, we get two more weeks of Prince’s Purple and Gold. I’m telling you: this song is the aural equivalent of those solar storm thingies in the movie 2012. It will destroy us. It will destroy us all. Yes, all. This thing has the raw awfulness to finish the job and get John Cusack, too. Pick: New Orleans.

Reid: I’ve got a confession to make: I’m Favre-gay. Which is not exactly the same as just plain gay. Most of the time, I have eyes only for women (Kate Beckinsale, we WILL be together). But when Brett’s in the picture, don’t even think about trying to get my attention. For years now, I’ve resisted it. I’ve concealed it from my parents. I’ve denied it to myself. But with this improbable Super Bowl run, there’s just getting around it any longer. I will yell it from the highest hilltop and ring it out on the busiest boulevard: My name is Scott Reid and I have the jones for Brett Favre! My heart races when I watch him drop back (and I imagine it’s me he’s looking for not Sidney Rice). My pulse pounds when he runs play-action. I swoon when he darts his hands above his hand in celebration of yet another of his elegantly thrown touchdown passes. He’s just so goddamned perfect. The hell of it is I never wanted any of this. Some days I hate him. Like those many days each year when he retires or un-retires. And he can be so selfish – like when he skips training camp or returns presents that I took such care in picking out.

But the fact is, I’m Favre-gay and, what the hell, it’s 2010. I refuse to shelter myself in the closet any longer. Or worse, strut around with an oh-so-obvious beard like Jessica Simpson (nice try Romo – we’re on to you).

And being Favre-gay, it makes it all the harder for me to register my prediction for this weekend. Because while my heart says Minnesota, my head says New Orleans. The home field advantage. The sheer fire-power of the Saints offense. The special teams advantage. And the speed of the New Orleans D. I just don’t see a Minny win no matter how hard I squint and whisper “Brett, Brett, Brett”. Maybe if Prince had penned his Vikings song to the tune of The Beautiful Ones (“The purple ones, they always smash the Saints. Always, every time…”). Maybe. But probably not. He’s not been same since the Batman soundtrack. Pick: New Orleans.