SI.com's NFL writers forecast conference title games
Posted: Wednesday January 17, 2007 3:23PM; Updated: Friday January 19, 2007 11:17AM
SAINTS @ BEARS
PATRIOTS @ COLTS
Don Banks Record: 8-0
Putting my 8-0 playoff record firmly in the capable hands of Drew Brees and the rest of the storybook Saints. Some things are just meant to be. Saints 20, Bears 13
Both history and logic compels one to go with the Patriots in the playoffs, but the Colts' time has come at last. New England played its Super Bowl last week. Colts 23, Patriots 20
Jeffri Chadiha Record: 5-3
The Bears thought they were better than they were last season. This year they're not taking anything for granted, not even with a home game on Sunday. That focus will be the difference on Sunday. Bears 23, Saints 17
The fact that Indianapolis has won two playoff games with Peyton Manning throwing five interceptions and one touchdown pass is telling. It means they believe they can win games by any means necessary. That same attitude will carry them to the Super Bowl. Colts 24, Patriots 21
Nunyo Demasio Record: 6-2
It's time to stop acting like Sean Payton's Saints are flourishing with smoke and mirrors. New Orleans -- with a dynamic offense and solid defense -- is the most well-rounded team left in the playoffs. But the magic -- whoops, I did it again -- will end at Soldier Field, where the stadium eliminates most of New Orleans's pluses, particularly the Saints' speed. Rex Grossman will reward Lovie Smith's patience with another solid performance. Bears 30, Saints 21
Belichick and Brady are baaaack. Except that over the past couple seasons, the Colts had already exorcised those demons. Indy remains dominant at the RCA, where Reggie Wayne and Marvin Harrison will pose nightmare matchups. Tom Brady won't get a chance for any last-minute heroics because this one won't be close as Peyton Manning exorcises more demons. Colts 34, Patriots 20
Peter King Record: 6-2
I worry immensely about New Orleans' corners, but this is mostly a vote for Drew Brees over Rex Grossman. The weather won't be a factor for a kid from Purdue.
Saints 28, Bears 23
Fitting. Peyton Manning advances to his first Super Bowl with the assistance of three long field goals by the former Patriot Adam Vinatieri. Colts 23, Patriots 21
Michael Silver Record: 7-1
The Saints will go marching into Miami after Sean Payton uncorks another killer gameplan that produces four scores on the once-dominant Chicago defense. Rex Grossman, who plays well every other game, is due for a comedown, while Drew Brees and New Orleans's fierce offensive line won't be tailing off anytime soon. Well, at least until they have to face the Pats. Saints 28, Bears 20
You think I'm gonna start picking against Tom Brady NOW? The Pats give the Colts a healthy dose of Laurence Maroney and expose the run-stopping difficulties that Indy seemed to overcome in its first two playoff games. Peyton Manning makes a couple of big plays, but New England's underrated defense keeps him in check. And in a cruel twist, the winning field goal will be made not by Adam Vinatieri but by rookie kicker Stephen Gostkowski. Patriots 23, Colts 20
Dr. Z Record: 6-2
I like the Saints because I think that right now Brees is the soundest QB in the tournament, and their offense has all the parts in place, including a Mister Inside, Mister Outside twosome of Deuce McAllister and Reggie Bush that is a terrific springboard for anything.
Saints 31, Bears 27
I think the Pats will attack the Colts with multiple wideouts, with traps and counters inside, setting up play-action passing. Despite the orgies of strategy we'll see on both sides, I think it will wind up a high turnover game. Fewest wins. That'll be New England.
Patriots 27, Colts 24
Tim Layden Record: 6-2
The potent Saints' offense will gain yards on the ground and in the air against Chicago's defense, a shell of its October self. The Bears and Rex Grossman will make plays against the Saints overmatched perimeter defense. It comes down to a turnover, and Grossman is more likely to throw a critical pass to the Saints than Drew Brees to the Bears.
Saints 30, Bears 27
Tom Brady's heroics late Sunday obscured a spotty performance in which victory was enabled by the playoff-challenged Chargers. The Colts' revitalized defense has been the story of the playoffs and there is little reason to think they'll cave at home with a Super Bowl spot on the line. And it's time for Peyton Manning to make some plays, which he will.
Colts 28, Patriots 20