NFL SUNDAY

NFL SUNDAY

NFL Preview - San Diego (13-5) at New England (17-0)

(Sports Network) - The San Diego Chargers stand between the New England Patriots and yet another piece of history, as Norv Turner's squad takes the field at Gillette Stadium for Sunday's AFC Championship.

The Chargers, whose 28-24 road upset of Indianapolis last week put the franchise in the conference title game for the initial time since 1994, will be trying to prevent New England from becoming the first team in NFL history to win its first 18 games of a season.

With last Saturday's 31-20 take-down of pesky Jacksonville, the Patriots matched the 17-0 season-ending mark of the 1972 Miami Dolphins, also advancing to the AFC Championship for the fifth time in the last seven seasons.

New England, which is 5-1 all-time in AFC title games, is trying to become the first team to reach the Super Bowl four times in the same decade since Buffalo made four consecutive trips to the game's ultimate stage from 1990 through 1993.

The Patriots were 38-34 losers at Indianapolis in last year's AFC Championship.

The only teams to capture four Super Bowl titles in the same decade are the San Francisco 49ers (1981, 1984, 1988, 1989) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (1974, 1975, 1978, 1979), and the Patriots would also have a chance to join that exclusive group if it wins its next two contests.

The visiting Chargers can't reach any milestones of such significance on Sunday, but they can earn just their second Super Bowl berth in franchise history.

San Diego's back-to-back postseason wins over the Titans (17-6) and Colts rank as the organization's first playoff victories since the team reached its only Super Bowl following the 1994 season, losing to the 49ers.

Though the Bolts' current win streak pales in comparison to that of the Patriots, San Diego has won eight consecutive games since opening the year at a disappointing 5-5, and has prevailed in four straight road contests.

SERIES HISTORY

The Patriots and Chargers have met twice in the postseason, including last year's 24-21 upset of top-seeded San Diego by the Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium. The only other playoff meeting between the clubs occurred in 1963, when San Diego scored a 51-10 blowout of the then-Boston Patriots in the AFL Championship.

New England has a 18-13-2 lead in its all-time regular season series against San Diego, including its 38-14 Sunday night shellacking of the Bolts at Gillette Stadium in Week 2. The Chargers handed the Patriots a lopsided 41-17 defeat in New England in the previous matchup, during Week 4 of the 2005 campaign. That game ranks as the Pats' most lopsided home loss of the Bill Belichick era.

Belichick is 4-4 in his career against San Diego, including a 1-2 record while with the Browns from 1991 through 1995. The Chargers' Turner is 1-2 in his career against New England, including a road win for his Washington team in 1996 and a loss for his Raiders to open the 2005 campaign. Turner is 0-2 head- to-head against Belichick all-time.

WHEN THE CHARGERS HAVE THE BALL

There is major concern for San Diego at the quarterback position heading into Sunday's game, as Philip Rivers (556 passing yards, 4 TD, 2 INT in '07 playoffs) is regarded as questionable for the team's most important contest in 13 years due to two ailing knees. The former No. 4 overall pick had been dealing with pain in his left knee for much of the regular season's final month, and sustained a sprained right knee while following through on a throw late in last week's win over the Colts. If Rivers can't go, the team will turn to career backup Billy Volek, who was 3-of-4 for 48 yards and rushed for a touchdown to finish off San Diego's win last week. Also, for the second straight week, tight end Antonio Gates (4 receptions) is a question mark due to a dislocated toe suffered against Tennessee. Gates had just two catches for 28 yards in limited action against Indy, and No. 2 tight end Brandon Manumaleuna (3 receptions) saw a wealth of time in his place. Wideouts Vincent Jackson (12 receptions, 2 TD) and Chris Chambers (9 receptions, 1 TD) have both been excellent in these playoffs, ranking 1-2 in the league in receiving yards (207 and 188, respectively) during the 2007 postseason. Chambers was still with the Dolphins when the Chargers and Pats met in Week 2.

With the passing game in a battered state, the Chargers will have to rely on a ground attack that is only in slightly better condition than its aerial complement. Two-time defending NFL rushing champion LaDainian Tomlinson (70 rushing yards, 1 TD, 4 receptions) missed the entire second half of the Indianapolis win with a hyperextended left knee, and though he is expected to play on Sunday, it is unclear how much the injury will hamper his productivity. Luckily, San Diego has two excellent reserves in Michael Turner (99 rushing yards) and Darren Sproles, both of whom made an impact against the Colts. Turner carried 17 times for a game-high 71 yards in the win, and Sproles added value by taking a screen pass 56 yards for a key third-quarter touchdown. Tomlinson was held to 43 yards on 18 carries against the Patriots in Week 2, but went for 123 with two touchdowns on 23 totes in last year's AFC Divisional Playoff.

The Patriots experienced some trouble stopping the run during the regular season, ranking near the bottom of the league with 4.4 yards per carry surrendered, but did a good job against a dangerous Jacksonville running game last Saturday. Jaguars running backs Fred Taylor and Maurice Jones-Drew combined for just 66 yards on 19 combined carries (3.5 yards per carry), and neither seemed able to get in a rhythm. The three-man front of Vince Wilfork at nose tackle and Richard Seymour and Ty Warren on the ends was productive, with Wilfork and Warren notching five tackles each and Seymour chipping in with four. Veteran inside linebacker and ex-Charger Junior Seau posted a team- high 10 tackles, and leading Patriots regular season tackler Tedy Bruschi had seven.

New England did not have a perfect night against Jacksonville's passing game last week, as the Jags' David Garrard was able to throw for 278 yards with a pair of touchdowns, to wideouts Matt Jones and Ernest Wilford. Still, the Patriots secondary helped the cause with several important plays, including a game-sealing interception from veteran safety and ex-Charger Rodney Harrison in the closing moments. This week, cornerbacks Asante Samuel (4 tackles) and Randall Gay (7 tackles) will have to deal with the duo of Jackson and Chambers, with Harrison and fellow safety James Sanders (8 tackles) lending support over the top. The Pats ranked second in the league in sacks (47) during the regular season, with Pro Bowl outside linebacker Mike Vrabel (12.5 sacks) leading the way, but the team managed just one sack of David Garrard last Saturday. Vrabel's biggest play was a recovery of a Garrard fumble.

WHEN THE PATRIOTS HAVE THE BALL

As if we needed more evidence that Tom Brady is having an unprecedented and stunning 2007 season, the Pro Bowler gave us last week's performance against Jacksonville. Brady completed 26-of-28 passes, the most accurate aerial day in league history, regular season or playoffs (minimum 20 attempts), for 262 yards and three touchdowns. Two of the scores went to tight end Benjamin Watson, and the third to ex-Charger Wes Welker, who posted nine catches for 54 yards. Also making an impact was Donte' Stallworth, who continued his solid postseason reputation with three catches for a team-best 68 yards. Randy Moss, who was double-covered for much of the night, finished the Jacksonville game with just one reception for 14 yards. Brady was outstanding against the Chargers in Week 2, completing 25-of-31 passes for 279 yards, three touchdowns, and an interception. Moss (8 receptions, 105 yards, 2 TD) and Welker (8 receptions, 91 yards) proved difficult for the San Diego secondary to defend.

New England running back Laurence Maroney came on strong late in the 2007 regular season, and continued that ascendancy in last week's playoff opener. Maroney, who carried 22 times for 122 yards and a touchdown versus the Jags, now has 428 yards with five scores in his last four outings. Third-down back Kevin Faulk was also active in the Jacksonville win, logging nine total touches totaling 45 yards. Maroney had just five yards on five carries against San Diego in last year's AFC Divisional Playoff, but picked up 77 yards on 15 totes versus the Bolts in Week 2.

Though Brady and the New England passing game experienced success against San Diego earlier this year, the secondary the Pats will be opposing is in a much different state than it was in mid-September. The Patriots' Week 2 win took place prior to the emergence of cornerback Antonio Cromartie (7 tackles, 1 INT in playoffs), who is headed to his first career Pro Bowl after setting a team single-season record for interceptions, and rookie safety Eric Weddle (5 tackles, 1 INT), who has been a force since taking significant time away from Clinton Hart (10 tackles) during the second half of the year. Cromartie and Weddle both had interceptions of Peyton Manning last week, and Cromartie added a key forced fumble of Colts wideout Marvin Harrison late in the first half. The Chargers pass rush, led by outside linebackers Shawne Merriman (9 tackles, 1 sack) and Shaun Phillips (14 tackles), did not manage a sack of Manning last Sunday.

San Diego was hot-and-cold against the run during the regular season, but never allowed the Colts rushing attack to get untracked last week. Indy rushers Joseph Addai and Kenton Keith combined for just 50 yards on 17 carries (2.9 yards per rush) on the day, though the duo did amass 90 yards on 11 combined catches through the air. Somewhat troubling for the Chargers run- stopping crew coming into Sunday's contest is the health status of Pro Bowl nose tackle Jamal Williams (3 tackles), who had double knee surgery at mid- season and struggled with an ankle problem in last week's win. Another starter along the three-man front, end Luis Castillo (11 tackles, 1 sack), is suffering from bruised ribs. Those ailments will put additional pressure on inside linebacker Stephen Cooper (24 tackles) to make plays. Cooper, a Massachusetts native, logged 16 tackles against Indianapolis last Sunday.

SPECIAL TEAMS

The Chargers have to be praying that this game doesn't come down to a field goal try, as kicker Nate Kaeding (1-3 FG) has now missed field goals in each of his four postseason appearances to date. Last week, Kaeding hit the right upright on a 48-yard attempt that would have tied the game at 10-10 in the second quarter. The Iowa product, who was 24-of-27 during the regular season, missed a 54-yard kick that would have tied the contests in the waning moments of last year's AFC Divisional Playoff against the Patriots. The Chargers have nothing to worry about in the punting game, as Mike Scifres' excellence has carried over from the regular season (46.1 avg.) to the postseason (48.6 avg.).

Sproles made history against the Colts in Week 10, becoming just the second player in NFL history to return both a punt and kickoff for touchdowns in the same quarter, and his best return in Indy last week was a 30-yard kickoff return.

Patriots kicker Stephen Gostkowski was one of the heroes of last year's Divisional Playoff upset of the Chargers, drilling all three of his field goal attempts including a 50-yarder in the first quarter and a 31-yard game winner with 1:10 to play. Last week, Gostkowski (21-24 during the regular season) was 1-of-2 on field goals, missing a 35-yarder near halftime but making good on one from the same distance in the fourth quarter that pushed New England's advantage to two scores. Chris Hanson had just one punt (a 30-yarder in the fourth quarter) last week after being the least utilized punter in the league (44 punts, 41.4 avg.) during the regular season.

Welker (10.0 regular season avg.) returned Jacksonville's only punt last week for 14 yards, and New England used backup wideout Chad Jackson (4 returns, 78 yards) and reserve d-back Willie Andrews (1 return, 13 yards) on kickoffs.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

You have to respect a team that has won eight consecutive games, especially when that team goes on the road and knocks out the reigning Super Bowl champ in a postseason atmosphere. Unfortunately, San Diego's collective health took a major hit in the Indianapolis win, and it's difficult to envision such a battered club pulling off a second straight monumental road upset when it is at far less than 100 percent. The Patriots knew how to exploit the Chargers' deficiencies in Week 2, and they know how to exploit them now. Look for New England, which boasts superior talent, to jump out to an early lead and hold San Diego at arm's length thereafter. The Chargers might be the second-best team in the NFL at this moment. Unfortunately, they happen to be playing the best.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Patriots 38, Chargers 17

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NFL Preview - N.Y. Giants (12-6) at Green Bay (14-3)

(Sports Network) - A year ago at this time, Brett Favre was pondering whether to end a long and prolific career. Now the legendary quarterback has the Green Bay Packers on the verge of a Super Bowl appearance.

Favre and the Packers will attempt to capture their first conference title in 11 years this Sunday, when the resurgent club squares off against the road- tested New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game from historic Lambeau Field.

Coming into this season, few thought that these two teams would be meeting for the right to represent the NFC in next month's Super Bowl. The Packers are just two years removed from a 4-12 campaign, and have enjoyed a quick and remarkable turnaround in head coach Mike McCarthy's second season. Expectations for the Giants were curtailed following a disappointing and turbulent 2007 and the offseason retirement of star running back Tiki Barber.

Green Bay's resurrection has come to fruition largely because of an amazing bounce-back season out of the 38-year-old Favre, who threw for 4,155 yards and completed a career-best 66.5 percent of his passes. But the future Hall of Famer also had plenty of help from a young supporting cast in leading the Pack to a 13-3 regular-season record and its first NFC North title since 2004.

One of those neophytes was running back Ryan Grant, an ex-Giant who flourished when inserted into a starting role at midseason and came through with a huge performance in last weekend's 42-20 victory over Seattle in the Divisional Playoffs. The undrafted 25-year-old shook off a pair of early fumbles that staked the Seahawks to a 14-0 lead by racking up 201 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries.

Grant, a New Jersey native who spent the 2005 season on the Giants' practice squad and all of last year on injured reserve, was traded by New York to Green Bay for a sixth-round draft choice on September 1.

The second-seeded Packers' 13 regular-season wins are the franchise's most since 1997, which is also the last year Green Bay played in the NFC Championship. The Packers advanced to Super Bowl XXXII with a 23-10 decision over the 49ers at San Francisco's 3Com Park.

New York will be competing in the NFC title game for the first time since 2000, when Big Blue routed Minnesota by a 41-0 count. The Giants have gotten to this point by recording road playoff triumphs over Tampa Bay and Dallas, including last Sunday's 21-17 downing of the top-seeded Cowboys in the divisional round.

The Giants, who entered the postseason tournament as the conference's fifth seed, have been carried by a defense that amassed a league-best 53 sacks during the regular season, and the outstanding recent play of Eli Manning. The highly-scrutinized quarterback has thrown eight touchdown passes and only one interception over his last three games, and has yet to commit a turnover so far in this year's playoffs.

New York has also been buoyed by an uncanny ability to succeed on the road. The Giants have now won their last nine games as the visitor, establishing an NFL record for consecutive road victories in a single season, and haven't lost away from home since a 45-35 setback at Dallas in the 2007 opener.

Conversely, the Packers have won 10 of their last 11 games at Lambeau Field and are 15-2 all-time at home in postseason play. Favre has been under center for eight of those victories.

Green Bay also owns a win over the Giants during the course of this season. That came all the way back in Week 2, when the Pack scored 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to pull away for a 35-13 decision at the Meadowlands.

The Giants have gone 12-4 since that defeat.

SERIES HISTORY

The Giants and Packers have met five times in postseason play, but Sunday's game will mark their first such meeting since 1962, when Green Bay was a 16-7 winner in the NFL Championship at Yankee Stadium. The teams also met for the league title in 1938, 1939, 1944, and 1961, with the Packers winning all but the first of those meetings. The Giants were 37-0 losers when they last appeared in a playoff game at Lambeau Field (then known as "New" City Stadium), in 1961.

The Packers hold a 25-21-2 lead over the Giants in a regular season series that dates back to 1928, including a 35-13 road win in Week 2. New York won the previous meeting, a 14-7 affair at Lambeau Field during the 2004 campaign. Green Bay's last home win over the Giants occurred in 1995.

New York head coach Tom Coughlin is 1-3 against the Packers during his career, including 0-2 while with Jacksonville from 1995 to 2002. McCarthy is 1-0 against both Coughlin and the Giants as a head coach.

WHEN THE GIANTS HAVE THE BALL


Expect the Giants to continue using the conservative approach that has worked for them during the two playoff wins. Although the offense has averaged only slightly over 250 yards in those games, New York has not turned the ball over at all and has done a good job making the most of its opportunities. Much of the credit has to go to Manning (3336 passing yards, 23 TD, 20 INT), who's completed 71 percent of his passes and thrown for four touchdowns during this postseason. With No. 1 receiver Plaxico Burress (70 receptions, 1025 yards, 12 TD) still fighting through a nagging ankle injury that's slowed his recent production, veteran Amani Toomer (59 receptions, 3 TD) and rookie Steve Smith have emerged as Manning's top targets as of late. Toomer has 11 catches for 154 yards and three scores in the two January games, while Smith contributed four grabs for 48 yards against Dallas after garnering only eight receptions during the regular season.

Offensive coordinator Kevin Gilbride will try to keep the burden off of Manning on Sunday by establishing a run game that ranked fourth in the NFL in rushing yards (134.3 ypg) during the regular season. Top back Brandon Jacobs (1009 rushing yards, 23 receptions, 6 total TD) is a 264-pound bruiser adept at wearing down an opposing defense, while rookie Ahmad Bradshaw (190 rushing yards, 1 TD) established himself as a capable change-of-pace provider down the stretch. Jacobs has had trouble getting untracked during the playoffs, though, having averaged only 3.3 yards per carry over the two matchups.

The Giants' powerful ground attack figures to be tested by a Green Bay defense that yielded a mere 28 rushing yards on 18 attempts against Seattle last weekend. A quality front seven is headed by athletic linebackers Nick Barnett (131 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 2 INT) and A.J. Hawk (105 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT), both of whom are able to routinely make plays in space behind a sturdy line anchored by tackle Ryan Pickett (39 tackles, 1 sack) and end Cullen Jenkins (4 tackles, 1 sack). Strong safety Atari Bigby (86 tackles, 9 PD) has also shown himself to be a sound run stopper in his first year as a starter, and led the team with seven tackles versus the Seahawks. The hard-hitting youngster will be counted on heavily again on Sunday, as the Giants' offensive line has been a more effective unit than Seattle's this year.

If the Packers can get New York into obvious throwing situations, they'll be able to turn loose their strong pass-rushing tandem of ends Aaron Kampman (64 tackles, 12 sacks) and Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila (26 tackles, 9.5 sacks). The duo's success has been aided by the excellent coverage abilities of cornerbacks Al Harris (37 tackles, 2 INT) and Charles Woodson (63 tackles, 4 INT), as well as consistent interior pressure lent by tackle Corey Williams (35 tackles, 7 sacks), who had a sack and interception in Green Bay's Week 2 win over the Giants. Bigby compiled a team-best five interceptions for a defense that limited the opposition to a 55 percent completion rate during the regular season, the second-best mark in the league.

WHEN THE PACKERS HAVE THE BALL

Green Bay relied considerably on Favre's record-breaking right arm during the early portion of this season, but the Packers were able to establish offensive balance during the second half after McCarthy put Grant (956 rushing yards, 8 TD, 30 receptions) into the fold. The first-year back averaged over 90 yards per outing over his 10 regular-season starts, then shattered club single-game records for rushing yards and touchdowns in last week's rout. Grant's two fumbles against the Seahawks are a mild concern, but he only coughed it up one time in 218 touches coming into the game. The Notre Dame product excels at finding the lanes created by the team's zone-blocking system and a solid line that often doesn't get the credit it deserves.

The front wall has also done a terrific job protecting Favre (4155 passing yards, 28 TD, 15 INT), who was sacked only 19 times in the regular season. That group will face quite a test from a relentless Giants pass rush that enforced its will upon Dallas' Tony Romo during the second half of last Sunday's upset. Ends Osi Umenyiora (52 tackles, 13 sacks), Michael Strahan (57 tackles, 9 sacks) and Justin Tuck (65 tackles, 10 sacks) are all dangerous pressure generators, and the 36-year-old Strahan has been particularly troublesome this postseason. The seven-time Pro Bowler has recorded a team- best 16 tackles along with a forced fumble in the two games. He'll be going head-to-head with Packers tackle Mark Tauscher, who neutralized Seattle All- Pro Patrick Kerney last week, in one of the game's most important individual matchups.

Getting heat on Favre will be a must for the Giants on Sunday, considering the state of the team's secondary heading into this tilt. Cornerbacks Sam Madison (67 tackles, 4 INT, 14 PD) and Kevin Dockery (46 tackles) missed the Dallas game due to injury, while rookie Aaron Ross (42 tackles, 3 INT, 1.5 sacks) sat out nearly the entire second half with a dislocated shoulder. Ross is expected to suit up but will likely be limited, while the experienced Madison is considered highly questionable to return. Despite the depleted state of its defensive backfield, New York has been able to survive because of the play of reserves Corey Webster (18 tackles, 1 INT) and R.W. McQuarters (15 tackles). Webster held a wounded Terrell Owens in check a week ago, while McQuarters sealed the win over the Cowboys with a last-second interception of Romo. Those two will have to step up again this week, while a front seven headlined by middle linebacker Antonio Pierce (103 tackles, 1 INT, 1 sack) needs to prevent Grant from breaking off any long-gainers for the Giants to move on.

The Packers have the weapons to test New York's depth issues in the secondary, with three-time Pro Bowl honoree Donald Driver (82 receptions, 1048 yards, 2 TD) leading a talented receiving corps that also features the game-breaking Greg Jennings (53 receptions, 12 TD), who hauled in two of Favre's three touchdown passes against the Seahawks. Favre also had three scoring tosses in Green Bay's win over New York in September and completed 29-of-38 throws for 286 yards during the game, mainly because the offensive line was able to keep the Giants' pass rushers at bay. Tight ends Donald Lee (48 receptions, 6 TD) and Bubba Franks (18 receptions, 3 TD) each had a touchdown catch in that meeting.

SPECIAL TEAMS

This area greatly aided the Giants in last Sunday's vanquishing of the rival Cowboys. McQuarters set up the eventual game-winning touchdown with a 25-yard punt return deep into Dallas territory late in the third quarter, while kick returner Domenik Hixon averaged an impressive 31 yards on three runbacks. Green Bay can counter with a pair of coverage units that have ranked among the best in the NFL this season. Special teams were a factor in the earlier meeting between these clubs, as the Packers forced Bradshaw to fumble a kick return in the fourth quarter that helped them pull away.

Green Bay does have some health questions surrounding its return game, although the team does expect regular punt taker Will Blackmon to be available after sitting out last week with a sprained foot. Veteran Koren Robinson is a solid kick returner but has been limited in practice with a sore knee. If neither player somehow can't go, reserve corner Tramon Williams will assume those duties.

It will be interesting to see what happens if the game comes down to a late field-goal situation. Packers strong-legged rookie Mason Crosby made just 13- of-19 three-point attempts at Lambeau during the regular season and did not try a field goal last week. New York's Lawrence Tynes has had a checkered career that includes a chip-shot miss for Kansas City in a playoff game at Indianapolis last year.

Give the Giants an edge in the punting department with 20-year pro Jeff Feagles. The Pack's Jon Ryan averaged just 35 yards on three kicks against Seattle.

OVERALL ANALYSIS

While the Giants have thrived on the road and in the underdog role, the Packers are looking more like a team of destiny with each passing week. Grant's emergence has made an already capable offense into one of the NFL's most dangerous scoring attacks, and Green Bay's ability to run the football should render New York's intimidating pass rush less of a factor than it has been in recent weeks. The Packers' impressive depth at receiver should also cause problems for a Giants secondary that's riddled with injuries. New York got here by limiting its mistakes on offense and keeping the score down, but the Giants may find themselves having to win a shootout against a Green Bay squad that's scored 30 or more points in eight of its last 10 games. In that scenario, it's more likely that Manning's string of tremendously efficient outings will come to an end. And that means the Packers' storybook season will live on.

Sports Network Predicted Outcome: Packers 31, Giants 17

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Patriots open as huge chalk in AFC title game vs. SD

- This will likely be bet down with any positive news on LT or Philip Rivers, but the perfect Patriots opened as monster 15.5-point home chalk to the Chargers. A week after New England was nearly perfect in de-clawing the Jaguars and the Chargers were a mix of resourceful and lucky in winning their eighth straight, they meet at Gillette Stadium with history and a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

Oddsmakers currently have the Patriots listed as 14-point favorites versus the Chargers, while the game's total is sitting at 47½.

The Chargers defeated Indianapolis 28-24 as an 11-point underdog in their AFC Divisional matchup last week. The combined score went OVER the posted over/under total (47).

Philip Rivers passed for 264 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for San Diego, while Vincent Jackson caught seven passes for 93 yards with a touchdown in the win. But it was clutch relief play by QB Billy Volek and RB Michael Turner (subbing for injured LT) that got the job done.

The Patriots finished off the Jaguars for a 31-20 victory in their AFC Divisional game last time out. New England won the game as 12-point favorites at home, but failed to cover the spread. The combined score was a PUSH against the posted total of 51.

Tom Brady completed a lethal 26-of-28 pass attempts for 262 yards with three touchdowns in the win for New England.

Team records:
San Diego: 11-5 SU, 11-5 ATS
New England: 16-0 SU, 10-6 ATS

San Diego most recently:
When playing in January are 7-3
When playing on turf are 6-4
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 7-3

New England most recently:
When playing in January are 7-3
When playing on turf are 10-0
After outgaining opponent are 10-0
When playing outside the division are 10-0

A few trends to consider:
San Diego is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
San Diego is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games
The total has gone OVER in 5 of San Diego's last 5 games when playing on the road against New England
San Diego is 4-1 SU in its last 5 games on the road
New England is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games
New England is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 5 of New England's last 5 games when playing at home against San Diego
New England is 5-1 SU in its last 6 games when playing at home against San Diego

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Packers lay TD against upset-minded Giants

- Note to Cheeseheads everywhere ? the Giants are on a mission and are 9-1 SU on the road this season. Either Bret Favre or Eli Manning will be the NFC starting QB in Super Bowl XLII after both turned in inspired performances in victories last weekend. The Packers have won four of five meetings since 1995, including a September 35-13 rout at the Meadowlands. New York comes in looking to avenge that defeat and win their third straight playoff game as a road dog.

Oddsmakers currently have the Packers listed as 7½-point favorites versus the Giants, while the game's total is sitting at 40½.

The Giants defeated Dallas 21-17 as a 7-point underdog in last week's NFC Divisional matchup. The combined score fell UNDER the posted over/under total (47.5).

Eli Manning passed for 163 yards with two touchdowns for New York, while Amani Toomer caught four passes for 80 yards with two touchdowns and the defense stymied Tony Romo the entire second half.

Brett Favre threw three touchdowns to lead the Packers to a 42-20 win over the Seahawks in the Divisional playoffs. The Packers covered the 7.5-point spread, and the combined score sailed OVER the posted total of 44.

Favre completed 18-of-23 pass attempts for 173 yards, and Ryan Grant carried the ball 27 times for 201 yards with three touchdowns in the win.

Team records:
New York: 10-6 SU, 10-6 ATS
Green Bay: 13-3 SU, 12-3-1 ATS

New York most recently:
When playing in January are 5-5
When playing on grass are 7-3
After being outgained are 5-5
When playing outside the division are 8-2

Green Bay most recently:
When playing in January are 6-4
When playing on grass are 8-2
After outgaining opponent are 8-2
When playing outside the division are 9-1

A few trends to consider:
NY Giants are 5-0 SU in their last 5 games on the road
NY Giants are 5-0 ATS in their last 5 games on the road
The total has gone UNDER in 8 of the NY Giants last 9 games on the road
NY Giants are 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games
Green Bay is 5-0 SU in its last 5 games at home
Green Bay is 5-0 ATS in its last 5 games at home
The total has gone OVER in 7 of Green Bay's last 8 games
Green Bay is 18-3 SU in its last 21 games

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Re: NFL SUNDAY

What bettors need to know: Giants at Packers
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Little brother comes up big

Giants quarterback Eli Manning stepped out of his big brother’s shadow on Sunday. While Peyton and the Colts were laboring to a 28-24 defeat to San Diego, younger brother Eli was leading his team to the NFC Championship game.

The Giants’ Manning threw for 163 yards and two touchdowns in a 21-17 win over No.1 seed Dallas. He led a game-changing 71-yard drive at the end of the first half, tying the score at 14-14 before the break.

“That's the man who won this game for us," Antonio Pierce  said. Amani Toomer added: “Eli was just outstanding,"

Brandon Jacobs reserved the most praise, saying: “He's the best quarterback I've ever played with. I love the guy to death. I don't give a damn what anyone says about it. I don't know if he silenced the critics. In this game, you're always going to have critics.”

Youthful pack

The Green Bay Packers were the NFL’s youngest team at the start of the season, with an average age of 26 years and 89 days. Heading into Saturday’s playoff game against Seattle, veteran cornerback Al Harris said he thought Green Bay’s inexperience might count against them. Man, was he wrong.

Greg Jennings, 24, caught two touchdown passes and had a total of six receptions for 71 yards. Strong safety Atari Bigby, 26, had seven tackles and forced an important fumble early on. Defensive end Cullen Jenkins, 26, had one and a half sacks and was within inches of sacking Seahawks quarterback Matt Hasselbeck on two other occasions.

And probably the most impressive show of character was from 25-year-old tailback Ryan Grant. He had two early fumbles that helped Seattle jump out to a 14-0 lead, but recovered his composure to run for 201 yards.

Of course the team’s veteran leader, Brett Favre, was also impressive. He threw for three touchdowns and 173 yards and his 137.6 passer rating was his best in 21 career postseason games.

Depleted secondary steps up

The Cowboys had about four minutes to rescue their season in the fourth quarter on Sunday, but the Giants’ defense came out on top. The defense’s performance is even more impressive when you consider the secondary was without several starting players because of injury.

Reserve defensive back R.W. McQuarters, along with his fellow reserve cornerbacks Corey Webster and Geoffrey Pope, were pressed into service due to the injury problems. They didn’t disappoint, and McQuarters produced the game-ending interception with nine seconds left on the clock, as Dallas pressed for the victory.

“It was a great win for us,” coach Tom Coughlin told the New York Times. “Our defensive guys were on the field for the majority of the time and had to make some big-time stops. And R. W., two weeks in a row now, played super in the secondary.”

The Giants two main injury concerns in the secondary are starting cornerback Sam Madison and his rookie counterpart Aaron Ross. Madison is struggling with a strained abdominal muscle, while Ross left Sunday’s game in the third quarter with shoulder injury.

Both are listed as doubtful for this week’s contest.

Road warriors

The Giants travel to Lambeau on an NFL-record nine-game road winning streak. With Sunday’s win over Dallas they became only the 10th team in history to win their first two playoff games on the road. Unfortunately for New York, only one of the nine went on to win the Super Bowl.

Green Bay, meanwhile, is an NFC-best 8-1 at home this season. It covered the spread in all but one of those eight wins.

Head to head

These teams have already met once this season, with the Packers coming out 35-12 victors at Giants Stadium on Sept. 16. Overall, Green Bay has won five of its last six against the Giants, covering the spread in three of the last four.

The Packers are 13-3-1 ATS for the season, compared to the Giants 12-6-0 mark.

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What bettors need to know: Chargers at Patriots
COVERS.com STAFF

Terrific Tom

It’s hard to imagine that there are many more records left for Tom Brady to break, but in Saturday’s 31-20 win over the Jaguars he struck another off the list. Brady completed 26 of 28 passes – an NFL postseason record with a completion percentage of 92.9.

After the game coach Bill Belichick smiled and made his best attempt at a joke when asked about Brady. "It was a little disappointing, the two he missed," he said.

In truth, Brady could have been perfect. He made his first 16 passes, before tight end Ben Watson missed a catchable one at Jacksonville’s 26-yard line in the third quarter. He then converted his next nine, before Wes Welker dropped what should have been an easy catch in the fourth.

Brady, as usual, gave all the credit for his remarkable performance to his teammates. "It's easy," he told USA Today, "when you have receivers who are open all the time and an offensive line that never lets anyone touch you. It makes it fun to play."

Big guns questionable

The Chargers’ 29-24 win over Indianapolis on Sunday could have come at a heavy price. Running back LaDanian Tomlinson and quarterback Philip Rivers both picked up injuries and sat out the end of the game.

L.T picked up a knock in the second quarter and was replaced by Michael Turner, who went on to rush for 71 yards. Tomlinson was seen rubbing the inside of his left knee on the sideline, but later said he felt like he could have returned to the game.

Rivers’ injury came on a seemingly innocuous play. He fell back awkwardly after throwing a 56-yard touchdown pass in the third quarter, aggravating a previous injury to his left knee. Rivers was replaced by Bill Volek, who orchestrasted the winning touchdown drive.

Coach Norv Turner said both players will be listed as questionable for next week's game in New England.

Belichick wary

Some would say that the Patriots have dodged a bullet. Instead of facing Peyton Manning and the Colts in a rematch of last season’s AFC championship game, they will instead play San Diego.

But Bill Belichick, who is not renowned for being positive, believes this could be tougher matchup for his team.

"They're physical," Belichick told the Nashua Telegraph shortly after the Chargers upset the Colts. "Going out on the road and winning in Indianapolis, I think shows what kind of mental toughness they have.

"We know we're going to have to play our best game of the year, so we're on that."

In their only other meeting this season, the traveling Pats hammered San Diego. They recorded a 38-14 win on Sept. 16, but Belichick insists that this is a much improved Chargers outfit.

"Well, a lot's happened since then," he said. "We'll definitely start all over on the preparation, just almost like it's a new team, then look back at some of the things we had from back in September.

"But, that was such a long time ago, and I think the most important thing for us to focus on is what the Chargers have done in the last couple of months."

Bad blood

Sunday’s contest is a rematch of last season’s AFC playoff game, and that did not end well for the Chargers. They blew a fourth quarter lead, allowing the Pats to kick the winning field goals with four minutes left.

At the end of the game, a few New England players decided to celebrate by doing Shawn Merriman’s ‘lights out’ dance on the Chargers logo at the 50-yard line.

San Diego took major offense to the celebration, with Tomlinson calling the Pats classless, while Philip Rivers branded cornerback Ellis Hobbs as the “the sorriest corner in the league.”

The Chargers vowed revenge ahead of their embarrasing loss to the Pats in September, but now they get a second chance on the biggest possible stage.

Head to head

The Patriots have won and covered in two straight and six of their last eight meetings with San Diego. They easily covered a 3 ½-point spread in the only meeting between the teams this season, winning by a remarkable 24-point margin on Sept. 16.

New England comes into this game with a perfect 17-0 straight up record, as well as a 10-7 ATS mark. The Chargers are on an eight-game unbeaten streak during which they’ve covered on every occasion.

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10 NFL trends that might matter this weekend
Covers.com

When it comes to handicapping trends and against the spread (ATS) statistics, you either love ‘em or hate ‘em. Here’s a list of compelling tidbits for you number nerds out there.

San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots

San Diego is 14-3-1 against the number in its last 18 games as an underdog


- San Diego hasn’t been dogged since dropping a 24-17 decision at Jacksonville as a three-point favorite in Week 11. The week before that, the Chargers downed the Colts 23-21 as 3½-point favorites.

San Diego is riding an 8-0 streak both straight up and ATS

- Looking back, San Diego’s slow start out of the gate makes a lot more sense. The Chargers were still getting used to Norv Turner and they get a pass for two of those losses (at Green Bay and at New England). Since then they’ve been a lot more like last year’s dominant 14-2 team.

San Diego is 2-6 ATS in its last eight games as an underdog of 10½ points or greater

- Unfamiliar territory for San Diego bettors here, so take this one with a grain of salt. The Chargers haven’t been this big of an underdog since the 2000 season.

New England has dropped six of its last seven games ATS

-The public perception police will be banging on my door if I keep this up, but you can’t ignore the impact of the media’s Patriots mania on New England’s pointspreads. This is the best team I’ve ever seen. However, that doesn’t mean the Pats can be two touchdowns better than every other club in the league every single Sunday. Everybody wants to be the team that beats the Pats so they’re getting everyone’s best game right now with some awfully big spreads to cover.

Six of the last eight meetings between New England and San Diego have played over the total

- San Diego’s injury status might be the difference here. If Philip Rivers, LaDainian Tomlinson and Antonio Gates are all healthy enough to play, the Chargers should be able to put some points on the board. And you know the Pats won’t be held down.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers

New York is 7-0 ATS in its last seven road games against a team with a winning home record


- I love New York sports fans – as long as their team’s winning. You have to respect their passion and intensity, but the ruthless fans at Giant Stadium are part of the reason why this team is so good away from home.

New York is 5-1 ATS in its last six January games

- The Giants have won January games in sunny Tampa Bay and Dallas this year and beat the Eagles in Philadelphia last year. It was 53 degrees in Philly for that one. They might get a real taste of winter football at Lambeau this week.

Green Bay is 11-3-1 ATS in its last 15 games played on grass

-Ryan Grant is great at making one cut to the weak side and pointing his shoulders straight downhill to take would-be tacklers for a ride. Green Bay’s nasty defense is made for a grass surface too.

Green Bay is 5-0 ATS in its last five home games

- Years ago you won’t even consider betting against the Pack at Lambeau once November hit. You’ll hear that rule of thumb a lot more now that they have a running game again.

Green Bay has played over in 13 of its last 16 games overall

-  I didn’t think Brett Favre had it in him to protect the ball and take check-downs instead of launching bombs into triple coverage like he did last year and pretty much every year before that. But I love Green Bay’s play-calling now. Favre’s seeing results and that’s enough to keep him happy.

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NFL mismatches: Where to find the edge in Sunday's games
COVERS.com

San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots

Chargers’ receiving corps vs. Patriots’ linebackers


If the Patriots have one weakness it’s their aging linebacker corps. It has had problems covering quick receivers as the season wore on, with the Eagles’ Brian Westbrook and the Giants’ Plaxico Burress enjoying successful games.

Tedy Bruschi, Junior Seau and strong safety Rodney Harrison are especially vulnerable in coverage situations, and they are not comfortable chasing people. The average age of that trio is 35.6 years, and it’s been a bruising 17-game season for them.

The Chargers have several options to take advantage of that weakness. LaDanian Tomlinson, who is struggling with a knee injury, will certainly wear down Seau and Bruschi if he is fit enough to play.

If not, they still have Michael Turner and Darren Sproles, who are capable of causing the Pats problems.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady vs. Chargers’ pass defense


This mismatch isn’t because of any major weakness in San Diego’s pass defense, it’s just because Tom Brady is that good. The Pats quarterback keeps getting better and his record in the postseason makes for impressive reading.

Brady has won 15 of 13 career playoff games, completing 62.5 percent of his passes for 3,479 yards and 23 touchdowns. In last week’s win over Jacksonville, he was close to perfect. He set an NFL postseason record with his 92.9 completion percentage, throwing for 262 yards and three TDs.

San Diego’s pass defense was 13th overall in the regular season, allowing 212.7 yards per game. Last week against the Colts, it gave up 402 passing yards and three touchdowns to quarterback Peyton Manning.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers

Giants’ pass rush vs. Packers’ offensive line


In the second half of last Sunday’s game against Dallas, the Giants had Tony Romo on the ground after almost every play he made. They’ll be looking to do the same to veteran quarterback Brett Favre this week, and it’s hard to see the Packers stopping defensive ends Osi Umenyiora and Michael Strahan.

That duo has combined for 83 tackles and 23 sacks this season, as part of a Giants’ defense that led the league in sacks (52). They had two sacks against Tony Romo last week, and were consistently getting close enough to tackle him after the pass.

During the regular season, Favre got sacked 15 times in his 16 games. He was sacked just once in Green Bay’s previous meeting with New York this season (Sept. 16), but Packers offensive coordinator Joe Philbin still called it a “shoddy” performance from his offensive line.

Packers quarterback Brett Favre vs. Giants’ pass defense

Even if the Giants pass rush gets after Favre, he’s still going to have a major impact on this game. The veteran has enjoyed one of the best seasons of his career, and produced 173 yards and three touchdowns against Seattle last week.

Favre joined Joe Montana as the only NFL passer with 5,000 postseason yards and he continued his streak of 17 consecutive playoff games with a touchdown pass. He also recorded his highest passer rating in 21 postseason games last week (137.6).

The Giants ranked 12th in the league against the pass this season, giving up 212.7 yards per game in the air. They allowed Favre to throw for 286 yards and three touchdowns in a 35-13 Green Bay win on Sept. 16.

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Chargers can win by staying grounded

San Diego's commitment to the running game has helped it beat the Patriots in the past and will loom large again Sunday.

Seventeen times, the New England Patriots have been challenged this season and 17 times they have won.

One of the Patriots' victims was the San Diego Chargers, who lost, 38-14, at New England on Sept. 16.

But unlike most of the teams that fell short against the Patriots, the Chargers have reason to believe they have the right mix to end New England's dream of an undefeated season in Sunday's AFC championship game.

The reason? San Diego's ability to control a game with its running attack.

Chargers offensive coordinator Clarence Shelmon -- in his sixth season with the team and a holdover from former coach Marty Schottenheimer's staff -- understands this as well as anyone.

In 2002, Shelmon was in his first season as running backs coach and he watched LaDainian Tomlinson rush for 217 yards and two touchdowns to lead the Chargers to a 21-14 regular-season victory over the defending Super Bowl champion Patriots at Qualcomm Stadium.

Two years later, Shelmon saw San Diego rout the then two-time defending Super Bowl champion Patriots, 41-17. Tomlinson rushed for 134 yards and two touchdowns as the Chargers ended New England's NFL-record 21-game home winning streak.

Then there's last season's playoff game against the Patriots. Although San Diego blew an eight-point fourth-quarter lead and lost, 24-21, the Chargers had New England on the ropes for most of the game behind Tomlinson, who accounted for 187 total yards and two touchdowns.

Notice a trend?

Throughout New England's dominant playoff runs -- which include three Super Bowl titles and five AFC championship game appearances in seven years -- a common theme for the Patriots has been their ability to take away an opponent's offensive strength.

But that's never easy to do against the Chargers because of a talented and versatile offensive line and Shelmon's commitment to run the ball.

Everything starts with tackles Marcus McNeill and Jeromey Clary, guards Kris Dielman and Mike Goff and center Nick Hardwick, all Pro Bowl-level players who will not be intimidated by the Patriots' hard-charging defenders.

That's important against New England because you can always count on a veteran such as Rodney Harrison, Tedy Bruschi or Junior Seau to recognize a play and shut it down.

When that happens -- and it will from time to time -- the key for the Chargers' offense is to not get discouraged and stick with their plan.

If San Diego can force New England's defense to remain on the field, it will not only highlight a big weakness for the Patriots -- age -- but also keep quarterback Tom Brady and his high-scoring offense on the sideline.

That's exactly the formula San Diego used to defeat Peyton Manning and the Colts at Indianapolis last week, and it's the same strategy the Chargers are expected to utilize again Sunday.

But maybe the most overlooked aspect needed to defeat the Patriots is to get standout efforts from role players. Just ask Jacksonville, which lost at New England last week.

The Jaguars played a strong game but suffered with two key dropped passes by Dennis Northcutt. That was all the Patriots needed.

The Chargers can't afford to have that happen to them, and based on their all-around team effort against Indianapolis a week ago they should be in good shape in this department.

Shelmon called on backup backs Darren Sproles, Michael Turner and Legedu Naanee and all stepped up with big plays. Even reserve quarterback Billy Volek and wide receiver Craig Davis came through to hurt the Colts.

Summary: Even with Tomlinson, tight end Antonio Gates and quarterback Philip Rivers expected to play, the Chargers have to utilize all of their offensive weapons to keep the pressure on the Patriots.

latimes.com

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Favre's many targets will be tough for Giants to follow

What has made Green Bay quarterback Brett Favre so difficult to defend this season has been his willingness to spread his passes around.

Starting with veteran Donald Driver, star-on-the-rise Greg Jennings and underrated James Jones, the Packers are loaded with big-play receivers who can break a game open any time they touch the ball.

Then there are tight ends Donald Lee and Bubba Franks, plus reserve wide receivers Ruvell Martin and Koren Robinson -- all quality targets who can burn a defense when left open.

For the New York Giants, who will face Green Bay in the NFC Championship game Sunday, dealing with Favre and his wide array of options will be a major challenge.

Throughout the Giants' late-season run, a key to their success has been the stellar play of their secondary.

Despite being hit hard with injuries to Sam Madison, Aaron Ross and Kevin Dockery, New York's defensive backs have been solid across the board in shutting down the main targets for Tampa Bay and Dallas over the first two rounds of the playoffs.

And the most impressive feature of the Giants' secondary work? They've been getting it done the majority of the time with man-to-man coverage.

In defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's aggressive schemes, cover men that can blanket receivers are a priority because they allow New York to apply pressure in a variety of ways.

That played a big role against Dallas last week when the Giants -- who led the NFL with 53 sacks during the regular season -- reached quarterback Tony Romo twice in the final 11 minutes of the fourth quarter.

But Favre and the Packers' depth at receiver will provide an entirely different problem on Sunday.

Unlike the Buccaneers and Cowboys, Green Bay does not rely on tendencies to make its passing game click.

The Giants were able to focus in on stopping Joey Galloway and Terrell Owens in key situations, but they will not have that luxury against the Packers, who had four players finish with at least 47 receptions and six average more than 11 yards a catch during the regular season.

It's this type of diversity New York will have to overcome.

Against the Cowboys, the Giants assigned Corey Webster to Owens for most of the game and he did an excellent job. And with Patrick Crayton and Terry Glenn failing to step up for the Cowboys, New York came away with a 21-17 victory.

However, a similar tactic might not work against the Packers because Favre does not rely on a go-to receiver. If Webster is locked up on Driver, Favre will not hesitate to throw the ball to Jennings if he has a step on R.W. McQuarters or Geoffrey Pope.

If Jennings is covered deep by Ross or Madison -- who could be back in the lineup for the Giants -- Favre will not have a problem throwing underneath to Lee or Franks.

Another key factor connected with the Giants' man coverage schemes will be Ryan Grant and the Packers' running game.

New York will be at a disadvantage if it's forced to keep one or more safeties back to help pass coverage. That would open the door for Green Bay to run the ball and break down the Giants.

Grant is a power runner who excels when he has room to cut back against the flow of the defense. But if New York is able to play effective single coverage on the perimeter and defend the Packers' quick slants and double-move streak patterns, Grant will have a tough time finding holes against the Giants' physical front.

Summary: New York counts on consistent activity from ends Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora to disrupt an offensive rhythm, but Favre often thrives when this happens because of his ability to get rid of the ball quickly. The Giants can only hope that Favre rushes into mistakes early to give them an edge.

latimes.com

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AFC Championship Game
By Brian Edwards

New England (17-0 straight up, 10-7 against the spread) will be looking to continue its seemingly inevitable march to the Super Bowl and into NFL history when it plays host to San Diego on Sunday in the AFC Championship Game.

Most sports books are listing the Patriots as 14-point favorites with a total of 47. Bettors thinking the Chargers will pull the shocker can earn a return in the plus 500-600 range on money-line wagers.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened the total at 50, but that number has been closer to 46 for most of the week. Why, you ask? Most likely because of the weather conditions that are expected to be freezing with the possibility of high winds.

Remember, the Jets-Patriots game had windy conditions that resulted in a low-scoring affair in mid-December.

San Diego (13-5 SU, 13-5 ATS) has won eight in a row both SU and ATS, including last week's 28-24 upset at Indianapolis as a 10-point underdog. Even with perennial Pro-Bowl running back LaDainian Tomlinson sidelined in the second half with a hyperextended knee, in addition to the injury that kept QB Philip Rivers out in the fourth quarter, the Chargers still found a way to eliminate the defending Super Bowl champs.

Billy Volek orchestrated the game-winning drive late in the fourth quarter, finishing it with a one-yard QB sneak into the end zone. Volek connected on 3-of-4 passes for 48 yards after replacing Rivers.

The Patriots advanced by beating a game Jacksonville squad last week, 31-20. Tom Brady was nearly perfect, completing 26-of-28 attempts for 262 yards and three TDs. Laurence Maroney added 122 yards on the ground.

Despite the victory, New England's ATS slide continued. The Jaguars cashed tickets as 13 1/2-point underdogs. The Patriots have now lost four in a row for our purposes and are 1-6 ATS in their last seven games.

For bettors wagering on the 'over' for Jags-Pats, they cashed a winner if placing the bet early in the week or even early on Saturday. However, the total moved to 51 in the hours before the game, causing some gamblers to get a push.

These teams met in Foxboro back in Week 2 with New England thumping the Chargers 38-14 as a 3 1/2-point home 'chalk.' Brady connected on 25-of-31 passes for 279 yards and three TDs.

The 'over' has hit at a 6-1-2 clip in San Diego's road games. The Pats have watched the 'over' go 5-3-1 in their home games.

CBS will have television coverage at 3:00 p.m. Eastern.

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NFC Championship Game
By Brian Edwards

For the first time since 1998, the Green Bay Packers are one step away from the Super Bowl. This time last year, they were one step away from life without Brett Favre.

But the legendary quarterback opted to return. Not only that, he put together perhaps the best season of his illustrious 17-year career. On Sunday, Favre will lead his team up against the New York Giants in the NFC Championship Game at Lambeau Field.

Las Vegas Sports Consultants opened Green Bay (14-3 straight up, 13-3-1 against the spread) as a seven-point favorite with a total of 44. On Thursday, a number of books moved the Packers to 7 1/2, while other spots added prices of minus 120 or more for gamblers looking to take Green Bay at seven.

The total spent most of the week at 41, partly because of the inclement weather that’s expected. That number was reduced further Thursday, when most sports books had 39 1/2 or 40.

The Packers advanced by trouncing Seattle 42-20 last week as seven-point home ‘chalk.’ Ryan Grant recovered from a pair of first-quarter fumbles to rush for 201 yards and three touchdowns. Favre completed 18-of-23 throws for 173 yards, three TDs and zero interceptions.

New York (12-6 SU, 12-6 ATS) has gone on the road and won twice in as many weeks, including Sunday’s 21-17 win at Dallas as a seven-point underdog. Brandon Jacobs found paydirt from one yard out early in the fourth quarter for what proved to be the game-winning touchdown.

In the final stanza, Dallas started a pair of drives in excellent field postion – once from its own 44 and once from New York’s 48 – but couldn’t cash in. On fourth and 10 in the waning seconds, Tony Romo was picked off by R.W. McQuarters in the end zone to send the NFC’s top-seeded Cowboys into early vacation.

Eli Manning completed 12-of-18 attempts for 163 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Most importantly, he didn’t throw an interception for the second straight game. Dating back to the 38-35 loss to New England in the regular-season finale, Manning has an 8/1 touchdown-interception ratio.

After the Cowboys ate up most of the second quarter with a 20-play, 90-yard drive, New York found itself in a 14-7 hole with 47 seconds left. In this scenario, most coaches want to try and get into field-goal range, while more conservative coaches might opt to just sit on the ball.

The Giants decided to try and get ‘3’, but they were able to get greedy after a Steve Smith reception and subsequent 15-yard penalty for a face-mask. Three plays later, Manning and Co. faced a third-and-10 at the Dallas 23 with 17 seconds left. That’s when Manning found his rookie tight end Kevin Boss for a 19-yard gain.

On the next play, Manning hit Amani Toomer for a four-yard scoring strike. Just like that, the G-Men had taken momentum back. For Manning, it may have been his coming-of-age moment.

“That drive was definitely the turning point in the game,” VI’s Mark Franco said during Thursday’s edition of the Power Hours. “Dallas went into the locker room deflated.”

Franco felt so strongly about the momentum shift that he made an unusual gambling move, betting a halftime line at a number less generous than the original line. With the game tied, oddsmakers made Dallas a 4 ½-point favorite for the second half.

Since the line closed at Dallas minus seven, the smart play at halftime appeared to be the Cowboys with 2 ½ points shaved off the original number.

“Everyone I was with told me it was a stupid bet and it’s not something I would usually do,” Franco said. “But I just knew after that drive that the Giants were going to win outright and I wanted to press my bet.”

The strategy worked for Franco, who is No. 1 on VI with a 17-7 record (71%, +930) on guaranteed picks. He has a play on New England-San Diego for this week’s pay-if-it-wins-only selection.

Let’s get back to the Packers, who have won six in a row at home. They have won their last five home outings by margins of 14 points or more. For the season, Green Bay has an 8-1 SU record and a 7-1-1 ATS mark at Lambeau.

These teams met at the Meadowlands in Week 2 of the regular season. In fairness to Eli and the Giants, Manning didn’t practice all week and his status was “questionable” at best leading into the game. He did end up playing, throwing for 211 yards, one TD and one interception.

The Packers had a 14-13 lead going into the fourth quarter, but they quickly pulled away in the final stanza and cruised to a 35-13 win as one-point underdogs. Favre threw for 286 yards and three touchdowns.

The ‘over’ is on fire for the Packers, cashing in each of their last eight games. They have watched the ‘over’ go 13-4 overall.

The ‘under’ has been a money maker for the Giants on the road, cashing at a 7-2 clip. They lost at Dallas in Week 1 but have won nine consecutive games outside of the Big Apple.

Tom Coughlin’s club has a 6-1-1 spread record as an underdog. The G-Men have won outright five times in eight games as underdogs.

Kick-off is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Eastern on Fox.

**B.E.’s Bonus Nuggets**

--The favorite has covered the spread in three consecutive NFC Championship Games and nine of the last 14.

--Turnovers are the great equalizer in football. In wins at Tampa Bay and at Dallas, the Giants had zero turnovers.

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Behind the lines

Betting on Patriots is no small thing

New England has been a double-digit favorite 13 times this season, including the last nine in a row.

For the 13th time in 18 games this season -- including nine in a row -- the New England Patriots will play as double-digit favorites when they face the San Diego Chargers in the AFC championship game today at Gillette Stadium.

It's a remarkable stretch of respect from oddsmakers, who have enjoyed big betting action every time the Patriots have played this season. But that doesn't mean oddsmakers were excited to have San Diego upset Indianapolis last week.

"Obviously everyone was expecting a Colts vs. Pats championship game; however the Chargers crashed the party," said Richard Gardner, Bodog Sportsbook manager. "The Pats would probably be a 9 1/2 -point favorite if they were facing the Colts."

Although the Patriots have won all 17 games this season, they've struggled to cover the point spread since they won at Buffalo, 56-10, on Nov. 18.

Since starting 9-1 against the spread, New England is 1-6 against the spread over its last seven games, including last week's 31-20 win over Jacksonville (the Patriots were favored by 13 1/2).

Accuscore.com, which simulates each play of every game 10,000 times, has the Patriots winning nearly 90% of the simulations and covering the spread with an average victory score of 32-17.

In the NFC championship game, the Green Bay Packers have received steady betting support as a seven-point favorite over the New York Giants throughout the week.

Green Bay has been the choice to cover the spread by 64% of the picks.

More NFL: The over/under point total for New England's game against San Diego is at 46 points. The over is 4-0-1 in San Diego's last five games as a road underdog, and the over is 10-3-1 in the Patriots' last 14 games as a favorite of 10 1/2 points or greater.

The over/under for the NFC championship game is 39 1/2 points and the over is 7-0 the last seven times that Green Bay has been a 3 1/2 to 10-point favorite. The over is also 4-0 in the Packers' last four games as a home favorite.

But the under is 4-0 in the Giants' last four games as a road underdog and 4-0 in New York's last four playoff games.

Last NFL add: Here are several AFC championship game proposition bets available at Sportsbetting.com: Will either San Diego or New England score in the first 6 1/2 minutes of the game? Yes (-130), No (even); Will either team score in the last two minutes of the first half? Yes (-240), No (+180); Will either score three consecutive times without the other team scoring? Yes (-240), No, with conversions excluded (+180); San Diego's total points: over 17 (-120), under 17 (-120); New England's total points: over 31 (-120), under 31 (-120).

latimes.com

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San Diego (13-5 SU and ATS) at New England (17-0, 10-7 ATS)

The third-seeded Chargers, coming off last week’s stunning victory in Indianapolis, travel cross-country and into expected cold conditions as they take their second shot this season at the infallible Patriots, with the winner advancing to Super Bowl XLII.

San Diego upset the defending Super Bowl champion Colts 28-24 last Sunday as a 10½-point road underdog, moving to a glistening 8-0 SU and ATS in its last eight games. The Chargers, who are back in the title game for the first time since beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh in the 1994 season, pulled off the shocker minus three key players for all or part of the second half – QB Philip Rivers (knee), RB LaDainian Tomlinson (knee) and FB Lorenzo Neal (ankle).

Rivers was having a huge game before exiting at the end of the third quarter after his screen pass to Darren Sproles went 56 yards for a TD. Rivers finished 14 of 19 for 264 yards with three TDs and one INT, and backup Billy Volek finished up, leading an eight-play, 78-yard drive for the winning TD in the fourth quarter. Other than the injuries, the only negative for the Chargers was they let the Colts pile up 446 total yards, including 402 through the air from Peyton Manning (3 TDs). But San Diego forced three turnovers, including intercepting Manning twice.

New England fended off fifth-seeded Jacksonville 31-20 last Saturday, but failed to cash as a 13½-point chalk in Foxboro, falling to 0-4 ATS in its last four starts and 2-7 ATS in its last nine. The Patriots have become regulars in the AFC championship game, as this is their fourth appearance in the last five years. With a berth in the Super Bowl at stake, New England is 5-1 SU and ATS in franchise history.

QB Tom Brady was practically flawless versus Jacksonville, going 26 of 28 for 264 yards with three TDs and no turnovers, and eight Patriots had at least one catch – with record-setting wideout Randy Moss getting just one. RB Laurence Maroney racked up 122 rushing yards and a TD on 22 carries.

Over the past three seasons, five of the six AFC and NFC championship games were decided by 14 or more points, and four of the last five AFC title games have had double-digit margins of victory – the lone exception being Indy’s 38-34 home win over New England last year.

The Chargers improved to 2-2 SU and ATS as an underdog this year after last week’s upset of the Colts. They also sport a bevy of positive ATS trends, including: 43-20-2 overall, 11-1 against the AFC, 14-3-1 as an underdog, 10-3-2 as a road pup and 4-1 against teams with a winning record. Also, the straight-up winner has covered the spread in each of San Diego’s 18 games this season. One key negative note for San Diego: Despite the win over the Colts, it is still just 2-6 ATS in its last eight games as a ‘dog of more than 10 points.

The Patriots also hold several positive ATS trends: 7-4 at home overall, 8-3-1 in home playoff games, 13-6-2 in January, 13-6 against the AFC and 41-20-3 against teams with a winning record. However, more recently, New England is just 1-6 ATS in its last seven starts, all as a double-digit chalk.

In a much-hyped Week 2 meeting back in September, the Pats drilled the Chargers 38-14 as a 3½-point home favorite. Brady threw for 279 yards and three TDs, with one INT, and New England finished with a 407-201 edge in total yardage, including 144-52 on the ground. In the defeat, Tomlinson mustered just 43 yards on 18 carries, and Rivers was 19 of 30 for 179 yards with two TDs and two INTs, one of which was returned for a touchdown.

These two teams also met in last year’s divisional round, with the fourth-seeded Patriots rallying to beat the top-seeded Chargers 24-21 as a five-point road underdog. Holding a 21-13 fourth-quarter lead, San Diego’s Marlon McCree got a would-be game-clinching INT of Brady, but McCree fumbled the ball away on the play. Given new life, Brady tied it with a TD pass and 2-point conversion with less than five minutes left, then drove the Patriots into position for a game-winning field goal with 1:14 remaining.

In the regular season, San Diego’s offense finished among the top 10 in scoring (25.8, 5th) and rushing (127.4, 7th), but was just 20th in total yards (315.2). However, the Chargers have outgained seven of their last nine opponents, and they’re outscoring foes by more than 15 points per game (28.5-13.1) during their eight-game winning streak.

Defensively, San Diego allowed just 17.8 points per game in the regular season and recorded 42 sacks, with both figures ranking fifth in the NFL. Perhaps the most telling stat for San Diego, though, was its stunning plus-24 turnover differential, which led the league. The Chargers also had an NFL-best 30 INTs, paced by Antonio Cromartie’s league-leading 10 picks. A Cromartie pick last week helped San Diego win the turnover battle 3-1, and the Bolts are plus-3 in turnover margin in the postseason.

New England set a single-season scoring record this year, averaging 36.8 points per game. The Patriots also led the NFL in total offense (411.2 ypg) and passing offense (295.7 ypg). Brady finished with 4,806 yards passing (68.9 completion percentage), Moss had 1,493 receiving yards (15.2 per catch), Welker had 1,175 receiving yards (10.5 ypc), and RB Laurence Maroney had 835 rushing yards (4.5 per carry).

Defensively, the Pats ranked fourth in both points allowed (17.1) and total yards allowed (288.3). They also had the league’s third-best turnover ratio at plus-16, and they won the turnover battle last week against the Jags, 2-0.

Through the first two rounds of the playoffs, home teams are 4-4 SU and ATS. Also, favorites are just 3-5 ATS, with double-digit favorites going 1-2 ATS. However, dating all the way to 1983, home favorites in the conference championship games are 26-16 ATS. In that same span, though, double-digit favorites are just 3-7 ATS.

Visitors have covered 18 of the 34 conference title games since 1990, and of the 11 double-digit victories since then, six have come from the visiting team.

In last year’s conference championship games, both home teams (Chicago and Indianapolis) won and covered as a favorite. Despite those results, the underdog is still 11-7 SU in the last 18 championship games dating to 1998, while road teams are 10-8 SU during that stretch. Also, last year ended a 10-year string in which at least one visitor had won outright in the conference championship round.

The over is 5-3 in the playoffs so far (3-1 last week), with last week’s Jags-Patriots matchup and Chargers-Colts contest both topping the total. Also, both of last year’s conference championship games went over, and the over is 3-0 in the last three AFC title matchups.

For New England, the over is on runs of 16-6-1 overall, 8-3-1 as a home chalk and 15-6-1 following a SU win. For San Diego, the over is on streaks of 4-0-1 as a road pup, 6-1-2 on the highway and 4-1 as a ‘dog of more than 10 points. In this series, the over is 5-2 in the last seven meetings and 4-0 in the last four clashes in Foxboro.

Conversely, the under is 9-3 in the Pats’ last 12 playoff contests and 5-1 in the Chargers’ last six January games.

ATS ADVANTAGE: SAN DIEGO and OVER


N.Y. Giants (12-6 SU and ATS) at Green Bay (14-3, 13-3-1 ATS)


The fifth-seeded Giants take their incredible road show to frigid Lambeau Field for a matchup against the second-seeded Packers in the NFC championship game.

New York held Dallas’ high-octane offense in check to claim a 21-17 divisional-round victory last week as a seven-point road underdog. It was the Giants’ ninth straight road win, and they’ve cashed in eight of those contests. New York is back in the NFC championship game for the first time since routing the Vikings 41-0 in the 2000 season. The Giants are 3-0 SU and ATS in championship games, outscoring their foes by a composite 73-13 margin.

The Giants got outgained 336-230 in Dallas, including 154-90 on the ground, and they lost the time-of-possession battle by 13 minutes (36:30 to 23:30). But QB Eli Manning had another solid, if not spectacular, effort in going 12 of 18 for 163 yards and two TDs with no turnovers, and New York forced Dallas’ lone turnover when R.W. McQuarters picked off Tony Romo in the end zone in the final minute to seal it. Also, the Giants were aided by 11 Dallas penalties for 84 yards, including two fouls that helped New York record its two first-half TDs.

Green Bay overcame a brutal snowstorm and a 14-0 first-quarter deficit and destroyed Seattle 42-20 as an eight-point home favorite, moving to 10-2 SU and 9-2-1 ATS in its last 12 games. The Packers have reached the precipice of the Super Bowl for the first time since playing in three straight NFC championship games from 1995-97, going 2-1 SU and ATS (2-0 SU and ATS as a favorite).

Packers RB Ryan Grant fumbled twice on Green Bay’s first two possessions last week, and Seattle turned them into two quick touchdowns barely four minutes into the game. From there, though, Grant responded in a big way, finishing with 201 rushing yards and three TDs on 27 carries. While Grant carried the bulk of the load in the snow, QB Brett Favre was an efficient 18 of 23 for 173 yards and another three TDs, and the Pack defense held the 2005 NFC champs to just 200 total yards, including 28 rushing yards.

The Giants and Packers also met in Week 2, with the Packers doling out a 35-13 beating at the Meadowlands as a one-point underdog. That game was played in 64-degree weather, which will be about 60 degrees warmer than what’s expected for this matchup. Favre had a big day, going 29 of 38 for 286 yards with three TDs and one INT. Green Bay won the time-of-possession battle by nearly nine minutes and the turnover battle 2-1. In defeat, Manning was 16 of 29 for 211 yards with one TD and one INT, and he led only one second-half scoring drive (a third-quarter field goal).

New York and Green Bay have only met two other times this decade – in 2002 and 2004 – and as was the case this year, the road team won and covered both meetings.

Since the loss to Green Bay, the Giants are 12-4 SU and ATS, with the winner covering the pointspread in 14 of those 16 games. In fact, the winner is 16-2 ATS in New York’s 18 games this year and 16-0-1 ATS in Packers games.

The Giants are on ATS runs of 4-0 overall, 6-1 as an underdog, 6-0 on the road, 9-3 against the NFC, 7-2 in the playoffs, 5-1 as a playoff underdog and 5-1 in January.

The Packers are 8-1 at Lambeau this season (7-1-1 ATS), including a current 5-0 SU and ATS winning streak. Additionally, they are on ATS runs of 8-2-1 as a favorite, 9-1-1 in non-division play, 11-3 after a SU win and 9-3 after a spread-cover. Green Bay is also 14-3-1 ATS in its last 18 starts overall and 14-4-2 ATS in its last 20 against the NFC. Finally, dating to last December, the Packers are 18-3 SU (16-4-1 ATS). On the negative side, despite last week’s win over the Seahawks, the Packers are just 2-4 ATS in their last six as a playoff favorite.

The last five NFC championship games have been won by double digits, including four by more than 17 points, with the home team 3-2 SU and ATS during this stretch. Last year, host Chicago pounded New Orleans 39-14 as a 2½-point chalk.

Teams favored by 7 to 9 points in AFC/NFC finals are a sterling 14-3 ATS since 1970.

In the regular season, New York averaged 23.3 points per game (14th in the league) and 331.4 total yards (16th), but the Giants had the fourth-best rushing attack at 134.2 per game. On defense, the Giants allowed 21.9 points (17th) but just 305.0 total yards (7th) and 97.7 rushing yards (8th). One glaring negative for New York was its minus-9 turnover differential, the worst of any playoff team. But the Giants are plus-4 in the playoffs.

Green Bay’s offense ranked in the top five in total yards (370.7, 2nd), passing yards (270.9, 2nd) and scoring (27.2 points per game, 4th). Defensively, the Packers allowed 313.3 yards (11th) and just 18.2 points per game (tied for 6th), and they finished with a plus-4 turnover differential. However, Green Bay was minus-1 last week.

The over is 2-0-1 in the last three NFC title games. For Green Bay, the over is on streaks of 13-3 overall, including 8-0 in the last eight, 7-0 as a favorite and 7-0 against the NFC.

However, the Giants carry several under trends into this contest, including 8-1 in their last nine roadies, 5-0 against the NFC, 6-1 as an underdog and 6-2 in the playoffs, with both postseason matchups this season staying under the number. The under is also 4-0 for New York in January and 5-0 in its last five against the NFC.

ATS ADVANTAGE: GREEN BAY

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Re: NFL SUNDAY

Sunday’s Pregame Buzz

San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots


* This is a rematch of a Week 2 matchup at New England, which the Patriots won 38-14. That game was played with some major revenge by the home team, who was accused of stealing signals the week before against the Jets. Randy Moss had a big game for the Pats with 8 catches for 105 yards and 2 touchdowns while Chargers RB LaDainian Tomlinson was limited to 43 yards on 18 carries. Neither player was effective last week, with Tomlinson nursing a knee injury that will likely keep him from playing at 100%. EDGE: PATRIOTS
* San Diego Pro Bowl CB Antonio Cromartie did not play in the 1st meeting, as he did not see action until Week 3 at Green Bay. Cromartie played a key role in Sunday's win at Indy and picked off Peyton Manning 4 times in 2 meetings. He led the NFL in interceptions with 10 and will likely be assigned the task of checking Moss in the AFC Championship. SLIGHT EDGE: CHARGERS
* Insiders continue to believe that the Patriots offensively are simply too balanced and dangerous to be stopped. Jacksonville did an outstanding job limiting New England's deep passing game last week, but that opened up the running game, led by Laurence Maroney's 122 yards on 22 carries. Maroney is very rested after missing a lot of time early in the season and could be the most fresh back of any in the postseason. EDGE: PATRIOTS
* Insiders are now beginning to wonder if San Diego QB Philip Rivers will play this week. Rivers has not practiced all week, and his knee injury may be much more serious than the Chargers have previously reported. Even if he does play, both of his knees will have braces on them, which should severely limit his mobility. Plus, all it takes is a big hit on Rivers to take him out of the game.BIG EDGE: PATRIOTS
* Patriots are 1-6 ATS in their last 7 games after starting the season on a 9-1 ATS run.
* Chargers are 8-0 SU & ATS in their last 8 games.
* Chargers are 11-1 ATS in their last 12 games vs. AFC opponents.
* The OVER is 11-2-2 in San Diego's last 15 road games.
* The OVER is 16-6-1 in New England's last 23 game overall.
* The OVER is 8-3-1 in New England's last 12 games on field turf.
* The UNDER is 9-2-1 in New England's last 12 home playoff games.

New York Giants at Green Bay Packers

* These teams also met in Week 2 of the regular season before Giants defensive coordinator Steve Spagnuolo had fully implemented his scheme. The Packers rolled to an easy 35-13 victory at New York behind 3 touchdown passes from Brett Favre. The Giants were led by Derrick Ward's 90 rushing yards and Jeremy Shockey's 5 catches for 60 yards. Both Ward and Shockey are out of the playoffs with injuries, but the team has had little trouble replacing them. SLIGHT EDGE: PACKERS
* New York will have an advantage with Spagnuolo's blitzing scheme this time around, as Michael Strahan and Osi Umenyiora are playing at the top of their games and should be able to pressure Favre. Green Bay did a good job neutralizing Seaettle pass rusher Patrick Kerney last week but will face a different challenge in trying to stop Strahan, one of the NFL's all-time best. EDGE: GIANTS
* Packers RB Ryan Grant was 5th on New York's depth chart in the preseason behind Ward, Brandon Jacobs, Reuben Droughns and Ahmad Bradshaw. Grant was then acquired by Green Bay from the Giants for a 6th-round draft pick before another team could claim him on waivers. Even though he fumbled twice against the Seahawks, Grant's 201 rushing yards clearly set the tone for the rest of the team's win. He has scored a touchdown in 7 straight games and will likely be the key figure again at frigid Lambeau Field on Sunday in what could very well be a ball-control game. EDGE: PACKERS
* Giants QB Eli Manning has played well in the last 3 games, throwing 8 touchdowns with just 1 interception. However, all 3 of those games were played in good weather conditions while the temperature in Sunday's game might not even reach double digits. EDGE: PACKERS
* Packers are 7-1 ATS in their last 8 games as a favorite.
* Packers are 11-3-1 ATS in their last 15 games on grass.
* Giants have won 9 straight on the road, going 8-1 ATS in those games.
* Giants are 9-3 ATS in their last 12 games vs. NFC opponents.
* The UNDER is 8-1 in New York's last 9 road games.
* The OVER is 13-3 in Green Bay's last 16 games overall, including 8 straight.

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Re: NFL SUNDAY

Sunday NFL Gameday

The Chargers will be trying to upset the Patriots in New England on Sunday, while the Giants will battle the Packers in Green Bay. Here's a look at both of those contests . .

San Diego Chargers at New England Patriots (-13.5) (Total 46.5)

The Chargers suffered injuries to both Philip Rivers and LaDainian Tomlinson last weekend, but the duo of Billy Volek and Michael Turner proved to be enough to lead them to a 28-24 upset road win over the Colts. Rivers went 14-of-19 for 264 yards passing with three TDs and one INT before leaving with a knee injury; he'll likely be a game-time decision on Sunday. Tomlinson also hurt his knee against Indy, but he returned to practice this week and is expected to get a full workload vs. New England.

The Patriots pulled away from the Jaguars in the third quarter last weekend to secure a 31-20 home victory and also advance to the AFC Championship Game. Tom Brady had just two incompletions in that contest, as he went 26-of-28 for 262 yards passing with three TDs and zero INTs. Laurence Maroney rushed for 122 yards and a score, while Wes Welker had nine catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. Randy Moss was held to just one catch for 14 yards, and he's been distracted this week by his off-field issues.

New England was pegged as a 3.5-point home favorite when these teams met back in September, and the Patriots responded with an easy 38-14 victory (for an OVER result). San Diego was listed as a 4.5-point home favorite last January during their playoff matchup, but New England came through with a win in that game as well (24-21, for an UNDER result). The Chargers last managed to win in New England back in October 2005, when they won 41-17 as a 3.5-point road underdog. That game was a big OVER.

Here are the official injury reports for both the Chargers and the Patriots for Sunday

San Diego Injuries
Antonio Gates TE Doubtful AFC Championship (toe)
Philip Rivers QB Doubtful AFC Championship (knee)
Jamal Williams DT Questionable AFC Championship (ankle)
Shawne Merriman LB Probable AFC Championship (illness)

New England Injuries
Mel Mitchell S Out AFC Championship (biceps)
Tom Brady QB Probable AFC Championship (right shoulder)
Rodney Harrison S Probable AFC Championship (thigh)


New York Giants at Green Bay Packers (-7) (Total 40.5)

The Giants stayed on a roll with a 21-17 road win over the favored Cowboys at Texas Stadium last weekend. Brandon Jacobs scored the winning touchdown off a one-yard run in the fourth quarter to give his team that underdog victory; Jacobs ran for 54 yards on 14 carries overall in the contest. Eli Manning went 12-of-18 for just 163 yards passing in the game, but he was good for two TD passes and wasn't picked off by the Cowboys. Amani Toomer had both touchdown grabs for the Giants, with 80 total yards.

Green Bay went down 14-0 early against the Seahawks in their first action of the playoffs last weekend, but they rebounded from there to post a convincing 42-20 home victory. Ryan Grant had a huge game for the favored Packers on the ground, rushing for 201 yards and three touchdowns on 27 carries. Brett Favre went 18-of-23 for 173 yards passing, tossing two TD strikes to Greg Jennings and another one to Brandon Jackson.

New York was favored by 2.5 points when these teams met at Giants Stadium back on September 16, but it was Green Bay that cruised to the 35-13 road victory. The combined score went OVER that game's posted total of 39.5 points. The Giants and Packers previously hadn't played since October 2004, with New York holding on for a 14-7 win at Lambeau Field. Green Bay was the 7-point favorite in that UNDER contest.

Here are the official injury reports for both the Giants and the Packers for Sunday

New York Injuries
Kevin Dockery CB Out NFC Championship (hip)
Plaxico Burress WR Questionable NFC Championship (ankle)
Sam Madison CB Questionable NFC Championship (abdomen)
Aaron Ross CB Questionable NFC Championship (shoulder)
Kareem McKenzie T Probable NFC Championship (ankle)

Green Bay Injuries
Will Blackmon CB Questionable NFC Championship (foot)
Nick Barnett LB Probable NFC Championship (hamstring)
Bubba Franks TE Probable NFC Championship (knee)
Koren Robinson WR Probable NFC Championship (knee)
Scott Wells C Probable NFC Championship (glute)
Charles Woodson CB Probable NFC Championship (knee)

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