National Football League
Eli ready to reign in San Fran
National Football League

Eli ready to reign in San Fran

Published Jan. 20, 2012 12:00 a.m. ET

That Ed Reed interview we did on Monday’s SiriusXM Blitz had some legs this week. Hide the women, children and Joe Flacco!

Let’s see who else Sizzled and Fizzled…


Eli Manning


As he told The Michael Kay Show this preseason, he’s elite. He’s on another level of elite, a level that I never saw coming.

In reality, when you break this game down, most matchups favor San Fran. I think the Giants have two advantages; their pass rush and their star quarterback and passing attack.

Look at how Eli dominated the Packers. His 2011 season was the best of his career, highlighted by four straight wins against the Jets, Cowboys, Falcons and the aforementioned Packers.

San Fran has a tough, play-making defense. I have the ultimate respect for them. I’ve been raving about the Niners all year.

But the edge at quarterback, and getting to the quarterback, gives the Giants the 24-23 edge. Watch this week’s Cosmic Schein on for the full effect.

Niners special teams

It’s not sexy to talk about special teams before Championship Sunday. But it is worth mentioning a major advantage the Niners have. I voted for punter Andy Lee and kicker David Akers for first-team All-Pro. Lee isn’t a punter. He’s a weapon. He changes field position.

Anquan Boldin

The Ravens wide receiver isn’t 100 percent healthy, but he is 100 percent ready for the Patriots. Talking to Boldin on the SiriusXM Blitz this week, he made it clear that he likes the way Joe Flacco, Torrey Smith, a suddenly healthy Lee Evans, and the young tight ends match up with the Patriots' pass defense. I think Boldin is going to be a big red-zone factor for Flacco.

Wes Welker

With the rightful attention on Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Welker has been lost in the shuffle a bit this week. Against the Ravens, I anticipate Welker having a gigantic game.

Steve Spagnuolo and the Saints

It seems weird to have New Orleans on this list after they exited the playoffs a week ago. But that’s how strongly I feel about the Saints' move to hire Steve Spagnuolo on Thursday afternoon. It’s not a good move. It’s absolutely perfect. Spags’ reputation as a coordinator and defensive guru is unquestioned. He spearheaded the Giants' effort to their last Super Bowl in 2008. In 2010, he had the Rams' defense overachieving and competing for the playoffs. While 2011 was a nightmare for Spagnuolo as the Rams' head coach and he rightly got fired, Spags’ good name rightly remained. The Falcons had reported interest. Spags was linked to the Eagles and the Falcons before the latter smartly hired the great Mike Nolan, and before their incredible run, a return to the Giants was thrown out as a possibility.

The Saints and Gregg Williams mutually parted ways as Williams joined his old Titans boss Jeff Fisher in St. Louis. This was a blessing for New Orleans. As we saw in the loss to the Niners, Williams was too aggressive and left his defensive backs vulnerable in big spots. Spags is also aggressive, but savvy and calculated. His players, whether in Philly, New York or St. Louis, absolutely love playing for him and would run through a wall for him. His attention to detail is unmatched. And the Saints have the personnel to match his 4-3 scheme.

We all wanted to see a rematch of the Saints and Packers from Week 1 on Championship Sunday. They failed to reach the penultimate game because of spotty defense. Without adding a single player, the Saints took a major step forward with the hire. I predict next January we will be looking back at the Steve Spagnuolo move as one of the best signings in the offseason. Seriously.


Rob Lowe

Move over Jay Glazer. There’s a new insider in town! Lowe sent the NFL world into a tizzy on Wednesday when he tweeted that Peyton Manning was going to retire. The fact that Lowe is friendly with Colts owner Jim Irsay didn’t exactly help matters. Welcome to the wacky world of news breaking thanks to Twitter!

I am a huge fan of Lowe’s show Parks and Recreation. But until I hear about Manning from Ron Swanson, I won’t believe it.

Steve Spagnuolo and the Eagles

How in the world does Andy Reid not make this happen? The Eagles ooze talent and totally bombed this season. The defense was somewhere between soft, clueless and disorganized. Spags, the old Eagles linebacker coach, was the perfect fit for Philly. How in the world does Reid still view Juan Castillo as the answer to take the Eagles to the next step? I’m baffled. At his season-ending press conference, owner Jeff Lurie made it clear that another underachieving season would not be tolerated. Eagles fans have to be disappointed with the start of the offseason.

The Rams in London

The NFL announced on Friday morning that the Rams are playing a home game in London against the Patriots this October. So this means that the great and passionate Rams fans miss Tom Brady coming to their building. That’s awful. They don’t get to see the “Super Bowl rematch” from back in the day. That would’ve been a coveted ticket. Now, it goes to fans abroad who not only wouldn’t appreciate James Laurinaitis, they don’t even know who he is.

And it gets worse.

The league announced that the Rams will play the “home game” in London for the next three years. That kills the St. Louis fans, losing one of eight “holidays” known as NFL Sundays. It hurts Jeff Fisher’s team when it comes to competitive balance. While the Cardinals, Niners and Seahawks will all have eight games at home, the Rams play nine on the road, no matter how you spin it.

It hurts the fans and the players. But as long as the check clears, it’s OK. Sadly for St. Louis, you wonder if this is a prelude to a move to Los Angeles.

Mother Nature

The forecast for San Francisco is rainy and ominous. You hate to see the weather play a part in a championship game.

There is a legit school of thought that bad weather would favor the Niners. They clearly have the better defense. With Frank Gore, Kendall Hunter and the Niners' offensive line, they clearly have the better run game.

But think about the classic Tom Brady-led wins the Patriots had in the rain and mud in Foxborough. I think rain and bad weather favors a strong quarterback. I love Alex Smith, but that edge goes to Eli Manning. Plus, think about the big-play offense the Giants employ.

Hakeem Nicks darted 66 yards past poor Charlie Peprah against Green Bay. It’s not hyperbole to call the Manning to Victor Cruz 99-yard touchdown the play that changed the Giants season. New York has receivers who succeed and dominate with the yards after the catch. Receivers who know their routes should have the advantage over defensive backs that are backpedaling or changing direction.

I hope Mother Nature doesn’t mar the game. If it happens, I’m against conventional wisdom and I’m convinced that helps the Giants.


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