ESCANABA - If all of you Green Bay Packers fans out there are finished crying in your beer, I have some perspective from a humble Lions fan.
Don't kill me. I'm just the messenger and I'm here to bring closure to your football woes.
There was some discussion in the office here during the week before the Packers hosted the New York Giants last Sunday. A lot gets made of Green Bay's formidable home advantage on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field, but there's a handful of teams where that advantage just doesn't apply. The Chicago Bears, Buffalo Bills or New England Patriots for example, who play in cold weather locales in open-air stadiums. And yes, the New York Giants.
The Giants in fact, had a history of coming into Lambeau and winning during the playoffs AND they played them to the wire during this year's regular season as well, in New Jersey.
There was also a litany of factors counting against Green Bay. The Packers had a first-round bye to their impressive regular season while the Giants had to win the last two games of the regular season just to punch their ticket to the postseason (Sound familiar Packers fans?).
In addition, Aaron Rodgers and a handful of defensive starters sat out the final game of the regular season against Detroit. That's 20 days without taking a live game snap, 20 days, while the Giants were working their tails off and playing at a high level.
I don't care how talented you are, or how hard you work in practice, you're going to get rusty being out of a game situation that long, and the Packers were indeed quite rusty last Sunday.
Then there is the drowning tragedy of offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's son. These things happen from time to time and can go either way. The team will always say they're going to rally around the tragedy and win the game in his honor.
However, sometimes these things can take more of a toll than expected. I'm not saying it did or it didn't, but it's something to consider.
Despite all this, I still picked the Packers to win. The Giants were hot but I felt that inconsistent bug of theirs could pop right back up and get them bounced. However, thinking about it, are we really that surprised at the outcome? Sure, no one expected Green Bay to play as poorly as they did, but a loss was certainly not out of the question.
All in all, it's not the end of the world for Green Bay. The core of the team is still in its prime and should be able to make at least a couple more title runs without any major turnover.
Funny how it all turned out though. Detroit and Green Bay, miles apart in the regular season and both ousted after one playoff game.
For Detroit, it was a great season. For Green Bay, a huge disappointment. Such is the weight of expectations.
I'm looking forward to some good battles between the Lions and the Packers for years to come.
* Now on to the AFC and NFC championship games. My pre-playoffs Super Bowl pick of San Francisco-Baltimore is still alive, keeping alive the old adage of defense winning championships. I would have chosen the 49ers over Green Bay for that very reason, and they validated that sentiment by beating the high-powered New Orleans Saints last Saturday.
The Giants have become a very good well-rounded team over these last few weeks and will provide just as much of a challenge to the 49ers as New Orleans did, but shrewd Jim Harbaugh has that 49ers team playing far above expectations and they're at home, where yes, they are undefeated. San Francisco advances to the Super Bowl.
49ers 28, Giants 24
* New England absolutely decimated the Denver Broncos last week, which wasn't so much a shock. The Patriots now unquestionably are the strongest offense remaining in the playoffs. However the Denver team they beat wasn't exactly a defensive powerhouse.
Baltimore stood tall against the surging Houston Texans playing just as I thought they would. The deep and experienced Ravens won't be intimidated against the Patriots.
The key to beating New England is to limit Tom Brady's time with the ball. Baltimore can do that by establishing the ground attack early, which they shouldn't have much of a problem doing against an atypically porous Patriots defense.
It won't be the Super Bowl fans and the media were clamoring for weeks ago and there will likely be a lack of offensive fireworks, but won't it be nice to see a good old fashioned defensive battle after a year of record-breaking offense?
Baltimore advances to the big game.
Ravens 31, Patriots 28