Conference Championships – Point Spreads and Breakdown

Well, we’re one week from the Super Bowl.  Four teams remain – three of which aren’t terribly surprising, and one that is downright shocking.

Let’s take a look at the first game:

Wausau @ Donelson (-4) – When these two teams met in the regular season, the team makeup was considerably different.  Both teams were playing with injuries and both teams have made significant moves since their first meeting.  Donelson escaped with a victory over Wausau in week 6, scoring the go ahead touchdown with 30 seconds left in the game.

That being said, Donelson is favored by 4.  Meaning, without homefield advantage, Donelson’s merely a 1 point favorite.  Translation?  These teams are pretty even.

In terms of rankings, Donelson has the 2nd best ranked offense with Wausau coming in at 3rd.  Donelson has the best defense in the league (by far) with Wausau coming in at 6th.  The key in this game?  Turnovers.  Wausau has averaged less than 1 turnover per game for the season, with Donelson averaging almost 1.5.  Both teams take care of the ball.  Odds are, the team that turns the ball over more often with lose.

Donelson’s offense versus Wausau’s defense – Advantage: Donelson – but not by much.  The key match up here is Donelson’s ability to run the ball versus Wausau.  Donelson is massive up front, while boasting one of the best fullbacks in football.  Donelson doesn’t have a marquee running back, but they haven’t needed one.  Wausau’s front 7 is good–not great.  If Wausau doesn’t want to get pushed around the entire game, they may need to resort to more aggressive play calling and/or bringing in extra run stoppers.  If this happens, look for Donelson to try and exploit some matchups in the secondary.

Wausau’s offense versus Donelson’s defense – Well, its tough to go against the best defense in the league (as a reminder, Donelson has allowed a league low 189 points this season.  Next closest?  Wausau at 215).

But, I’ll give it a shot.  Wausau has, by far, one of the most explosive offenses in the league.  Not only do they have one of the league’s best in Steven Jackson carrying the ball, but they’ve also got tremendous weapons in Hines Ward and Larry Fitzgerald.  Still not convinced?  Well, they’ve got Brett Favre commanding this offense (see: a 120 passer rating on the season – along with a 9:1 Touchdown to Interception ratio).  If there’s any offense that’s going to give this Donelson defense fits–its Wausau’s.

All that being said, Donelson still has one of the best defenses in the league.  They’ve got some of the league’s best on that side of the ball: Dwight Freeney, Jonathan Vilma, Charles Woodson, and Darren Sharper, just to name a few.  Donelson’s four starting defensive backs have 24 picks between them.  If there’s one secondary that could give Favre issues, its this one.

The first game was completely even, in terms of the boxscore.  Let’s hope we’re treated to another game just as close this go around.

Glendora @ Tillman (-4) – No disrespect to Glendora, but did anyone expect them to be here?   The team went 8-8 in the regular season, barely making the playoffs.  Since then, they’ve knocked off division foe Saint Gabriel and prohibitive conference favorite Buffalo.  Can they upset Tillman?

Perhaps.  But it won’t be easy.  Tillman visited Glendora midseason and pretty much dominated them, winning 24-10.  That being said, Tillman is missing some key players that could make the difference in this game.

Tillman’s offense vs. Glendora’s defense – Advantage: Tillman, but not by much.  Were Tillman healthy, I’d take Tillman all day in this category.  However, Tillman will be without RB Ronnie Brown and WR Dwayne Bowe (7 Rating).  Without Ronnie Brown, Tillman will struggle to run the ball with only Pierre Thomas.

Luckily, Tillman boasts one of the better offensive lines in the league.  That’s why I’ll give Tillman the advantage here.  They’ve got a playmaking running back with limited carries, and one above-average WR, along with one of the better TEs in football.  Their real advantage in their offensive line.  Glendora’s biggest issue on defense is the lack of a true pass rush.  Their only REAL threat to rush the passer is Trent Cole–beyond that, they’re fairly flat.

Glendora’s offense vs. Tillman’s defense – Advantage: Glendora.  Glendora doesn’t have a huge offensive line, but they do have a great running back (two, actually), two great WRs, a good TE, and a QB with a rating in the 90s.  A key to Glendora’s offensive attack could be whether or not Jermichael Finley returns from injury.  He’s listed as probably which means he’s likely to go — but we’ll have to wait and see.

Tillman is pretty stout against the run (owning a powerful group of linebackers)–but Glendora’s got one of the most explosive backs in the league.  Unfortunately for Tillman, they won’t have runstuffer Jamaal Williams in this game.  In addition, Tillman’s secondary leaves something to be desired.  Glendora’s WRs matchup well versus the Rangers’ DBs.  I’ll take Glendora’s offense in this matchup without much hesitation.

So, what’s that mean?  It means I don’t expect defense to win this game.  The team who wants to win is probably going to have to score some points.  I like Tillman here due to his coaching experience (especially in the playoffs), but I wouldn’t be surprised to see Glendora come away the victor based on matchups (and injuries).

There you have it.  Winners of these two games will go head-to-head for all the marbles.

Who do you think we’ll see in the Super Bowl?


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