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Fact or Fiction: Conference Championship debate


The staff debates Big Blue topics as the conference championship games near:

*Conference Championship Sunday is the best day in all of sports. *

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JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - This Sunday you get two football games, back to back, between four of the best teams in the sport. You tell me what's better than that? Divisional weekend is better because you get four games in two days, but as an individual day, Championship Sunday trumps everything. You rarely get two games of this impact on the same day in any sport. Hopefully this week's games will be as compelling as everyone hopes.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -Sunday at the Masters is a tradition unlike any other -- no, I'm not going to be that guy. It's the Super Bowl, hands down. Name something else that can bring 110 million people together. And the snacks. Oh, the snacks.

*LANCE MEDOW: Fiction- *Conference Championship Sunday is in my top five, but I'd certainly put it behind Super Bowl Sunday. Although you get two games on the former, it's hard for anything to top the biggest event in all of sports. Plus, when you take into consideration the commercials during the Super Bowl are an event itself, you never have a reason to look away from the television. I'd also put one of the first two days of the NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Tournament ahead of Conference Championship Sunday. On that Thursday and Friday, you essentially have basketball games lined up all day long and there are usually tons of nail biters.

There has not been a better Conference Championship Game since 2007 Giants at Packers.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - I am admittedly bias, but this is still my favorite game I have ever covered. It tops both Super Bowls. The atmosphere in Lambeau Field with sub-zero temperatures was the stuff of legend. Brett Favre was playing in what could have been his last game as a Packer. You had missed field goals. You had dramatic individual plays like Brandon Jacobs running over Charles Woodson and Antonio Pierce making a big tackle on a screen pass to Brandon Jackson. Plaxico Burress had a great individual performance. There was overtime. Both teams moved the ball despite the conditions. A Corey Webster interception of Favre led to a dramatic Lawrence Tynes game-winning field goal. It was awesome, and if I could relive any other game again, it would be that one.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -I was close to saying fiction and going with 2011 in San Francisco because I was at that one, rain dripping onto my laptop from inside the rickety press box at Candlestick while Eli Manning got up again and again in the most physical game I've ever seen in person. But Schmeelk said it best – 2007 at Lambeau is the stuff of legend. Those are the games that just unfold like a script written up at NFL Films. And I got to enjoy it from the comforts of a nice, warm sports bar in Minnesota with a bunch of people glad to see Favre throw that interception.

*LANCE MEDOW: Fiction- *This is an easy fiction. What about the 2011 NFC Conference Championship Game between the Giants and Niners in San Francisco. That one also went to overtime as did the 2014 NFC Conference Championship Game between the Seahawks and Packers when Seattle somehow overcame a 16-point deficit thanks to a 15-point fourth quarter highlighted by one of the most memorable two-point conversions in league history. I'd also put the 2015 AFC Championship Game between the Broncos and Patriots, in Denver, in the conversation when New England failed to convert a two-point conversion, in the final seconds of regulation, that would have forced overtime.

Stefon Diggs' game-winning touchdown last week for Minnesota was a more improbable play than David Tyree's helmet catch.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fact - The Vikings had no timeouts with 10 seconds left on the clock on their own 39-yard line. They had to get at least 20 yards, probably 25, to give Kai Forbath the chance at a game-winning field goal. With no timeouts, everyone knew they would have to go to the sideline. Everyone knew the depth they would have to throw the pass at. The entire play should have been telegraphed to the Saints defense. Yet somehow they still only had one player in the position to make a play on a receiver in the exact place they knew the Vikings had to go with the ball. Marcus Williams should have made the play, and his tackling technique was just as improbable as the Saints not having anyone else back there. The fact the Vikings were able to score a touchdown on that play was nothing short of a miracle.

DAN SALOMONE: Fiction -If the Vikings go on to win the Super Bowl, I'll promptly change this to a fact. But the stakes of the Tyree catch win the tiebreaker, which you can read about in the oral history we did on the final drive of Super Bowl XLII. Here's an excerpt from Super Bowl referee Mike Carey on Eli's escape: "I didn't put [the whistle] in my mouth, but I grabbed it. So right before the snap, it's in my mouth because just in case there's a false start, you have to have an immediate reaction. After that, you don't like to have the whistle in your mouth because you don't want something inadvertent to happen. So as soon as the snap goes, I drop it, just spit it out, and it dangles there until I'm ready to blow it. When the pocket collapsed, that's when I grabbed it and was ready to blow it but I never put it in my mouth."

*LANCE MEDOW: Fiction- *Stefon Diggs' game-winning touchdown made for one hell of an ending to the NFL Divisional Round, and while Diggs did a great job staying inbounds after making the catch, that whole play was set up thanks to a missed tackle by Saints safety Marcus Williams. I'm not taking anything away from Diggs' playmaking ability, but Williams was in perfect position to tackle him and potentially force the Vikings to attempt a game-winning field goal. David Tyree's catch involved so many other parts, including Eli Manning escaping a sack and scrambling before throwing the ball deep down the middle of the field. Then you add Tyree going up to make the catch against Patriots safety Rodney Harrison and holding onto the ball, against his helmet, as he falls to the ground. Manning and Tyree had to do a lot more heavy lifting than Case Keenum and Diggs.

Jaguars vs. Patriots will be decided by fewer points than Vikings vs. Eagles this weekend.

JOHN SCHMEELK: Fiction - I expect the Vikings and Eagles game to be close throughout with both teams sporting fantastic defenses. It should be nip and tuck with a close game in the fourth quarter. There's a chance the Jaguars keep their game with the Patriots that close, but there is more of a chance of a blowout there than in the other game. If Blake Bortles turns it over a couple of times, all bets are off.

DAN SALOMONE: Fact -I'm going out on a limb for this one, but I have a feeling the NFC side could turn into a lopsided affair. Either the Vikings play like a destined team with all the confidence in the world, or the Eagles bring them back to reality in a hurry. In the other conference, we've learned that defense tends to beat offense, or at least keeps it close. But not every offense has Tom Brady, one-handed or not.

LANCE MEDOW: Fiction- *I'm going with the fiction sweep this week. All four teams in the Conference Championship Games finished in the top five in the NFL in scoring defense and the top 10  in scoring offense, so there's a lot of similarities amongst the teams.  With that being said, I think the NFC Championship Game is more likely to be a close affair, especially since it will be outdoors and involves a pair of quarterbacks who rely a *lot on their run games. The AFC Championship Game will also be outdoors and involves a Jaguars offense that in the Wild Card Round scored 10 points only to break out for a 38-point performance in the Divisional Round. Given Jacksonville's offense is a bit unpredictable, I think there's a chance that game could be decided by a larger margin. Plus, the last three AFC Championship Games played in Foxborough have been decided by an average margin of 24 points.

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