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So It’s The Patriots And Giants, You Say

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Batting Around is BC Sports' look back at the week's happenings in the world o' sports, presented in a lineup card format for some undisclosed reason.

This week, we spent the first eight lineup slots looking back at the NFC and AFC championship games.

The Lineup Card

1. QB Tom Brady
2. RB LaDainian Tomlinson Michael Turner
3. RB Laurence Maroney
4. CB Antonio Cromartie
5. QB Eli Manning
6. K Lawrence Tynes
7. QB Brett Favre
8. WR Donald Driver
9. SP Bartolo Colon
Coach: Jason Garrett
Bench: Me

1. QB Tom Brady — Further proof that video games really have no predictive properties: A Madden 08 simulation said that Brady would throw five touchdowns and no interceptions. He actually threw two TDs and three picks.

And somehow that was enough to avoid the upset by the hands of the San Diego Chargers, 21-12, but we'll get into that later.

A lot of Brady's success comes from his own being, but the line has always been the foundation for the offense. So a bad day for Brady? No big deal. They'll just run it. And they did. (Which, again, we'll get into later.)

So really, much like the game, this entry wasn't really about Brady. He's not God's gift to football, but merely the archetypal New England Patriots offensive starter– one of 11 — who does everything right and has 10 other stellar teammates to pick up the teensy bit of slack that may show itself throughout the game.

2. RB LaDainian Tomlinson Michael Turner — Like fish in a barrel, it's time to take contention with a knee-jerk canned Associated Press headline. Was "too little L.T." really a factor in this loss? Michael Turner is regarded as the league's best running back. And while his 12 carries for 65 yards were decent, Tomlinson probably could have gotten some more yardage, although I doubt it would have made 9 points difference. Or one point difference, at that.

The 12 points were the result of four almost touchdowns. New England's defense stepped up and shut down Rivers, Jackson, and Gates. Tomlinson probably would not have made much of a difference in those 3rd down conversions, because he is as good a rusher as Turner and as good a receiving tailback as Darren Sproles. The Pats linebackers basically shut down both main facets of their dynamic running game.

Although had Tomlinson played in the entire it game might've helped. A little. But not much.

3. RB Laurence Maroney — If you're looking for someone to hand a game ball, here's your man. Brady, stats-wise, really had an off game. Maroney's 25-carry, 122-yard and one-touchdown game basically kept the ball out of the Chargers' hands for most of the time.

Early in the season the Patriots were regarded as a "pass only" team, with screens and checkdowns being the running game. But as the temperature trickled down into Yakut numbers, the passing just wasn't happening, so Maroney — who was ready for this game all season — answered the call.

4. CB Antonio Cromartie — Probably no other cornerback made a name for himself this year better than Cromartie. His one-handed interception of Peyton Manning earlier in the season. His as-close-to-110-as-you-can-get return for touchdown against Minnesota (which was overshadowed by Adrian Peterson's record-setting rushing performance that day). His 10 interceptions in the regular season led the league. And yes, he had one of Brady's three interceptions — the one in the end zone.

For a second-year player, this guy has a hell of a future.

5. QB Eli Manning — We were two games away from "the Manning Bowl." We were one game away from "the 2004 NFL Draft Trade Bowl." With the Giants set to play the Patriots in the Super Bowl, we just have "Eli Manning in the Super Bowl." It's not as enticing a story as the former two, but it's still puzzling enough. Eli Manning: starting quarterback in the Super Bowl. Don't think about it too hard — it just might blow your mind.

Eli Manning gets his due credit, but it's easier to digest this scenario when you think of Eli Manning not in terms of a Manning, but in terms of the quarterback of a really good team. The last time the Giants made the Super Bowl, in 2001, was with Kerry Collins under center. If it was discovered that Kerry Collins was the illegitimate bastard stepbrother of Phil Simms, we might say that Kerry Collins is no Phil Simms. And Eli Manning is no Peyton Manning, because Peyton pretty much was the Colts. Manning is not the Giants. Manning is the quarterback of the Giants, helped along by 10 other great offensive cogs.

Does that help alleviate your headache? No? Well then I can't help you. Just take a nap. Try not to think about Plaxico Burress in the Super Bowl.

6. K Lawrence Tynes — After his two abysmal fourth-quarter misses against the Packers, another miss in the overtime was almost inevitable. It was from a longer distance. It was later in the game. A shank would give the Packers pretty good field position. Richie Tenenbaum would have been sympathetic of Tynes' despair at that point. But Tynes absolutely nailed a 47-yard field goal in overtime to put the Giants in the Super Bowl.

Now, if you're paying attention, this should be the Batting Sixth Quote Of The Week. But sometimes you don't need a quote to express human emotion. Sometimes all it takes is a picture:

Ah, kickers. Athletes whose moods and reputations are as good as their last kick.

7. QB Brett Favre — In the simplest of terms, the Packers lost this game on three fronts: penalties, turnovers, third down conversions. Penalties weren't Favre's fault, but the team's two turnovers were interceptions and of the 1-for-10 third down conversions, eight of those miscues were either incompletions or completions short of the first down. (A couple of those were bumped past the down marker thanks to Giants penalties, however. So that's nice.)

All told, Favre had an okay game, but since Ryan Grant could only muster 29 yards on the ground rushing (slightly down from last week's 201), Old Man Brett had to put the team on his shoulders. But a lot of his teammates are extremely heavy, and Favre's carryin' strength isn't what it used to be.

So now begins another offseason of "will he retire?" Maybe he and Mike Holmgren can start a rec shuffleboard team.

8. WR Donald Driver — Whatever bliss one feels on the receiving end of a 90-yard touchdown (which he had in this game) … this photo here must be the opposite feeling of that.

Seriously, these football players not only take hard hits, but some really goofy bounces. I make fun out of them every week primarily out of jealousy.

9. SP Bartolo Colon — (Sorry, just have to put some baseball news in here.)

Remember this guy? He won a Cy Young? Doesn't ring a bell? You're lying. Go sit in the corner.

The Indians were interested in bringing back their once ace pitcher to probably cap the end of their rotation for 2008, but he's having trouble clocking 90 mph on the radar so they're backing off.

ESPN.com says the Royals, White Sox, and Mets are now interested. This is what it's come to for Bartolo Colon. The Mets (sure), the White Sox (I … guess) and Kansas City (hahahaha).

Imagine if Kansas City was his best offer. I suppose less than two years removed for a torn rotator cuff, that's not bad. It beats the Long Island Ducks.

Coach: Jason Garrett — Why would a man take $3 million to remain as an assistant coach for the Dallas Cowboys when he could have made just as much, but with full control over the Baltimore Ravens?

When the difference is between Tony Romo and Kyle Boller.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones pulled off an interesting gambit when he said he'd match the offer Baltimore gave to his precious Garrett. It was almost like a good ol' fashioned Texas auction. Garrett decided to stay with his team, even though Wade Phillips is still the coach … for now.

The line of the moment goes to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram's Newy Scruggs on the situation: "It's like letting your mistress stay in the guest room. Jerry is in love with Jason Garrett, even though he's married to Wade Phillips."

Bench: Me — It's been a ridiculously fun column to pen for the last five months, but this will be the final installment of Batting Around. It has gotten to be a little too much for me to handle on a weekly basis, so the total wattage I've spent on this column will be channeled into the same, snappy sports coverage on our Treehouse Fort radio show's news intro. This will also mean more longform coverage on individual stories for BC Sports, rather than having to wait every Tuesday, and by Tuesday I mean "whenever I get to it, even if I miss a week."

You wonder what happens when I miss a week. It's like when your girlfriend is missing her period. "Oh crap, did I do something wrong?" then you rock back and forth in the fetal position, until it finally shows up Wednesday night. Or the following week. And all is well.

But Treehouse Fort is becoming something special, and the time spent on that is, I believe, more worthwhile. So in a way, radio killed the Internet star, for lack of a better word for "star."

Of course, take this retirement like anything else in sports. What this really means is that in a year or two, I might come back and try Batting Around again, only because I miss it, with less gusto and less glamor. Which means in about a year maybe Bill Cowher and I will hold a joint press conference.

(Photo credits: David J. Phillip/AP, Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

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