I’m not really good at this picking thing. My Super Bowl champ from the preseason is out, as well as both halves of my pre postseason Super Bowl. I’m 3-5 in the playoffs, and hoping to get to 5-5, with these picks, and amazing analysis.
NFC Championship Game:
6 Green Bay Packers @ 2 Chicago Bears 3 PM SUN FOX
They’ve played 181 times previous to this meeting, and only once before in the playoffs. That was nearly 70 years ago, a week after Pearl Harbor was bombed. This bone rattling rivalry heats up again, but who will raise the Halas trophy, on their way to maybe a Lombardi trophy?
Green Bay Offense vs. Chicago Defense
I’ll admit it; I’m enamored with Aaron Rodgers. The way he played last week in Atlanta may have been the best playoff performance by a QB, ever. Granted, the Falcons secondary was a sieve, but that is beside the point. Here is one though; the Bears D will be the best they have faced in the entire playoffs so far. The only caveat to that is that the 2 teams know each other very well and there will be no secrets. Rodgers can throw the ball to many different receivers, and at times can surgically cut apart a secondary. But, on the track that Charles Tillman cursed about, that may be more difficult. Rodgers did throw for 316 yards back in Chicago in Week 3, yet that was in September, and the track didn’t look like concrete. He also had Jermichael Finley, but I don’t think that will be too much of a detraction for the Packers offense. What they have to do, is establish James Starks on the ground. He wasn’t really needed last Saturday Night, but he will be here. If the Packers establish the run, then the Bears D will load the box more, and Rodgers will be able to attack the secondary. The Packers show commitment to the run, but after time that will wane. Rodgers’ freight train of success will stop in Chicago, and the Bears D will wreak havoc on the Packers O, when Rodgers is uncomfortable in the pocket, and the coverage’s are air tight.
Chicago Offense vs. Green Bay Defense
Jay Cutler’s first playoff performance may be a bit misleading due to his impressive numbers. He did throw a TD pass on his first throw of the game, but we know what a powerhouse Seattle is. He had some near misses on INT’s that were dropped, or tipped up, and that is typical Jay Cutler. Here’s where his advantage lies, though. He has a more consistent ground attack with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. Even though Jay Cutler was the Bears leading rusher in the Week 3 game, Forte had 91 yards on 15 carries in the regular season finale. Jay Cutler however, had a poor game, and that is where the troubles lie for the Bears. Will the good or bad Cutler show up? If the bad Cutler shows up, then the Bears are in for a long day. The Packers D as we know can blitz from many different angles, and Jay Cutler did seem confused by it in the 2 meetings between the squads this year. For the Bears to win, they need a consistent running game, and the good Cutler to show up like he never has done before. I can’t trust him to do that. The Packers D will show up big here.
Advantage: Green Bay
Intangibles: Home field advantage has meant next to nothing in these playoffs so far, but the Bears have it a bit different. The much maligned field puts the Bears, who are a more physical team defensively than the Packers offense, which is a bit more reliant on speed and spreading the field.
Player to Watch: James Starks
I think his success may go a long way in determining who wins this game. The Packers need to be able to suck the Bears in with play action, and get more defenders to commit to the run, and the only way that will happen is if the Packers run the ball well. Starks needs the success that he had against the Eagles, and that will be a tough challenge for the rookie running back out of Buffalo.
Pick: Green Bay
It may seem like Chicago has more advantages here, but here’s the catch for that. I would much rather have Aaron Rodgers against a good defense than Jay Cutler against a good defense. Wouldn’t you?
AFC Championship Game:
6 New York Jets @ 2 Pittsburgh Steelers 6:30 PM SUN CBS
The Jets have 2 great road wins under their belt, but they’ve deviated from the trash talk formula. The Steelers needed a big comeback and a David Tyree-esque catch in order to stun the Ravens. Which one of these teams will create magic on a cold day in Pittsburgh?
New York Offense vs. Pittsburgh Defense
The same issue I have with Aaron Rodgers, I have with Mark Sanchez. He hasn’t faced a good defense yet in these playoffs, and he arguably has looked worse overall. He has a running game though. The Steelers stop the run very well, and remember that the Jets faced the Steelers in Week 15 without Troy Polamalu. The Jets will try to establish the run, and I doubt against the Steelers that will happen. For the Jets to win, they need to play efficiently, and they can’t turn it over. The Steelers D was great last week, and the points for the Ravens came mainly on short fields. Rex Ryan has to hope Mark Sanchez comes up like he did last Sunday, but I don’t think that will happen. The Steelers have a big advantage here.
Pittsburgh Offense vs. New York Defense
In their Week 15 meeting, the Steelers offense was actually not that bad, it’s just that the Jets D came up big when they needed to. The Steelers ran the ball effectively enough, and Ben Roethlisberger made some pretty good throws. The Jets D comes up big when they have to, and this same D has some questions. Who do you put Darrelle Revis on? Do you put him on Hines Ward, to take away the possession receiver, or Mike Wallace to take away the deep threat? In Week 15, Revis was on Ward, and Wallace had a big day. 102 yards, plus the slot receiver Emmanuel Sanders also had a decent game. The Jets have to cover those guys well with Antonio Cromartie and their safeties. The Steelers O-Line was weak in their protections last week, and the troubles could continue against a good Jets D. If the Steelers don’t protect well, then the Jets could control the tempo defensively. But, I never assume that the QB will be sacked left and right, so I give the Steelers the advantage.
Intangibles: The Steelers are at home, but as we’ve seen, being at homes means next to nothing. The Jets are a great road team as we know, and there really is no reason to see why the Jets are in trouble just because they’re playing in Pittsburgh.
Advantage: New York
Player to Watch: Mike Wallace
For the Jets to control the tempo defensively as I said, they need to contain Mike Wallace. How they do that, remains an open question. If Darrelle Revis is on him, then Hines Ward could have a big day. It remains the biggest question to see what the Jets will do, and whoever is left over could become the difference maker in this game, and I think Wallace will have a big day.
Even though I’ve picked against the Jets in the last 2 weeks because I doubted them, I don’t doubt them now. I think Pittsburgh is a better team right now, and they will give the Jets tons of problems.
I hope to do better this week!