Sunday, January 23, 2011

NFL Championship Weekend

We're down to the AFC and NFC title games. Before getting to the specifics, a big middle finger to the NFL and TV. 3 pm and 6:30 pm EST starts? In a word, or two words.."that sucks". Seriously, 1 and 4. Neither of these games are on the west coast and we don't care if it helps to keep people tuned into your crappy prime time lineups. Okay, back to civility.

Packers vs. Bears

Two of the oldest and most historical teams out of the black and blue division. The two met twice during the regular season. The Bears won at Soldier Field, site of today's game in week 3, 20-17. Rob Gould's 19 yard FG was the game winner. Aaron Rodgers threw the ball 45 times (34 comp.) that day for 316 yards, 1 score and 1 pick. The Pack had no running game with big fullback John Kuhn leading the team with a mere 31 yards. Jay Cutler was 16-27, 221, with 1 TD and 1 INT. He also led the team in rushing with 37 yards after Matt Forte was held to 29 yards on 11 carries.

The teams met again in week 17 (on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field) with the Packers needing a win to reach the playoffs. The Bears had nothing to play for, but coach Lovie Smith played his regulars to be fair to the other teams vying for a playoff spot.

A defensive battle ensued with Cutler displaying what frustrates Bears fans at times. He was 21-39, 168 and threw two very bad interceptions. On the bright side, Forte rushed for 91 yards and the Bears had a 3-0 lead at halftime. Aaron Rodgers was 19-28, 229 with a pick, and possibly the biggest TD pass he threw all year. His 4th quarter one yard pass to Donald Lee snapped a 3-3 tie and put the Pack into the post-season. Still no running game for the Packers though, with Rodgers having a team high 21 yards.

Today - Game time temperature will be 19, but with a wind chill of just 8 degrees. Winds will be from the SSE at 9 mph. Weather is no factor for these two teams. To put it simply, they're used to freezing their asses off.

The bigger problem is the lack of a Packers running game. Yes, James Starks had a huge wildcard game with 23 carries for 123 yards. But against the Eagles, Starks managed just 66 yards on 25 carries - a poor 2.6 average. And the Bears aren't the team to run against. So this should be another Aaron Rodgers-centric game. Scrambling, running, throwing.

Forte had 25 carries for 80 yards in last week's divisional game against Seattle and will be looking to repeat his second game success against the Pack. Green Bay's defense stepped up down the stretch and will be a key today. So will the play of Cutler. He was very good against the 'Hawks, throwing for 274 yards and 2 TDs, and put up a passer rating of 111.8.

The two teams combined for 83 points last week, but that's not happening this week. Black and blue indeed. With a late Mason Crosby field goal the difference, Packers 19 Bears 17

Jets vs. Steelers

The Jets have had two huge road wins already, beating Peyton Manning and the Colts and Tom Brady and the Patriots. Now they go up against Ben Rothliesberger, who has won two Super Bowl titles with the Steelers.

Last week's game plan by Rex Ryan was arguably the best he has ever laid out in his two years with the Jets. He'll need it again today as he goes into a tough place to play. It's especially tough on kickers and the Jets kicker, Nick Folk, has had a tough year (despite nailing the game winner in Indy).

The Steelers had a bye in round one then went up against their divisional hated rivals the Ravens. Baltimore dominated the first half and the Steelers looked dead in the water. But the second half was a new game and Pittsburgh dominated it completely, making Joe Flacco look like a junior high quarterback.

These two teams played in week on the very same spot in week 15. Down 17-10 in the 3rd qtr, Mark Sanchez ran for a score to tie it up and then Folk, who was 2-2 in FGs on the day, put the Jets ahead for good in the 4th with a 3-pointer. The Jets defense then put things away with a safety with just 2:38 left in regulation.

Sanchez has been a winner in the post-season, going 4-1 in two years. He looked very good against the Pats last week and has a compliment of talented receivers. Santonio Holmes, acquired from the Steelers will be especially revved up for this one. The Jets need to get some production from LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene to help set up the passing game.

The Steelers will be trying to pound the ball with Rashard Mendenhall and Rothliesberger will be mixing things up to a host of receivers. The Steelers defense needs to step it up too; they've not been consistently shut down since the latter part of the season.

Today - Game time temperature will be 15, but with a wind chill of just 5 degrees. Winds will be from the WNW at 5 mph.

Okay Jets fans you won't like this. I picked the Colts and Pats the last two weeks and the Jets won. This week? Jets 24 Steelers 20

As I always say, do NOT bet based on my picks

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