Conference Championship Game Preview
After going 3-1 during the wild card round, I came back to Earth in last week’s divisional round (2-2). Had the Baltimore Ravens not imploded in the second half I would be 6-2 for the playoffs. When T.J. Houshmandzadeh dropped that perfectly thrown Joe Flacco strike on 4th and 18 my preseason prediction of a Ravens/Packers Superbowl went up in smoke faster than a blunt in Cheech and Chong’s 1972 VW van. Although I’m maintaining that the Ravens and Steelers are so similar genetically that I can substitute Steelers for Ravens and my preseason prediction is still alive. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. Like Mark Mcgwire once famously told a congressional panel, ‘I’m not here to talk about the past,’ so on the the championship round.
Packers (-3.5) @ Bears (Sunday 1 p.m. FOX)- I treat sports the way rich old white guys treat stocks. I like to spot trends and be ahead of the curve. The Packers were my preseason pick to win the NFC for a variety of reasons. I thought the defense was severely undervalued, Ryan Grant would be a serviceable running back, and Aaron Rodgers would have a breakout 3rd season as most young, gifted quarterbacks do. I’m not ready to anoint Aaron Rodgers the next Brady or Manning, but I think he’s awfully close. On the flip side of the coin, after 19 weeks I still don’t know what to make of the 2010 Chicago Bears. The front seven on defense has two future hall of famers (Brian Urlacher and Julius Peppers), Devin Hester can change a game in an instant, and Jay Cutler can be brilliant. Jay Cutler can also be terrible, and I am counting on a sub par but not horrible Cutler performance on Sunday. The crappy turf and home field advantage will help the Bears, but the Packers talent will prevail in the end as the Packers win 27-21.
Jets (+3.5) @ Steelers (Sunday 4:30 CBS)- It turns out there is a method to Rex Ryan’s madness. The Jets made it personal with the Patriots, and the Pats took the bait. It reminded me when Tiger Woods was dominating the PGA Tour, and guys would try and play his game rather than their own and failed miserably. After dispatching the Patriots, the Jets had nothing but compliments and praise for the Steelers. Suddenly Mike Tomlin was Chuck Noll, Troy Polamalu was the greatest defender ever, and there is no way a defense can prepare for Ben Roethlisberger. Rex is a genius. Why would you want to agitate an angry pit bull? As cliche as it may sound this game will come down to the battle in the trenches. Both teams are great at stopping the run so that is a wash. If the Steelers line can get to Sanchez and force him into quicker decisions he will make mistakes. Conversely, the Steelers o-line can be porous at times, but Big Ben is so adept at keeping a play alive so he can buy more time for his receivers to get open. This game will be physical and close but I like the Steelers to pull away in the fourth quarter for a 23-17 win and third Super Bowl appearance in six years.
As always, enjoy the games! I know I will.