Friday, January 21, 2011

Year of the Road Warriors: NFL Conference Championship Weekend '11

The Playoff Heat is with the New York Jets in the American Football Conference, and with the Green Bay Packers ---also known by Dixie as the Gross Banana Pants--in the National Football Conference.

To start: Green Bay and Chicago's teams have met more than any other two professional football teams in American history. This is their first playoff meeting since 1941---70 years! Jake Cutler lead the Bears to the NFC Division North title, with Daren Hester's skilled catches and superb runbacks, as well as future Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher, who will need to pressure Green Bay's highly mobile Aaron Rodgers, who has been playing like John Elway. If the Bears can't shut down the Packers running game, Rodgers may light them up for five (Touchdowns).

The Windy City, and Soldier Field, have a reputation for being a particularly tough place to kick, so if it comes down to field goals--and there's a better than even chance one will win it---conditions will play a role. One thing you can never predict is an injury. A key substitution will change the strategy. I have felt the Bears, despite winning mostly, were a bit uneven; their offense, I don't think, can get more than 21 out of the Packers, so if the score runs up, it's going to be down to punt returns and kick returns if the Bears are going to win. I look for a quiet first half overall, probably 14-3, 14-7 at the half. The Bears need to keep Rodgers off the field in the second half, because he comes to this game in the zone.

That's why I can't see the Bears winning without causing turnovers. If they hold the rush under 126 yards or so, the Bears might win with the clock game. I honestly saw something in the Packers that evoked the 49ers of the 80s. I perceive them as 2 to 1 favorites, honestly. But then, I haven't had a good look at the Bears since mid-season. I had an obscenely good look at the Pack last week. Home field advantages don't impress them.

The Jets haven't had Rodgers-perfect games out of Sanchez lately but he is a good leader. Look for LT to take two in. I do hope the Steelers run a couple of gadget plays, though; they were a lot of fun to watch the year they won their last SB.

We probably have an even number of Jets and Steelers boosters here, but I think the Jets have their mojo back and learned a lesson in Foxboro. If they win the Superbowl, that buried football will become Jets legend. They are definitely the media favorite in general.
The match-ups in the Steelers' secondary will be the next thing I check out. They still have most of their wild card championship team, but I can barely remember who Pittsburgh beat last week, whereas the Jets overthrew the team Voted Most Likely to Take it All over the course of the season, after a stinger just weeks before.

The Packers seem like they were a pre-season pick to win the Super Bowl. These teams all played evenly against one another earlier in the season. Green Bay and the Jets both beat the top-seeded teams, last week, but any given any rate, they both have to pull it out on the road. Is this going to be the Year of the Road Warrior? what do you think?

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