Will Rodgers get to ride the Mickey float again?
The 2011 regular season has come to an end, and now begins what most refer to as the second season, although I never quite understood that line.
All the teams have been determined. There were some great games as teams pushed, pulled or otherwise struggled to earn a playoff spot. And the high drama ended Sunday night when the G-men took out the "mentally weak" Cowboys. Hey, those aren't my words; they're Emmit Smith's.
Here is a look at each conference's representatives:
Let's take a gander at the two teams standing at the end, and ultimately alone as Super Bowl Champs.
Will the Lions roar on the arm of Stafford?
We knew that the two wild-card teams to represent the NFC were Detroit and Atlanta. The only thing we didn't know was their position and who they would play.
The Falcons victory and the Lions loss on Sunday assured them of the five seed, and so they head off to New York to play the Giants. Meanwhile, the Lions gave a valiant effort in their loss to the Packers, they will head to New Orleans to play Drew "I'm playing out of my mind" Brees and the rest of the team just riding his shoulders, the Saints.
Atlanta Falcons at New York Giants
Why the Falcons will win at New York: The Giants have been that see-saw team this year, and if you are a person who loves drama, New York is the place. Eli has been playing well this year; maybe he needs Peyton to stay injured all the time. Just a joke, folks.
The Giants will put up some points, but the Falcons will soar in the fourth quarter and Manning's late game heroics come up short.
Detroit Lions at New Orleans Saints
Most people would give this game to the Saints, but as Lee Corso often says, "Not so fast, my friend."
If there is one thing the Lions can do, they can score. Stafford has had a very good year, and the Lions decade of high draft picks is finally paying off; they just needed the right guy calling the shots.
With that said, the Lions give the Saints a good run, and don't be surprised if you see a 45-37 type of score. I pick the Saints for two reasons, Brees is absolutely amazing right now, and the Saints are 8-0 at home this year. But expect a high-scoring affair.
Will Tebow and the Broncos stop the Steelers?
The wild and crazy AFC playoff seating was almost akin to a calculus problem; there were so many variables going into the final weekend. But now that it's over, we have our six teams, and most pundits will give the edge to the road teams. That's right, the road teams.
Cincinnati Bengals head south to play the Houston Texans. The Texans limp into the playoffs with three consecutive losses. I don't care who you are, momentum matters, and the Texans have been playing with fire due to their injuries. In my opinion, if the season had been two games longer, you might be looking at the Titans as divisional champs.
I am not here to criticize the Texans; the season has ended and they won the south deservedly so, but Cincinnati, despite losing to Baltimore has really been battle tested, and they're healthy.
Unless Matt Schaub comes walking out of that tunnel and Andre Johnson is 100 percent, I give the edge to the Bengals.
Out west, the Pittsburgh Steelers bring their black and blue game to Mile High, where Tim Tebow awaits. The Broncos have been a nice story this year, especially Tebow, but when the playoffs come around, reality usually follows, and for the Broncos, the end is near.
Pittsburgh wins going away and on the road.
Is Brees destined to win a second Super Bowl?
This is the week where those teams that limped into, backed in or benefited by another team's misfortune are most likely gone. What remains are four quality teams that in the long run deserve to be here.
With the Falcons and Saints victory in Wild Card weekend, the two games are set.
Atlanta at Green Bay: Wow, talk about a tall order for the Falcons. From the comfy confines of a dome to a very bitter Green Bay, Wisconsin and facing a team with a week to heal, prepare and annihilate.
I like the Falcons, but this one is the easiest game of the weekend to pick: Green Bay in a blowout.
New Orleans at San Francisco: I am very intrigued by this matchup because you have the wizard in Sean Payton and the superhero coach, Jim Harbaugh. The 49ers had a week off, and it shows. The Saints put to rest any idea that going west is not for them come playoff time.
The Saints come away with a victory because they have incredible momentum, experience and desire. For the 49ers, it's a great season full of wonderful achievements and will no doubt be a team to be reckoned with for several years, but right now, Brees and the Saints are steaming into a town near you.
Can Baltimore make it a clean sweep of Pittsburgh?
With the Bengals upset victory over the Texans, they get the dubious task of heading to Foxboro to take on the 13-3 New England Patriots. The good thing for the Bengals is the Patriots defense is perhaps the worst defense of all of the playoff teams.
This is going to be another shootout. The Patriots have shown time and time again they can score whenever they need to score to win, and for Tom Brady, he knows the window is closing on him as a quarterback to get back to the Super Bowl.
For the Bengals, they will benefit from the Patriots defense, and the Bengals offense should have a decent game, but the Patriots prove too much at home.
Ah, it's good to see you my old friend. Why does the Baltimore/Pittsburgh matchup remind me of the Civil War where sometimes it was brother versus brother? These two teams mirror one another in so many ways.
This year, the Ravens have clearly told the Steelers no more, not in our house. But Big Ben has magic in that their golden arm, and he pulls it out at the end.
Can Big Ben do it again?
We have arrived at championship weekend. So far, there have been road wins in both the Wild-Card and Divisional games, so one would think that either the Steelers or Saints have a good chance of winning, and believe it or not, that just might happen.
AFC: Pittsburgh at New England
This is a rematch from Week 8, where the Steelers beat the Patriots, 25-17, but this time, the game is in Foxboro. The Patriots horrendous defense will have to show up, contain Big Ben and not give up the big plays to Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown. Conversely, the Steelers are going to have to get to Brady.
This may sound a bit outlandish because the brilliant Dennis Green once said, "You dance with the one who brung ya." This just after the Vikings were handed an embarrassing NFC Championship loss at the hands of the New York Giants.
My point is, Belichick often goes against conventional wisdom. Belichick is a poker player who knows when to hold 'em. And he seems to hold 'em until the playoffs. I would expect Belichick to conceive some sort of defensive plan, so the Steelers must be wary.
Winner: It's a close one, but I believe Brady pulls it out late. Patriots win.
NFC: New Orleans Saints at Green Bay
Yet another re-match, but this one is from Week 1. Green Bay held on to the victory as Drew Brees fell short on the final drive. This game will be as exciting, but with a lot more on the line than just a Week 1 football game.
Not to take anything away from the 49ers, but I think most people wanted to see this matchup. The NFC's two best quarterbacks slinging the ball around like gunslingers sling bullets. Again, I don't expect too much defense, but I do believe there is one defense that will come up with some big plays late, and that team is...Green Bay.
As for the two quarterbacks, just sit back and watch them work. It's going to be a very entertaining game.
Lucas Oil Stadium will be rockin' February 5
This is a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI where the Favre-led Packers defeated the Bledsoe-led Patriots, 35-21. The two quarterbacks in that game just happened to be Rodgers' and Brady's predecessors. Oh, the irony is not lost on the fans; I assure you.
The Packers super bowl history seems to come in twos: Super Bowls I and II, and Super Bowls XXXI and XXXII. Now here is a chance at Super Bowls XLV and XLVI. Packers fans are hoping the results resemble Super Bowls I and II, and not XXXI (victory over the Patriots) and XXXII, where the Packers lost to the Broncos.
This game will be quite entertaining for the following reasons:
One: Both teams have powerful offenses and seem to score when they "need" to.
Two: Both defenses are marginal.
Three: Both teams have arguably two of the top quarterbacks in the NFL.
Fans will not be disappointed with the Patriots or the Packers.
I expect a high-scoring affair, but like the New Orleans game, the Green Bay defense comes up with a big play because they have more playmakers on defense.
Super Bowl XLVI Winner: Green Bay Packers