Last week, amazingly I went 2/4 in the divisional round, identical to the wild-card round. Last year, I got exactly 50 percent of my picks right the entire postseason, going 2/4, 2/4 and 1/2 before getting the Super Bowl wrong. Have two top seeds ever gone out in the first game they played in the same year, much less on the same day before?
While I was glad to see the Patriots dynasty go down, we are now faced with the dilemma of watching Rex Ryan and his smack-talking Jets parade around in the Super Bowl or suffer with the same boring old Steelers and their annoying fan-base.
In the NFC, division rivals Bears and Packers haven't met in the playoffs since 1941, a week after Pearl Harbor (thanks, ESPN for that note!).
Sunday, January 23, 3PM EST, (6) Green Bay Packers vs. (2) Chicago Bears
I picked Chicago at the beginning of the playoffs, and I'm sticking with them. They do have home field advantage, but that's about the only advantage. Logic would suggest the Packers will win here after the predicted dismantling (I got that one right) over the poser Atlanta Falcons last week.
I still like Chicago's two TE's Greg Olsen and Desmond Clark to go along with Devin Aromashadu, Earl Bennett and Johnny Knox. (Hey, they made it to the Super Bowl in 2006 with less.)
What's more, each fills a different role—Knox is the deep threat that only needs one big play to make an impact. He may only get two catches but they could easily go for 100+ yards. Bennett is the possession/chain-moving receiver, and Aromashadu is like Knox Lite with big play ability. Both TEs are key to the red zone as one will likely have at least one TD on Sunday.
Some will say the key will be Cutler and his ability to not turn the ball over. While he's done that so far, he hasn't exactly been tested. Boy, will he come Sunday! Others will say the offense runs through RB Forte who must get off to both a good start, but also remain consistent throughout the entire game.
As for the Packers (who says they don't showboat?), anyone see Tramon Williams? Is there some kind of rule you have to be an arrogant jerk to wear the Green and Gold? He fits well. Controlling the line of scrimmage will be key with their pass rush ability. For the love of God, someone stop FB Jon Kuhn in goal-line situations. No one uses the FB better historically than the Packers (see William Henderson among others). He's the clone and bound for two more TDs if left uncovered.
Chicago Bears 35, Green Bay Packers 27
Sunday, January 23, 6:30PM EST, (6) New York Jets vs. (2) Pittsburgh Steelers
Another match up of six vs. two, only this should be seen as the premier game (even though it can be argued that more people care about Green Bay-Chicago, myself included). Ah, the power of the NY market and the smack-talking Jets.
Okay Bart Scott, not to get all "Smash Mouth" on you, but I saw your face, and I'm a believer. Regardless of your post-game rant to which I think Sal Paolantonio was scared speechless and to which ESPN edited the part where Scott called out hacks Tom Jackson and Me(Keyshawn) Johnson live on air—gotta love censorship! Thanks, ESPN, can't make your guys look bad! I was going to pick the Jets.
You don't go through Peyton Manning and Tom Brady at their houses and win. You just don't. On top of that, Sanchez and the Jets have a chance to go through the best, if they can knock off Pittsburgh by beating another tiring historical team. Everything Scott said was right.
They talk a lot of crap, yet they still get no respect. I didn't see the win coming, but they can beat you in the close game (see 17-16 over Indy) or go head-to-head (see New England). They do have a stellar defense and a just-good-enough running game.
Still, many people won't be satisfied until they beat someone down or beat them via shootout. Considering this game should actually be considered easier, there I said it, than last week, why couldn't they win? Stop Roethlisberger and the Steelers on third down specifically, and you win. Let them turn it into a running game on offense. Mendenhall doesn't have the intangibles that Worthlessberger does (my last chance to get that shot in for the year, hopefully).
I can't believe it has come down to this, but I'm going with a New York team and not just any New York team, but a smack-talking one that at least, to their credit, has backed everything up so far, rather impressively. As for the Steelers and their analysis, what's the saying, "If you can't say anything nice..."
New York Jets 31, Pittsburgh Steelers 21
Information and Statistics from ESPN.com directly contributed to the content of this article.