Super Bowl Bound: Conference Championship Storylines, Characters and Predictions

Jeffrey BoswellAnalyst IJanuary 21, 2011

ATLANTA, GA - JANUARY 15:  Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks to pass as he rolls out of the pocket against the Atlanta Falcons during their 2011 NFC divisional playoff game at Georgia Dome on January 15, 2011 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Streeter Lecka/Getty Images)
Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Green Bay @ Chicago (+3)

In a playoff season replete with rematches, the Packers and Bears meet for the third time this year, this time in the NFC Championship Game with the winner earning a trip to Dallas for Super Bowl XLV. The Packers toppled the No. 1-seeded Falcons, 48-21, while the Bears handled the Seahawks, 35-24, as both NFC North squads avenged regular season defeats. Aaron Rodgers was 31-of-36 for 366 yards and three touchdowns and added a rushing score, while Tramond Williams intercepted Matt Ryan twice, returning his second pick 70 yards for a backbreaking score.

"We're like the Brett Favre family," Rodgers said. "Everybody's 'scoring.' I hear Brandi Favre just got her own reality show. It's called Mississippi Burning. And Brett's filing retirement papers as we speak. It seems as though both Favre's are trying to 'kick the habit.'"

"I think my playoff performance speaks for itself. When they talk about great quarterbacks, I'd like to be mentioned in the same breath with Peyton Manning, Drew Brees and Tom Brady. When they talk about great quarterbacks still left in the playoffs, I'd like to be mentioned only with Ben Roethlisberger. When they talk about great quarterbacks left in the playoffs who don't wear their bedroom eyes in their bathrooms, I'd like to be mentioned alone.

"As you may have heard, I've been romantically linked to ESPN's Erin Andrews, among other beautiful starlets. And yes, I can confirm that she likes it through the peephole. But girlfriends are a lot like so-called 'good' defenses — I can go through them easily."

The Bears beat the Packers 20-17 in Week three and lost in Green Bay in Week 17 10-3, playing their starters despite having already clinched a first-round bye. Many speculated the Bears wanted the Packers out of the playoffs to avoid a third meeting with what many consider the league's most dangerous playoff team.

"We want no part of the Packers," said Brian Urlacher. "We want all of them. I hear Ryan Grant has Tweeted that Packers fans should book their flights for February. Here are Grant's statistics for the year: eight rushes, 45 yards, one Twitter account, and no respect. Give a cripple a computer and there's no telling what you might hear. Amazingly, we're the underdogs in the title game. Despite home-field advantage, an NFC North crown and a field that even Jesus would have trouble walking on. Does it bother me that people think our greatest advantage over the Packers is the turf? About as much as it does to say to the Packers, 'Your ass is grass.'"

"The 1985 Bears' defense made the '46 D' famous. The 2010 Packers' offense made Atlanta's '48 D' infamous. This year's Bears' defense aims to make the Packers' offense merely ordinary. Defensive coordinator Rod Marinelli has a plan, and it's up to this defense to implement it. Can we slow the Packers dynamic offensive attack? Sure, by having our quarterback not throw to Tramon Williams."

The Packers experience a bad omen when Donald Driver slips on the ragged Soldier Field turf making the call before the opening coin toss. The Bears win the toss and defer, putting their defense on the field first. Julius Peppers sacks Rodgers on third down, and Devin Hester returns the ensuing punt 45 yards to the Green Bay 23. After three plays net zero yards, Robbie Gould kicks a 40-yard field goal, and the Bears take a 3-0 lead. Chicago scores with no help from the offense, a phenomenon known as the "Bear Minimum."

It's back-and-forth after that, with the lead changing hands five times. Finally, Rodgers gives the Packers the lead for good with a seven-yard run for a touchdown late in the fourth. A Charles Woodson interception squashes Chicago's comeback attempt, and the Packers win, 27-20.

NY Jets @ Pittsburgh (-3)

The brash-talking Jets backed up their braggadocio with a stunning 28-21 win over the favored Patriots in Foxboro, setting up an AFC championship showdown in Pittsburgh against the No. 2-seeded Steelers. It's New York's second-straight trip to the title game, while Pittsburgh is making its third appearance in the last six years.

"Never underestimate the influence of the New York Jets," said Rex Ryan. "In one fell swoop, we sent the Patriots and the Steelers 'home.' Ironically, after a week of over-the-top trash talk and bolder-than-bold proclamations from our headquarters of 'Fort Brag,' the one phrase that sums up our dismantling of the Patriots is 'Enough said.' Or, better yet, 'snuff said.' Tom Brady was rendered a 'pretty mess.' We told anyone who would listen that the Patriots, particularly their defense, were overrated. They're average, at best. I hate to toot my own horn, although there are videos floating around the internet of just that, but we told you 'so-so.'"

"It seems out that we were better than New England, not only in football, but in 'Patriot Gamesmanship.' It turns out the difference between a 45-3 loss to the Patriots and Sunday's 28-21 win was like the difference between night and day, at least for us. For New England, it was like the difference between night and mourning."

"As for the Steelers, we're keeping the talk in check. After whipping the Patriots, we're taking a 'need we say more' attitude. That's going to be hard for us, and that really 'gets my gloat.' Under normal circumstances, when someone tells me to 'put a sock in it,' I'm mildly aroused."

The Steelers overcame a 21-7 halftime deficit before eventually overpowering the Ravens 31-24 to advance. The Steelers defense held the Ravens to 126 total yards in the game and forced three turnovers in the second half, tilting momentum forged by a dominant Baltimore first half. Rashard Mendenhall's two-yard rushing touchdown provided the winning margin, and the Pittsburgh defense held.

"After a year out of the playoffs," said Ben Roethlisberger, "order has been restored in the AFC. After a win over the Jets on Sunday, 'gag order' will be restored. It's too bad the Jets aren't talking trash about the Steelers the way they did about the Patriots. We played a 'divisional' playoff game last week. The Jets, however, played a 'derision-al' playoff game. I welcome trash talk. Heck, I like it when people talk dirty to me, except in legal briefs. If someone called me an 'a-hole,' it wouldn't be news. It would be an echo. Obviously, the Jets have the utmost respect for us. And by 'utmost respect,' I mean 'strategically-veiled resentfulness at our recent playoff successes.'

"Apparently, the Jets have good reason not to talk junk. I'm not sure what it is, but they must know what they're not talking about. Is it laryngitis? Could be, but I'm not sure what a St. Louis Rams linebacker has to do with it. Is it the prologue to a Jets rap song called 'The Super Bowl Muffle?' Possibly. In the end, though, it won't be a case of 'put up or shut up;' it will be a case of 'shut up then put up.'"

Roethlisberger throws for two touchdowns, and Dick Labeau's defensive scheme, code named 'Pass-Fail,' baffles the Jets, stifling the running game and forcing Mark Sanchez into high-risk passes. Braylon Edwards does a backflip, after getting undercut by Troy Polamalu, and James Harrison KO's Shonn Greene, putting him to sleep.

Pittsburgh wins, 26-16.