When Troy Polamalu plays, the Steelers are a different team.
Super Bowl XLV, or 45 for those of us who may be Roman numeral deficient, will be held in North Texas at the Dallas Cowboys stadium in approximately two weeks.
The two Super Bowl XLV teams will be the two winners of Sunday’s conference championship contests.
Each winner will be the team who scores the most points...uh, duh!
Both games—potential tossups—can easily go either way.
By experience, logic and talent, Pittsburgh appears to be in position again to add to their stuffed Super Bowl trophy case.
The Steelers have been there and done that over and over.
For a record 15th time since 1970, Pittsburgh will play in the AFC Championship Game. However, the Steelers are a mediocre 7-7 in their conference title contests.
It also marks the Steelers 28th home playoff game, the most among all teams in the Super Bowl era (since 1966), surpassing the Dallas Cowboys (27).
With a win, the Steelers will tie the Dallas Cowboys (33) for the most postseason wins in NFL history.
A victory would also give Pittsburgh its 20th home playoff victory, breaking a tie with Dallas and Oakland (19) for the most such wins all time.
Many prognosticators, including yours truly, did not envision the New York Jets defeating (not upsetting—it was really not an upset in retrospect) the almighty New England Patriots.
The Jets earned my respect, but did they earn my pick this week?
To quote Bart Scott, “CAN’T WAIT!”
But unlike Scott’s assessment of the New England Patriots defense, the Steelers Steel Curtain can “stop a nosebleed” and much, much more.
Let’s explore a most interesting factoid:
There is a significant range of talent, experience and production among this group of NFL quarterbacks. But would you believe the Jets Mark Sanchez now has as many playoff victories as those other quarterbacks combined?
There are not that many quarterbacks in the modern day NFL who have led their clubs to the conference championship game in their first two seasons.
One of the most notable exceptions, of course, is Ben Roethlisberger, who happens to be the opposing quarterback in this game.
However, Ben Roethlisberger is a different kind of quarterback: Big, strong and very apt at extending plays and creating plays outside of the pocket, finding ways to win.
The last time they met, Troy Polamalu didn’t play and that was the difference maker for that Jets' victory.
When Polamalu is in, the Steelers are a signicantly improved different team. It is rare to observe a defensive player who is so great; his performance assists the offense as well as the defense.
Polamalu will play Sunday, and the Jets Super Bowl hopes may end in Pittsburgh.
Then again—maybe not. “Can’t wait!”
Could we really ask for a better NFC Championship matchup?
Green Bay Packers at the Chicago Bears, the longest standing rivalry in the NFL face off for a Super Bowl berth.
In the nearly 90 years these two have been rivals, the Bears hold the edge in the series with an all-time record of 92-83-6.
Remarkably, despite the longevity of these franchises, they have only met once in the playoffs.
Exactly one week after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, the Bears defeated the Packers, 33-14.
Almost 70 years later, I expect this matchup to be closer.
How historical are these franchises? The NFC champion receives the George Halas trophy (named for the legendary Bears owner) and moves on to the Super Bowl, where the winner will hoist the Vince Lombardi trophy (named for the legendary Packers coach).
Despite all of their injuries, the Green Bay Packers have earned their reputation as the NFC trendy pick to participate in the Super Bowl.
Aaron Rodgers is currently the hottest and highest performing quarterback in this current postseason.
Ironically, the Bears' sloppy field may slow down their defenders’ pass rush and buy the Packers quarterback more time to throw.
The Untouchables? Time will tell.
This just in: Green Bay’s defense isn’t that bad either.
Speaking of great defenses, the Chicago Bears, not the Jets, have emerged as the Rodney Dangerfield of the NFL—they get no respect.
The NFC’s No. 6 seed, the Packers, are approximately three-point favorites to defeat their hated NFC North rivals, the Chicago Bears, who are hosting this historic, instant classic at home as the conference’s No. 2 seed.
The Bears have the NFL’s fourth ranked defense and second best rushing defense.
Chicago won their division. Nevertheless, the Bears are underdogs on their manicured, sloppy home turf against the team they edged for the NFC North crown.
It is difficult for me to accurately gauge and pick this game, as their playoff opponents—the Philadelphia Eagles, Atlanta Falcons and Seattle Seahawks respectively—were not exactly at their best and forgot to bring their A games.
Aaron Rodgers is better than Jay Cutler, at least by a touch pass.
Who will get more sacks—Clay Matthews or Julius Peppers?
I will go along with the “experts” and select Green Bay to defeat Chicago, 23-20.
I also cannot go against the Steelers at home—and why not—also by a 23-20 final score over the Jets.
Speaking of forecasts, Pittsburgh's game-day forecast is a high of 19 and a low of 9, and Chicago's game-day forecast is a high of 23 and a low of 18 with a chance of snow.