This Sunday the nation watches as two teams will advance to SUPERBOWL XLV. In the AFC you have the steel-city bruisers versus the trash-talking boys from the Big Apple. In the NFC you have the leagues oldest rivalry. The opportunistic Bears versus the aggressive, high-scoring Pack. Both games should be fantastic and fans of these four teams will be on the edge of their seats as both games should be close.
Chicago v. Green Bay
These two teams don’t like each other very much. They respect each other, but don’t like each other. The fans can’t stand one another. The back and forth between fans through the media and online has reached new heights. Who knows, there could be more action in the stands on Sunday than on the field. To analyze this game really doesn’t go much further than Jay Cutler. Bottomline, how he plays will dictate if Bears are prowling the streets of Dallas in two weeks. As a Bear QB he is 1-3 versus the Pack with 9 interceptions. That of course scares me big time but I won’t necessarily put that all on him because last years Bears were not very good. Conversely, Jay Cutler is 22-0 as a QB when he concludes the game with a 100 QB rating or better. That is a very telling statistic.
Green Bay will rush everyone at Jay all day long. Jay will run, Jay will fall and Jay will not collect $200. The best thing Jay can do under rough circumstances is not turn the ball over. Mike Martz has to help Jay by running the ball and keeping the passes under 15 yards. Quick looks in the slot and passes to the back out of the backfield will make any pressure Green Bay brings negligible.
On Green Bay’s side of the ball Aaron Rodgers will do well, he always does. The Bear simply have to do what they did in Green Bay a few weeks ago which was stop the run and put pressure on Aaron without blitzing too much. The Bears D is almost unbeatable if Peppers, Harris and Idonije are able to put pressure on the QB. It allows Briggs and Urlacher to stay back and do what they do best which is filling the running lanes and taking away the intermediate passing attack.
There are two other intangibles worth noting. If Hester and Manning get the ball on special teams the Bears should have great field position all day. So, even if the Bears don’t score much, Punter Brad Maynard should keep Green Bay inside their own 20 most of the day. If Green Bay has to play up hill all day they won’t win. One other one worth mentioning is the matchup between Matthews and Webb. LB Clay Matthews is Jack Lambert, Dick Butkus and Thor all rolled into one. He makes a huge difference on that defense. On the Bears side is very green rookie OT Webb. He has shown steady improvement all year but he will be staring down the blitzes from Clay all day. If he can contain him even a little that will help Chicago. If he can’t than Chicago could be in trouble.
MY PICK – Chicago 17 Green Bay 13
New York v. Pittsburgh
This is going to be a great game. Pittsburgh has been tough as nails since Big Ben’s return and the Jets have been like a boulder rolling downhill. Both teams, on the surface, are very equal. Both defenses are very tough, the QBs don’t make too many mistakes and the running games are very good. Both teams are also well coached.
NY is facing a better running team than they did last week. Rashard Mendenhall is vastly underrated. He is very tough. The one thing that the Steelers have going for them and this should come into play this weekend is the knack for the big play. At almost guarantee at one point in this game when things are tight Big Ben is going to hook up for a big TD with Wallace, Sanders or Ward. It will more than likely be a difference maker.
The Jet offense is good but has been inconsistent. While Pittsburgh making big plays is almost a guarantee, I don’t feel the same way about the Jets. I don’t think the offense can break open a game or come from behind late to win. Their recipe for success is their defense holding the opposing team to under 20 points. That is pretty much the bottom line. I don’t want to knock Sanchez or the couple of weapons he has at wideout but that offense doesn’t scare me much. I can see them moving the ball decently enough against Polamalu and the boys but I can’t see them making big plays and scoring too much. LT could be a difference maker and open up the passing game but it isn’t likely against Pittsburgh.
Some intangibles worth mentioning might be the Jets pass rush. They were able to disrupt any sort of passing attack from Tom Brady last week by keeping constant pressure on him. That will be their plan against Ben as well. The only difference is if they bring too many of their talented LBs on the rush it could open up for a big run or pass play. Big Ben always played well under pressure. The final intangible I can think of would be Pittsburgh’s depth and experience. This is their fourth AFC championship in 7 years. They have a great coach and an amazing system that works. They can plug in and rotate guys all over the field and not lose too much. They Jets are close but on the road against a team like Pittsburgh is going to be tough.
MY PICK – Pittsburgh 27 NY 16