2010 NFL Season: Championship Weekend

There is no need to be complex about the games on tap for this afternoon.  These teams all know one another.  They all play tough, physical games.  Today’s contests should be no different and should come down to the wire.

Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears.

I am sure that I like Jay Cutler, the QB, much more than most people.  I think he can do most of the things that Aaron Rodgers can do, but I don’t believe he does them as artfully or as consistently.  That should be the difference.  Packers 27, Bears 23.

Greg Jennings: One-Fourth of the League's Most Explosive WR Corps

New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers.

The Jets are doing something very wise this week.  They have been quiet in the days leading up to today.  They have not sought to manufacture tension or animosity.  They’ve needed this time to rebuild their emotional reserves following 2 games vs. heated rivals in New England and Indianapolis.  I think the Jets will that energy against a healthy defense featuring the league’s most dynamic player in Troy Polamalu.  The Steelers also bring the league’s #2 offense over the second half of the season.  I like the Steelers to finish what they started in the 2nd half against Baltimore where they outscored the Ravens 24-3.  I know everyone expects a close game, but I have a feeling that Pittsburgh may have tapped into something that really works.  When is the last time anyone outscored the Ravens by 3 touchdowns in a half?  Steelers 38, Jets 13.

Rashard Mendenhall: Ground and Pound

Note: Roethlisberger is 9-2 in playoff games.  The losses? 1)  A 41-17 blowout loss in the 2004 AFC Championship Game, at home vs. the New England Patriots during his rookie season.  2) A 2007 Division Round Game vs. the Jacksonville Jaguars at home.  The Steelers played without Willie Parker (the league’s leading rusher through Week 16 that season) and Aaron Smith.  The Jags won on a gutsy 4th-and-2 draw play by David Garrard.  The league later admitted to missing the hold that kept Steelers DT Casey Hampton from crushing Garrard.  That’s it. 

Note 2: According to Cold Hard Football Facts, the Defensive Hog Index is one stat that tends to track well with predicting post-season winners.  How did it work last season?  Not so great.  The number 1 ranking Green Bay Packers were knocked off in an offensive firestorm out in the Arizona desert.  What’s the deal in 2010?  The Steelers ranked #1, the Jets are #4, the Bears are #6, and the Packers are #10.

19 comments

  1. I can see any of these teams winning today. One thing I haven’t heard any of the announcers talking about is how none of the four QB’s remaining is a statue. None are a big threat to run either, but all of them can use their legs to buy time to escape pressure.

    In the first game, I see Green Bay being able to win the game through a combination of t their offense & their defense keeping Chicago in check. Jay Cutler may contribute to the Bears’ demise. If Chicago is to have any hope of winning, Cutler has to take care of the ball & Martz must call for a healthy dose of running plays to keep Green Bay’s offense off the field.

    In the main event, I see the Steelers defense coming up big. With Aaron Smith possibly playing a few snaps, the d line will have more depth than they’ve had in a while. Look for the Steelers to control the tempo with Mendenhall & passes to Miller. The keys for the Jets involve getting pressure on Ben through the Steelers patchwork o line & Sanchez limiting bad plays. (And if their db’s, particularly Cromartie being allowed to hold onto receivers like in the regular season game.)

    If the Steelers & Packers win, it will give Goodell, Jerry Jones & all of the other owners, & Fox what they really want. A Super Bowl featuring the two teams with the biggest traveling fan bases. Jones will be able to sell out his stadium & parking lot. All of the owners will be able to add to their war chests before the lockout. Goodell will be able to claim that the league is still the most popular & that their is an appetite for more football. Fox will get huge ratings, and will likely charge a premium for late buyers for advertising. For the fans, we’d get a Super Bowl with two of the leagues oldest franchises that are decidedly old school in the way they go about their business.

  2. @ kos:

    The league gets the game it wants. Your crystal ball was working overtime yesterday. You had this game down to a tee. Mendenhall played one of the best games of his career. He was unstoppable in the first half.

    I thought Roethlisberger played relatively well, considering his interceptions. Mendenhall missed out on a chance to flat out MAUL Antonio Cromartie on that swing pass. The referees didn’t let Cromartie hold as much as in Week 15.

    Steelers look scary on offense for the next few years with the youth of Roethlisberger, Mendenhall, Wallace, Sanders and Brown. The offensive line proved they have championship quality road graders to support the run (even if they have to use 3 TEs in a full house backfield). We also know that Starks and Colon are very good pass protectors. The aging defense will be a concern going forward. It’s time to start looking for the heir apparent to Casey Hampton and Polamalu. Ziggy is THAT DUDE. Last year, I posted a poll about whether or not Hood or Raji would have a better career. It’s turned out to be an apples-oranges comparison because they do different things…and Raji is a monster, but I know Ziggy will be pumped for the SB. He’s been ballin.

  3. The Jets never saw Mendenhall coming. There’ was talk leading up to the game that the Steelers are more of a passing team these days than a running team. You could tell that the opening 9 minute + drive drained the energy out of the Jets’ defense. I don’t think they ever imagined that the Steelers would run as much as they did.

    I don’t believe that this game would have even been as close had Pouncey not gotten hurt. His injury limited some of the things that the offense could do. No lead center runs around the edge. Also, Legursky probably doesn’t know the protections as well as Pouncey. That botched exchange in the end zone probably doesn’t happen if Pouncey were snapping the ball!

    Yeah, the Steelers definitely need some youth on that D line. Ziggy is THAT Dude for the Steelers. They just need to find him some help for the future, though.

  4. I had the Steelers winning this game 34-17. After they went up 24-0, I thought my prediction would be accurate. However, after halftime, the Jets came out as the agreesive team and the Steelers were the passive team. Even James Farrior stated after the game that they got a little relaxed. They can’t afford to do that against the Pack.

    @kos

    I was telling a college buddy that the Jets didn’t expect the Steelers to pound the ball like they did. Hell, I didn’t expect it because of the Bruce Arians factor. I was happy to see that on that final drive, they didn’t play to lose the game. Those young lions (WRs) are going to be good for a long time.

    Oh yeah…..did you see how Mike Wallace ran by Revis only to have Ben (as usual) underthrow him? 🙂

  5. GN –

    I think Tomlin may have injected himself into the offensive game plan. All that running just doesn’t seem like an Arians’ game plan. The question about the young WR’s that the Steelers have is, how many are they going to be able to keep? I imagine that the Steelers will pony up to keep Wallace for sure. Then it becomes a choice of who gets better faster, Sanders or Brown?

    Yeah, I saw Wallace run past Revis and the underthrow from Ben. Every Steelers fan knows that Wallace can beat Revis deep. Revis doesn’t have THAT kind of speed. Notice that Wallace wasn’t on the island on that throw. There was a safety that was coming over that would have been too late had that pass been on time. One reason that Cromartie was on Wallace to start the game, is that he has more speed, even though he does hold an awful lot. Revis needs help to take on Wallace, and that would change the Jets whole defensive philosophy if he stays on Wallace the whole game and Ben could hit him in stride. It would mean that a safety would have to rotate to Revis’s side to help.

  6. kos:

    Good point about Tomlin and the power run game. I also agree on the coverage thing.

    It seems to me that the Steelers will keep both Sanders and Brown. They didn’t draft them to let them go. I have no idea how many more years Hines Ward will play. The guys who won’t be around next year may be ARE and Arnaz Battle. The Steelers need all 3 of those guys to do what they do. I think Sanders is better than Brown right now — and he attracts more attention from the defense. Will it stay that way? Who knows. Brown can fly and he doesn’t shrink in the moment. It’s gonna be interesting in the SB.

    Young speed: Wallace vs. Jennings.
    Old Savvy: Ward vs. Driver
    Next Gen: Brown & Sanders vs. Nelson & Jones.

    It will be interesting to see how Rodgers and Roethlisberger’s high familiarity with 3-4 defenses organized by Mad Scientists who share a lineage will impact the game. Can Capers really show Ben a look he hasn’t seen? Same for LeBeau. This one may just come down to the players and a roll of the oblong ball.

  7. GN:

    I find it interesting that so many of us had the Steelers winning this game by a fairly wide margin. Mizzo had them winning big, too. Like kos, I agree that Pouncey’s injury changed the 2nd half. I also suppose that a bit of an emotional let down was inevitable given the size of their lead. At 24-3, I was thinking, “I’m on to something.” At 24-19, I was like, “I’m on something.” Big difference.

  8. T3, GN –

    For a reference to how these two teams will react to each other, look no further than last season’s game between these two teams won by the Steelers, 37-36. Troy didn’t play in this one. Also, don’t put too much into this because of how much turnover there is on most NFL teams from year to year.

    65 rushing yards for the Steelers, 60 for Green Bay. 376 passing yards for Rogers, 472 for Ben. Green Bay sacked Ben 5 times for 31 yards. Rogers was sacked once for 7 yards. No turnovers.

    http://www.nfl.com/gamecenter/2009122006/2009/REG15/packers@steelers

  9. Yeah, I agree w/ T3 that they’re gonna try to maintain all three of those guys. I’m not sure who’s better between Sanders and Brown. Sanders runs the better routes but Brown has the better hands. I guess it’s a good problem to have (In my Mike Tomlin voice). 🙂 Also, I think that if Hines gets that 3rd ring, he’ll call it a career.

    As for the score I predicted, I just thought that the Steelers would come out and try to take the Jets’ heart. In the regular season game, the KR for a TD was the difference in that game, minus Heath Miller and the Head-&-Shoulders guy. Also, the Steelers seem to play better when the “revenge” factor is involved. But I knew the Jets would put up 20 points.

  10. I remember it well. Checked that out last night.

    You’re right about the turnover across both rosters. I do find it interesting that the Packers are an early favorite to win the game. I’m not sure what that’s based on. As well as Aaron Rodgers has played, he only hit the Eagles for 171 yards and the Bears for 236 (with 2 picks).

  11. GN:

    I thought this team would be highly motivated to repeat in ’06, but that was the Year of the Motorcycle. I thought they’d bounce back in ’07, but Willie Parker blew a tire and they lost to Jacksonville. They won in ’08, but suffered another let down in ’09 (even with a relatively weak schedule). Now we know why. So, here they are on the verge of getting a 3rd title in 6 years. I think some of those players will finally be strongly motivated to try to get 4.

    If they win 4 in 7 years, they’re going to be mentioned in the same breath as the 1970’s Dynasty. They are the only team in the league that can have that singularity of focus over the next two weeks and into next season. It’s not a conversation for mass consumption, but it is something for Hines Ward, James Farrior, Casey Hampton, Troy Polamalu, Aaron Smith, Roethlisberger and many others to quietly contemplate deep down inside.

  12. “But I knew the Jets would put up 20 points.”

    Correction….that should read “But I knew the Jets would NOT put up 20 points.”

    @T3

    Four in 7 years would be incredible. To me, it would be an even greater accomplishment than the 70s squad. Unfortunately, though, I don’t think it will happen because of the “wear-and-tear” on the veteran guys you’ve mentioned. If those guys were younger, i’d be willing to bet on it.

    But then again, stranget things have happened. As long as they have Ben, who, is relatively young, they’ll be in the hunt. But they’ll have to have a great draft in this offseason to pull it off.

  13. I am hoping that William Gay, Keenan Lewis and Crezdon Butler are all greatly improved next year.

    This team hasn’t been able to stay healthy on the O-line. Maybe they need new tactics. But if they could come out with a starting O-line of Starks, Kemoeatu, Pouncey, Stapleton (remember him??) and Colon, they would be formidable. Then, the depth of having guys like Scott, Foster and Essex could really pay dividends.

    I believe the Steelers have a number of high quality young players on the roster. They already have tremendous depth at linebacker. Hood’s emergence has been dramatic. I think the receivers are going to make a similar leap next year.

    It would be nice to have a kicker and a punter make it through the season, too.

    BTW, the Special Teams were excellent last night. They actually had positive yards vs. the Jets on punts and kickoffs. Smith and Cotchery went nowhere.

  14. It all starts with Mike Tomlin. I like how he keeps this team on its toes. He doesn’t make excuses for the losses. When pre-season was going on and folks were talking about the Steelers were going to lose a majority of the games without Ben, he told everyone that the team was going to play with the players that we have. “The standard is the standard.”

    With all of the young talent, the sky’s the limit for the Steelers. They are still drafting good young players, but still need to address their defensive line more, and then work on their DB’s. If they can keep their O line healthy next year, the team could be even better than this year’s squad.

  15. Given your complaints about the Bengals and character issues I’m surprised you like Cutler so much.

  16. I don’t know if I would classify my position on the Bengals as “complaints.” It’s not as if I want them to resolve their issues. I enjoy their dysfunction. It’s a big part of how the Steelers establish home field advantage over the Ravens in big games. Baltimore has always struggled with Palmer and the Bengals…so that’s a big annual advantage that pays off consistently. It only backfired once (2009).

    The thing that I like about Cutler is his potential to play well. I still think this system is far from ideal and that there is room to grow. The Packers have arguably the best or 2nd best set of DBs in the NFL. They have elite WRs. And they have a nice front 7. The Bears greatly exceeded expectations and it was largely due to Cutler’s toughness during the season.

    This is the same guy that got crushed by the Giants. He came back to put up 38 on the Jets. He looked a great deal less concerned about Bart Scott than Peyton Manning or Tom Brady. So, the “toughness” issue is probably overstated. His teammates like him and strongly endorse him. That’s all that matters right now. The Bears need to cough up some loot and get some accomplished offensive players in the fold. Knox and Hester are “projects” at WR. The line is still in disarray, but Chicago managed to host the conference championship game in their first year with such a drastic new look.

    Remember when Torry Holt was rumored to be available for the Bears and they passed? Everyone I know thought they were nuts. Earl Bennett, Knox, Hester? People thought Martz was crazy. So, I believe that if the information about the MCL sprain was different, our shared perceptions might differ as well.

    There is plenty of time to throw the dude under the bus. I’ll wait until his teammates do it.

  17. I meant that you often note that while the Bengals draft for talent they ignore character. And, while his teammates in Chi have endorsed him so far, other teammates have not been as glowing. Plus, you’ve seen dude talk and the things he says, he doesn’t come across as the type of cat who is really big on personal accoutability and doing things the right way. Early this year I remember him making deragatory comments about another QB that were out of bounds, and then he refused to take ownership for the foolishness of constantly throwing at Deangelo Hall in the Bears loss to them. Dude rubs me the wrong way,.

  18. I think the Bengals actually pay a great deal of attention to character. They consciously and consistently draft players with “character issues” so that they can sign them at a deep discount. It’s a minor point, but I wanted to explicitly clarify — though I believe we would share that opinion.

    Cutler doesn’t have the “attitude” of a guy dude’s will follow. Roethlisberger didn’t have it either and was widely reputed to be a real DICK for years before the national media caught on. Still, he won 2 rings. Cutler has a long way to go to impress fans and the public, but he doesn’t have as far to go to impress his teammates. That’s really all that matters right now. If he wins a Super Bowl, fans there will love him forever. He’ll never be McMahon, but he doesn’t need to be or want to be.

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