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.
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.
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.