Championship Game Predictions

Well, we are down to four teams.  I can’t say that these are the four teams I thought would be here.  The Steelers and Bears didn’t really surprise me.  And with the way the Packers have been playing, I can’t say I’m super surprised by them being there either.  Although if you had told me when the playoff started that neither New Orleans or Atlanta would be in the , I probably wouldn’t have believed that.  The biggest surprise of all of this is the Jets though.  I never thought in a they would be here.

I will say that all four teams left are playing really well right now.  Chicago and had wins.  The Jets and Steelers were both in late in their games.  Green Bay is playing as well as anyone right now.  Rodgers is on fire as is their .  And the Jets are the most confident (or should I say arrogant) team in the league.  I could see a fight breaking out in the Steelers/Jets game with all the attitudes running around.  It should make for an interesting weekend.

The Bears played really well last week.  The thing I keep telling myself is that it was against the Seahawks.   had no pressure on him all game.  Hester, , Olsen and others were able to find holes in the secondary all afternoon.  And found nice running lanes.  Those things are not going to happen against Green Bay.  Green Bay will put pressure on .  I have about that.  If Cutler makes the right blitz reads, he can try to take advantage of that.  However, if he makes the wrong reads (or no reads at all) he will be on his back all day.  He also has the tendency to try and force throws if he’s under pressure.  If he does that on Sunday, Williams and Woodson will make him pay.  Chicago has to do a lot of quick throws and screens to try and slow down the rush.  In addition to that I think the Bears have to try and stretch the field at least once a quarter.  Throw a deep ball to Hester or Knox just to make the Packers think about that.  If they can keep the Packers guessing, they will be able to have some success on offense.  They also cannot give up on the .  Forte has to get 15-20 carries to keep the pass rushers honest.  If Martz abandons the , Matthews and company will have a field day.

The Packers aren’t super diversified on offense.  They continue to try and pound the ball, but without much success.  They were able to run against Philly, but didn’t have a whole lot of luck last week at Atlanta.  As good as Rodgers has been, it hasn’t mattered that they aren’t super diverse.  He has been absolutely unstoppable.  The toughest thing about stopping them is trying to figure out who to cover.  Rodgers is spreading the ball around remarkably well.  Against the Falcons, 4 receivers had 75 yards or more.  And 6 guys had at least 2 receptions.  They have a big time explosive player in Jennings too.  He can take any pass to the house if he has space.  And Rodgers has been so accurate that he’s giving his receivers great opportunities to pick up extra yardage.  Chicago has a great defense.  They are very stout against the run.  And Green Bay will continue to try and run and create play-action.  Chicago needs to be disciplined and not bite on the play-action.  They can stop the run with their front seven and they need to remember that.  If they worry about bringing a safety in to stop the run, Rodgers will eat them alive.  Chicago can try to slow down Green Bay, but I just don’t see it happening.

The only real advantage Chicago has is in special teams.  Hester and Manning can turn a game around.  If Green Bay kicks to them, they could be in trouble.  If they don’t, they could give up field position by kicking short or out of bounds.  I think Chicago has to break a big play on special teams to have a chance.  In the end, I don’t think it will matter.  Prediction: Green Bay 31, Chicago 20.

The Steelers and Jets both have tremendous defenses.  Both teams play angry and aggressive.  The Jets have some weapons on offense for sure.  Tomlinson looked rejuvenated last week.  Edwards and Holmes are both quality receivers that can make catches in traffic.  That catch Holmes made last week against New England was remarkable.  Edwards does get the dropsies sometimes, but seems to have those issues mostly in his past now.  Shonn Greene is always a threat as well.  Sanchez played great last week.  He’s good, but he’s not that good.  He won’t put up those kinds of numbers against Pittsburgh.  I think the Jets will move the ball a little bit, but they won’t have the same kind of success they did last week.  The Steelers are much better defensively than the Patriots.  They will put a lot more pressure on Sanchez than New England did.  New England didn’t sack Sanchez once all game.  I would be more than shocked if Pittsburgh doesn’t get at least one or two.

Pittsburgh isn’t as prolific as New England is on offense, but they still have plenty of weapons.  Baltimore is no slouch on defense and Pittsburgh was able to move the ball pretty well.  Mike Wallace is an absolute match-up nightmare.  I think the Jets will end up putting Revis on him.  And Wallace is one guy who can run by Revis.  I think the Steelers should run Wallace deep throughout the game.  Wear out Revis and take him out of the plays.  Do this for a quarter or two and then throw a deep one.  You might be able to catch him sleeping.  Pittsburgh also has plenty of other guys in Ward, Miller and Mendenhall that can hurt you.  Antonito Brown and Emanuel Sanders have been coming up with some big plays lately as well.  The Jets are great on defense and they will put pressure on Big Ben.  They are also good enough to slow Mendenhall down.

Special teams could decide this one.  Both kickers have been a little spotty.  Both teams have some explosive returners that can break one at any time.  I see this being pretty much a wash.  The game, to me, comes down to turnovers.  I see  Sanchez making a dumb decision or two and it costing the Jets.  Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Jets 20.

Have a great rest of the week everyone.  Look for specials tomorrow.

Josh

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