Chicago Bears vs. Green Bay Packers: Sunday, 3 pm FOX
The Lead: Green Bay, my preseason pick to represent the NFC in the SuperBowl, has had to overcome a laundry list of injuries this season but overcome them they have and in epic fashion. Made somewhat one-dimensional due to those losses, the Packers have evolved into one of the most feared passing teams in the league and are riding high right now. The Bears, on the other hand, have just been quietly defying expectations. They have won where nobody expected them to, myself included, and are just one more win from punching their ticket to Dallas.
The Breakdown: It’s the classic tale of great offense vs great defense as Arron Rodgers will be sorely tested against a very solid Bears D. The deciding point of this game, however, is Green Bay’s defense vs Chicago’s O. If Chicago is going to pull this game out, then they are going to have to play mistake free football, plain and simple.
Players to Watch: It’s a tale of two quarterbacks in this game. The Packers Aaron Rodgers is going to have to show that he can live up to his own hype while Chicago’s Jay Cutler is going to have to avoid those bone-headed throws that he is prone to.
Prediction: Green Bay over Chicago in a tight one, 24-21
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. New York Jets: Sunday 6:30 pm CBS
The Lead: If you would have told me that after losing their starting quarterback for the first four games, the heart of the defensive line for the majority of the season, and trading off their best receiver of a year ago before the beginning of this season, that the Pittsburgh Steelers would be hosting the AFC Championship game, I might have asked you what you are smoking and if I could get a hit. But, despite the setbacks, the Steelers are welcoming in the New York Jets this Sunday and one of them is going to the SuperBowl.
The Jets are coming into Heinz Field at the peak of their game. They have plowed through both Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in the first two rounds of the playoffs and now have their eyes set on Ben Roethlisberger. They also have the added confidence from winning in Pittsburgh back in week 15. If the Jets can pull the win off this weekend, it will have to go down as one of the greatest playoff runs of all time. team
The Breakdown: The Jets, after facing the Colts and the Patriots, are in for their greatest test of the postseason in the Pittsburgh Steelers. The Steelers defense is by far the best of their three playoff opponents and will create havoc among the Jets offense. It will be up to Sanchez to play smart football and avoid trying to force plays when they aren’t there. The Steelers defense thrive on turnovers and creating chaos, if you can keep those to a minimum, then you have a shot at walking away with a win.
The Steelers match up very well with the Jets. They have a defense that will harass and badger the young Mark Sanchez while the offense is diverse enough to keep the Jets guessing. Pittsburgh will need to establish the run early and work the middle of the field with Heath Miller if they are going to have an easy time Sunday, which they are more than capable of doing.
Players to Watch: For the Steelers, it’s Jerome Harrison and Lamar Woodley. If they can get consistent pressure, then it’s going to be a long day for the Jets. For New York, it’s Mark Sanchez because the Jets will only win this game if he can keep his head and not give in to the pressure and stress that the game will put on him.
Prediction: Steelers win fairly big, 27-17, and advance to the SuperBowl.