Stick’s Picks: Conference Championship Edition
January 22, 2011 1 Comment
Almost there! Just four teams remain in what has been a great NFL playoffs. Each playoff weekend, there is at least one upset, one blowout, and one comeback win. It’s a simple formula. Even last week we had two blowouts, one comeback win, and one upset. Looking back on my picks last week (link), I failed to choose an upset (unless you count the Packers at +1). It seems a weekly upset is the trend. BUT upsetting the Patriots? Fourteen wins, a remarkable Brady season, and a plethora of offensive weapons. I have to give Rex Ryan and the Jets credit, I didn’t see this coming either. Congratulations New York jets, you talked the talk and walked the walk!
Let me start out by saying last week I was 3-1 with my picks (losing the New England upset) making my overall record of 6-2 for the playoffs (Not bad!). With 8 out of 11 playoffs games in the books, we are hitting the home stretch. Heading into my weekly NFL playoff picks, here are some quick thoughts:
1. The Atlanta Falcons are who we thought they were…an overrated dome team.
2. Lest we forget, Big Ben Roethlisberger still has two rings, so no comeback is too great for the White Mamba.
3. As great as we thought the Patriots were, we were too distracted by the luxurious locks of Tom Brady to realize their glaring O-line and defensive weaknesses.
4. Chicago is a great team. They took care of business vs. a sub .500 at home, there isn’t much to look at here (at least Cutler managed to keep the ball out of the opposing team’s hands).
5. And last but not least, Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers are the hottest thing since sliced bread! As Stick’s Picks predicted, Green Bay stormed into Atlanta putting up 48 points in what was an absolute beat down of a 13-3 Falcons team (now Green Bay is the odds-on favorite to win the Super Bowl at 8 to 5).
The Year of the Quarterback continues (link). Who would have thought Manning, Brady, and Brees would be all be ‘one and done’ from the playoffs? Astonishing! That leaves sophomore sensation Mark Sanchez as he looks to take his remarkable playoff record (4-1, ALL ON ROAD) into Pittsburgh, home to playoff veteran Big Ben Roethlisberger (9-2 career playoff record). And of course, we can’t forget about two of the most legendary football franchises.. the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears.
With only two games on the schedule, there is no excuse to miss these great games. Two defensive juggernauts and two ancient rivals square off in what may be one of the best conference championship weekends in recent memory. Enjoy my newest installment of Stick’s Picks: Conference Championship Edition.
Green Bay at Chicago- Starting the weekend off right. The oldest rivalry in the NFL face off in the playoffs for the first time in 60 YEARS. Amazing, considering the past success of these historic franchises. At first glance, this matchup seems closer than some may expect. In week 3, Chicago squeaked out a three-point home win over the Packers to begin what has been a surprisingly successful season. Fourteen weeks later facing a win or go home, Green Bay took care of business at home, beating Chicago in a low-scoring 10-3 battle. So what’s in store for the week 20 rubber match? Its tough to say. In the Packers-Bears first matchup, Green Bay dominated the Bears at every aspect of the game (minus Green Bay’s 18 penalties for 158 yards!) and still came up short. In what was a defensive battle, the week 17 rematch was all about Green Bay’s defense notching a win in the season finale.
My case for Green Bay- As you may know, there is no quarterback in the league better than Aaron Rodgers. In case you live in a hole and missed A-Rod’s remarkable game last week, let me refresh your memory. Rodgers scraped along 379 total yards, 4 touchdowns, with only FIVE incompletions (31-36 passing). Not bad for a former junior college transfer. If there is anything we learned in last year’s playoffs (Manning vs. Brees), it is to ride the hot quarterback (and Rodgers has been near-perfect these playoffs). Just a few weeks ago, Green Bay still managed to win despite Aaron Rodgers poor performance. For the Packers to continue their road winning streak, they are going to need another solid game from their defense. Another great performance from A-Rod wouldn’t hurt either.
My case for Chicago- DA Bears! Despite having one of the better defenses in the league, this Chicago team has once again flown under the radar. Sound familiar? How about in 2006 when a turnover-prove Rex Grossman led the Bears to the Super Bowl? Insert a more talented Jay Cutler (also turnover-prone), and whose saying it can’t happen again? Much of the same defensively, with the addition of sack king Julius Peppers. If Chicago is to beat Green Bay, they better hope for a low scoring game. Who am I kidding? Chicago has NO CHANCE in this game.
Stick’s Pick: Green Bay 31, Chicago 10.
NY Jets at Pittsburgh- Quite the matchup! The flashy, cocky New York Jets take on the blue-collar Pittsburgh Steelers. Surprisingly, young Mark Sanchez is following in the footsteps of Ben Roethlisberger. Lets take a quick history lesson: In Big Ben’s rookie season he took Pittsburgh to the AFC title game. In Sanchez’s rookie season, he took the Jets to the AFC title game. Big Ben’s sophomore slump turned into a Super Bowl winning season. Mark Sanchez’s sophomore season…yet to be decided. Who knows? With a 4-1 playoff record, Sanchez may have more in common with Roethlisberger than we may think. Both anchor arguably the most talented defensive units in the NFL. So whose gotta give?
My case for New York- Mark, Mark, Mark! The Jets are going to have to stray away from their typical RUN, RUN, and RUN! attack. Running the ball could be quite the challenge against Pittsburgh’s front seven. Pittsburgh led the NFL in rush defense, allowing 437 FEWER rush yards than any team in the NFL. In fact, Pittsburgh allowed 137 fewer rush yards PER GAME than the Buffalo Bills. Sanchez must duplicate his performance last week to continue this Jets incredible playoff run. At only 24, Mark Sanchez is building quite the playoff resume. If he manages to keep the ball in his team’s hands, then I love a Jets upset. And I could only imagine what Rex Ryan has in store on defense.
My case for Pittsburgh- because they are the Steelers. The Steelers remind me of the San Antonio Spurs. They aren’t flashy, but they are ALWAYS contending. With a soon-to-be Hall of Famer Troy Polamalu anchoring your defense, you have to like their chances. However, if Pittsburgh is going to beat New York, it will have to come via their running game. If you were watching last week’s game vs. the Ravens, you may have noticed Pittsburgh abandoning the run. This can’t happen vs. the Jets. With the best secondary in the NFL, the key to beating the Jets is to run it down their throat. If Manning and Brady couldn’t pass on them, what makes you think Big Ben can? If Rashard Mendenhall can manage 25+ carries, then I like the Steelers to go to their eighth Super Bowl.
Stick’s Pick: NY Jets 14, Pittsburgh 13. ANYBODY CAN BE BEAT! (link) <–MUST-SEE
There you have it, Stick’s Picks for the Super Bowl. Once again, riding the road teams in two of the toughest places to play in the NFL. You can call me crazy, or you can call me a genius. I will conclude my NFL playoff picks with a Super Bowl Champion in a few weeks. Until then!