In my opinion, this is the last weekend of legitimate football this NFL season. Championship Weekend. You’d think that Super Bowl weekend holds more significance to me…but it doesn’t. To me, Super Bowl Sunday is an overhyped concoction of exaggerated media coverage and belabored storylines. I am not a big fan of the two week break between Championship Weekend and Super Bowl Sunday. I can take only so much analysis. More often than not, Super Bowls have failed to live up to the hype (the two most recent Super Bowls notwithstanding).
Anyways, in light of my pleasantly mediocre results from last week’s picks for the Divisional Playoffs, I’m going to make picks for this weekend’s pair of championship games as well.
Bears vs Packers
My rationale for this game, while not immune from skepticism nor justifiable by fact, is to go against popular hearsay and short-sighted media promotion. In general, the media have a tendency to be very reactionary on a day-to-day basis. Rather than being rational and intelligent about recent events in the sports world, the media tends to exaggerate the significance of performances by inundating every spectrum of communication with knee-jerk hyperbole and effusive superlatives. Before last weekend, the media was clutching the testicles and nutsack of one Tom Brady. Now? They’re questioning his stature of invincibility (which they should have done prior to their loss to the Jets). Before last weekend, Mark Sanchez was a debilitating liability for the Jets. Now? He’s a clutch quarterback that continues to make big plays in big games in the playoffs. How do you go from being an errant bum to an invaluable clutch performer in the span of 60 game-time minutes? Being reasonable isn’t too much to ask for, is it? As a society consumed by sports, we have to learn to become more objective in our analysis. As cliche as it sounds, the truth is almost always somewhere in between.
What/who’s the hot ish this weekend? Without question, that would be Aaron Rodgers. Somebody must’ve slipped a mickey into the Falcons’ Gatorade last Saturday, because Aaron Rodgers savagely raped them for 4 quarters at the Dome. After that near-flawless performance, the media slapped the proverbial championship belt around the waist of the Golden Bear (who, coincidentally enough, celebrates touchdowns by fastening on an imaginary title belt). Suddenly, Aaron Rodgers is THE “IT” player of the moment. Everyone has been quick to jump on the Packers’ bandwagon, citing Aaron Rodgers’ recent performances as reliable indicators of the way they expect him to perform this weekend. Maybe folks are right. Maybe the momentum of the A-Rod locomotive is more Unstoppable than the cinematic tandem of Denzel Washington and Chris Pine. Maybe. However, I’m hedging my bets on the contrary. I’ve never been a big fan of the unanimous synchronization of praise. I know it seems like a silly reason to pick for or against a team, but…the consensus always engineers trepidation in my mind.
There is just too much hype surrounding Aaron Rodgers right now. I get the feeling that Aaron Rodgers is due for a letdown. The Bears aren’t getting a ton of respect. As a #2 seed, the Bears are 3.5 point underdogs – at home. Something about that line doesn’t resonate with the faintest scent of assurance to me. The Bears have a distinct advantage on special teams and in the running game. Robbie Gould and Devin Hester are not to be doubted. If the Packers routinely kick to Hester, they should be waterboarded for imbecility.
The Packers have the considerable edge (at least in my opinion) at QB and a slight advantage on defense (although the Bears’ defense is legit). Both rivals have played close games against one another this past year (a blowout seems improbable). My instincts tell me that the Bears’ defense will play with a chip on their shoulder after being overshadowed by Clay Matthews and the crew this past week. I think they’ll make enough plays to slow down Aaron Rodgers. The wild card in this matchup will be Jay Cutler. He will be hit and pressured – repeatedly and frequently. If the Packers rattle him early (maybe a strip-sack fumble?), I can see him going all Jay Cutler and forcing a few dumbfuck throws in blanketed coverage. If he can limit his mistakes, I think the Bears have a great shot at winning. Plus, there has been way too much agreement on the Packers reaching the Super Bowl for my liking. Believe you me, I can’t fathom Jay Cutler leading the Bears to the Super Bowl – and neither can anyone else. However, that is exactly why I think he will. Like I said, I generally sidestep the consensus. I like the Bears in this one, 27-17.
Steelers vs Jets
What happened to my beloved asshole Jets? Where for art thou? Praising Mike Tomlin and Big Ben unwaveringly throughout the week? An interesting approach considering the passionate banter exchanged the week prior between the Jets and the Patriots. I guess it makes sense, though. There is far more hate between the Jets and the Patties than there is between the Jets and the Steelers. I’m sniffin’ in withdrawal in the absence of trash talk. Humility isn’t exactly the sweater vest the Jets wear best. However, maybe it’s “all part of the plan“. Maybe we’re underestimating the psychological mastermind that Rex Ryan is.
In Big Ben, I will always trust. He is 9-2 in the playoffs. Like I said in my previous post, I’d take him over any other QB to lead a last minute drive in the playoffs. It isn’t always pretty, but Roethlisberger finds ways to win. The thing that separates Big Ben from the 0ther preeminent quarterbacks in the league (i.e. Drew Brees, Philip Rivers, Tom Brady, and Peyton Manning) is his ability to escape in and out of the pocket. Other quarterbacks get rattled when repeatedly hit and harassed – but not Big Ben. I’ve never seen a quarterback shrug off would-be tacklers and guaranteed sackers as frequently as Big Ben. With Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, you know that hitting them reduces their effectiveness (although getting pressure on them is vastly easier said than done). However, with Big Ben, no matter how hard and fast you consistently come at him, he will eventually shatter your will by wiggling out of a surefire sack and darting a laser across the field for a first down. It’s. What. He. Does. The Jets will be able to exploit the Steelers’ shaky offensive line…but so have many of the Steelers’ opponents this year. Simply put, Big Ben almost always finds a way to will his team to victory.
You cannot account nor prepare for those improvisational plays that have been a signature of Big Ben’s career. As great a defensive mind that Rex Ryan is, I don’t think he’ll be able to befuddle Big Ben as effectively as he did Brady Boy and Peyton Manning. Plus, the Steelers’ defense is significantly better than the Patriots and the Colts. If the Jets can force an early turnover from Big Ben, then they will have a chance to pull off the upset.
A part of me wants the Jets to win so they can liven up the 2 week hiatus between relevant football (the Pro Bowl wouldn’t even count on an abacus). Then again, I am a fan of Big Ben, so I wouldn’t mind them reaching the Super Bowl either. In all honesty, I just want to see a competitive game. Let’s hope for a nail biter.
I will live to rue the day that I wager against Big Ben. Today ain’t that day. I like the Steelers in this one, 24-20.