This year's Conference Championships goes to show that lately in the NFL, all you need to do is just get in. Not only are both #6 seeds still alive, but both have a viable chance of winning this Sunday - and one of them (Green Bay) is even favored on the road. Home teams, as always, in CAPS.
Green Bay (-3.5) over CHICAGO
I'd at least like to think that I was on the Packers bandwagon for this entire playoff run, but I definitely didn't expect them to put together two defensive performances like they did against the Eagles and Falcons. The under seems like a decent bet considering these two defenses and the likely weather conditions in the Windy City. The networks have been fawning over Aaron Rodgers with good reason, but what I think wins this game will be Tramon Williams, Charles Woodson, and Clay Matthews. Should the Packers get ahead by more than 7 in the second half and trigger Mike Martz's worst pass-happy tendencies, the Bears could be in trouble. Green Bay has made its living off of turnovers and Jay Cutler may very well feed that appetite. I can't shake the image of a convoy of Green Bay defenders streaking down the sideline with an errant Cutler pass to ice the game. Packers, 24-13.
NY Jets (+3.5) over PITTSBURGH
I'll admit it - I drank the green kool-aid this week. The Jets punched with New England last week long enough to get Bill Belichick out of his element and now look to slay another recent champion on the road. I give Rex Ryan a ton of credit for changing his defense's approach against the Patriots by blitzing less and relying on his linebackers and secondary to cover for an extended period of time. He'd be well-served to do the same in Pittsburgh. Ben Roethlisberger is at his best when the play breaks down and someone is in his face, so blitzing would invite trouble. If Antonio Cromartie, Darrelle Revis, et al. can cover the way they've been over the past two weeks, they can definitely frustrate Big Ben into a mistake or two. I'll be particularly interested in the kickers in this game. We all know how I feel about Nick Folk, but the Steelers' Shaun Suisham somehow manages to render Folk only the second-worst ex-Dallas kicker in this game. Two more reasons to root for the Jets: no one wants to see Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl, and two weeks of Rex Ryan quotes and headlines could actually make the pre-Super Bowl bearable this year. J-E-T-S, 20-14.
Last Week: 2-2-0