I guess I have mixed feelings about the conference championship games. The match-ups never quite turn out how you’d like them to, but certainly they could be worse. For my money, Ravens/Jets and Falcons/Bears would have been worse than what we have this Sunday. The build up to the games has been a slow burn. Maybe the networks don’t know what to do if they can’t promote Brady or Manning? But, there are certainly storylines. Here are some disjointed reasons to watch/things to look for:
Bears vs. Packers:
Chicago’s Biggest Advantage: Their awful playing surface. If anyone has ever played golf on that one random warm day in January you can imagine the conditions at Soldier Field. It’s a green spray painted mud pit. And, you’re welcome for that tough guy football/golf analogy.
Green Bay’s Biggest Advantage: They have the better team and the better quarterback. A decent place to start in a post-season game.
Chicago’s Most Overrated Player: Charles Tillman. Tillman as far as I know is a good corner. But, sometime over the last couple weeks after shutting down Mike “Crème-Filled” Williams he’s become Deion Sanders. He’s going to get burnt at least once. Mark it down.
Green Bay’s Most Overrated Player: James Starks. I’m thinking 9 carries for 29 yards. The announcers love Starks. It’s almost to the point where they are making up words to describe him. He’s got explosivisity. He’s got that burst factor. Nope.
The Wild Card: Cutler. Cutler could keep this game close. He could throw four interceptions. The problem with Cutler has always been his bad games are unbelievably bad. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I actually think Cutler can hold it together for one more game. If he doesn’t, though, hide your eyes.
Reasons to Root for the Bears: You like the AFC, you’re hoping SNL brings back the Super Fans, you want to watch Super Bowl Shuffle highlights for the next 2 weeks, you want Obama to be fired up about the game, Chicago hasn’t won anything in 7 months and they could use a break, green and yellow don’t go together unless you are John Deere.
Reasons to Root for the Packers: You want Chris Berman worked into a lather, you’re still mad at Chicago about the Flyers, you don’t want to see Refrigerator Perry interviewed, you want to watch more than just the commercials on Super Bowl Sunday, you want Rodgers to complete the excommunication of Favre, you like cheese.
The Vegas Line: Packers (-3.5). O/U: 43.5
Steelers vs. Jets
New York’s Biggest Advantage. D-Line vs. O-Line. The Jets mangled a pretty good Pats unit last week. If the Steelers have one glaring weakness, it is their offensive line. They are ravaged by injuries, Big Ben has been improvising all year. Get ready to hear, “the battle up front” 1.3 million times.
Pittsburgh’s Biggest Advantage: Heinz Field. In some ways this looks like a total nightmare of a match-up for the Steelers, but at least they have the house that 57 varieties built to fall back on. Nice home field advantage, impossible to kick field goals and the Jets already won there this year. There has to be some anecdotal stat about losing twice at home to the same team.
New York’s Most Overrated Player: Santonio Holmes. This is a little bit of a cheap shot by me, but I’m not entirely sure that Holmes isn’t just a right place, right time kind of guy. He’s starting to remind me of Robert Horry, meaning he’s very annoying. If you were building an NBA team, Large shot Rob would have been way down your list of priorities, just like Santonio. He covers the last 15 yards of an 80 yard drive and gets all the credit.
Pittsburgh’s Most Overrated Player: Mike Wallace. Leave the WR’s alone, huh? Wallace’s real name is Burnell Micheal Wallace III. You know every time I see “Micheal,” a little part of my brain dies, but this is supposed to be about football. Wallace is extremely fast, and he has the potential to be a great receiver. To listen to announcers and analysts you’d think he had 110 balls for 1600 yds and 18 TDs this year. Right now, he’s mostly a big play threat. Relax.
Wild Card: Troy Polamalu. Or, I guess I should say, Polamalu’s health. As a proud owner of Pittsburgh’s defense in fantasy football this year, I can say confidently that a healthy Polamalu makes difference. He didn’t seem 100% against the Ravens. I know the Steelers have great linebackers, but the one with the beautiful hair holds it together. If Polamalu plays well, the Jets are going to have trouble scoring enough points to win.
Reasons to root for the Jets: Because Steelers fans are everywhere and enough is enough, you want to experience the marriage of Rex Ryan and Media Day, you have a time share on Revis Island, Big Ben still creeps you out, Joe Namath interview potential, you want the Yankees/Giants NY fans to be tortured.
Reasons to root for the Steelers: You don’t believe Namath guaranteed sh*t, you support the fat coaches don’t win Super Bowls theory, you want to go to your Steelers bar in Portugal, you want to further lessen the legacy of Bill Cowher, it’s anyone but the Jets, because you want Joe Banner to further explain that whole, “gold standard,” thing.
The Vegas Line: Pittsburgh (-4). O/U: 39.