Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rambling Gambler: Pick Six Conference Championships

Ramblings and Gambling
By Erik Laurinovics, for The Football ERA
Finally, a winning week! I thought I had a perfect week in the bag, but of course the Jets came through with the upset. Nonetheless, I was pleased... Pittsburgh was resilient and covered at the last possible moment, Green Bay is finally looking like what everyone expected in the preseason, and Seattle came back down to earth. For once, the majority of games ended up in the win column for me.
Defense is the dominant theme this season, with the Steelers, Jets, Packers, and Bears ranking among the top defenses in the league. We're in for some more tough, close football games this week, I think, but we'll get to that in a bit. Right now, lets relish in a rare successful week... and get some last week recap.
Divisional Recap
NEW ENGLAND -9 over NY Jets: It was likely the season's last chance for a big upset, so of course it happened. The Jets earned it, though. That defense was suffocating. If their D continues to play like that, Sanchez doesn't need to be good; he just needs to keep limiting his mistakes.
PITTBURGH -3 over Baltimore: The first half was scary, but Baltimore only had the lead because they started multiple drives in Pittsburgh territory. The Steelers defense played very well and the offense (also benefiting from turnovers in enemy territory) overcame the Ravens stingy D. Great game.
Green Bay +2.5 over ATLANTA: Aaron Rodgers is amazing. A friend of mind mentioned that he views this game as the "changing of the guard" and thinks Rodgers will be the next great QB. Can't say I disagree with him. 31/36, 366 yards, 3 TDs. He made every throw.
CHICAGO -10 over Seattle: The Bears made the end a bit of an adventure with the spread, but Seattle never had a chance. Don't much like the Bears chances against the Packers, though.
2010-11 Playoff Record: 4-4-0
Conference Championship Picks
Green Bay -3.5 over CHICAGO
The season series stands at 1-1, and the Bears gave the Packers a fight in week 17 when they had nothing to play for. I think this will be a tough game and definitely recommend buying the line down to 3, but I think the Packers will come out on top. The playoffs are truly a week to week contest and it seems like we can see a different version of the same team in every round. Last week, the Packers were firing on all cylinders, and it was scary. They didn't just win- they demolished the Falcons. 48-21? How many people called that one? I liked the upset, but I thought it would be close. Offensively they were unstoppable and defensively, the Packers have 8 sacks in two playoff games and have allowed only 30 points (not holding the Atlanta kickoff return against the D), and this was against two of the top offensive teams in the league.
The Bears, on the other hand, have only played one game this post season against the Seahawks. They won, but failed to impress. Are the Seahawks that good or did the Bears not play well? It's hard to say. On offense, the Bears took 3 sacks and Cutler made some pretty bad throws throughout the game. On defense, they shut down Seattle's run, but gave up 258 yards and 3 TDs to Hasselbeck, and produced only 2 sacks and 0 turnovers... Chicago left a lot to be desired in this game.
In the end, I think it'll come down to how well Aaron Rodgers plays and how well the Chicago O-line plays. The Bears offensive line vs. the Packers pass rush is a huge mismatch. Chicago has allowed the most sacks in the league and the Packers have sacked opposing QBs the most. A good game from Rodgers and a good pass rush should be enough to win the game for Green Bay.

New York Jets +3.5 over PITTSBURGH

I think this is the harder game of the two, simply because the Jets defense played so well last week. If they play like that, they can beat anyone. We're likely in store for another great defensive battle in this one, and I'm wondering if the Jets end up putting Revis on Mike Wallace at this point. The Ravens limited him to 20 yards on 3 receptions and they were in great shape until they broke their own back with multiple costly turnovers. Watching that game, you could see the Steelers offense struggle. Big Ben only threw for 226 yards and Mendenhall ran for only 46 yards. There were no easy yards for them to come by. Both the Steelers and the Ravens generated the majority of their points off turnovers setting them up inside opposing territory. For the Steelers, it won't get any easier this week. The Jets have an even tougher defense, so I wonder how effective that offense will be.
The Jets aren't exactly juggernauts on the offensive side of the ball and I wonder how effective their offense will be. Running the ball is critical to their success and Pittsburgh is the toughest team to run on. Sanchez might be able to make some throws when he has to, but he cannot carry the team to victory against Pittsburgh.
Ultimately, I feel like this will be a field goal game so I'm taking the Jets +3.5. Either team has a good chance to win this game, but I'm looking for the Jets defense to build off Baltimore's defensive game plan from last week and they are capable of shutting the Steelers down.

No comments: