Friday, January 21, 2011

NFL Conference Championship Weekend Predictions

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-Digger's Daily-

Is it possible Super Bowl XLV will feature two number six seeds playing for all the marbles? It very well may shift from possibility to reality if the New York Jets and Green Bay Packers win on Sunday. Strange but true. AFC & NFC Championship Games will be hard fought tooth and nail games. Time to break down the games.

Green Bay Packers (6) @ Chicago Bears (2)
(3 pm)
Chicago Bears defensive back Charles Tillman claims Green Bay has the best receiving crew in football. The Bears main focus is taking away Packers QB Rodgers targets and shut down their powerful passing attack. Will they do it? The home team won both times during regular season action. Chicago taking the first game 20-17. Packers won their season finale in Chicago 10-3 to secure NFC sixth seed.

What will it take to win on Sunday? Controlling the line of scrimmage. Packers must protect Rodgers and give him enough time to find passing lanes. Rodgers needs to remain cool in the pocket and play callers refrain from looking for 50 yard bombs all game long. Crisp over the middle crossing routes could provide tremendous gains vs an aggressive pass rush. No one really fears Packers rushing attack setting up a perfect opportunity for solid misdirection gains. Packers defensive front four and linebackers must shut down Chicago's running attack. Another defensive key for Green Bay is to limit Bears QB Cutler's ability to dance out of the pocket. Cutler is dangerous on the move.

In order for Chicago to be the NFC Champ they'll need a very strong ball controlled performance to chew up the game clock and keep Green Bay's celebrated offense on the sidelines. Ball control will also set up great field position for da Bears offense, defense and special teams. Cutler must be efficient by not taking drive killing sacks or forcing passes against a ball hawking Packers defense. On defense, Bears fans never know which unit will show up bringing us right back to ball control & field position issues. Do whatever it takes to chew up the clock and keep defense rested. A shootout is not in Chicago's best interest.

Prediction: All indicators tell me to say Green Bay. My gut says otherwise. Chicago Bears 26 Green Bay Packers 24 in a thriller!

New York Jets (6) @ Pittsburgh Steelers (2)
(6:30 pm)
In the second #6 vs #2 seed game....
Get ready for a hard hitting bone jarring game. These two defenses come ready to play hard. No mercy. Jets and Steelers defenders are some of the best football has to offer. Both coaches do an excellent job game planning and prepping players for game day. Jets every changing and diligently disguised blitz packages will try to keep blockers and QB Roethlisberger out of sync all game long. Steelers defenders will put a hurting on whoever touches the ball. Success for both clubs lies squarely on offensive lines. Can they effectively hold up blitzers and talented linemen from disrupting QB timing and clogging running lanes?

Jets offense rests on offensive line opening gaps for New York's two back attack. Staying away from often called play action passes will give Sanchez a few extra seconds to find receivers. Steelers will bust apart play action calls. Pittsburgh's defense represents Jets greatest challenge in the season's most important game. New York did pound out a hard fought 22-17 win earlier in Steelers country. It will take fighting for every inch on every play to be successful a second time. Special teams for either side could be the big unspoken difference maker in this contest.

QB Roethlisberger is no stranger to big game competition. I'm expecting him to be on his game Sunday night. Steelers front line and blocking backs should offer Big Ben time in the pocket. Steelers key is finding a way to get wide receivers open. Jets CB Revis rarely falters. If Big Ben beats blitz packages then this game may not be as close as everyone suspects. Many prognosticators expressing how running game is key for the passing game. Not Sunday. Pittsburgh will come out throwing going right after the heart of New York's defense (as good champions always do). Once the Jets fall back, then Pittsburgh's running game will take over right up the middle. On defense, hard hits are nothing new to these players or their wallets. No Jets player will escape heavy hits.

Prediction: Jets are pumped up for this one but will hit a Steel Curtain. Pittsburgh prevails 27-13.


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