Saturday, January 22, 2011

Penultimate (NFL picks, third round)

* Packers over Bears
I wouldn't be much of a Green Bay fan if I didn't make this pick, but I'm terrified of this game. I'm much more worried about this one than I was about the Eagles or Falcons matchups simply because the Packers and Bears know each other so well. Also, because Green Bay's offense will invariably be slowed by that godawful Solider Field turf and the sure-to-be lousy weather. Also, the Bears are just a weird team. I've accepted by this point that they're a team of destiny. Every break they've needed has gone their way this season --- odd calls in games (i.e. the Calvin Johnson non-TD in the first week), an astounding lack of injuries and a knack for catching opponents just when they're coming off a big injury or on a letdown. Of course it stands to reason that they'd a) get to face the worst team in the playoffs after Seattle upset New Orleans and b) they'd avoid going to Atlanta and now get to host the Packers, who, while dangerous, are very familiar to the Bears.

So yeah, this game worries me. Green Bay losing to Philly would've sucked, and it would've been unfortunate had the team lost to Atlanta, but getting knocked out by the goddamn Bears would be horrible. You've seen how unnecessarily boastful Bears fans are given how mediocre their team has been over the last four decades --- imagine how bad they'll get if they actually achieve something. ("Mark, are you writing this to incite the Bears fans you know will be reading this?" "Yes.") After all the ups and downs of Green Bay's incredible season, being eliminated by boring Chicago would be a real letdown.

However, I think the Packers have this one. I don't want to get too overboard about Aaron Rodgers --- after all, I'm the guy that rips on Peyton Manning for not achieving anything, and that guy has a Super Bowl ring --- but man, Aaron Rodgers. What a star. I think every team in the NFL (save New England, New Orleans and probably Indy, though they'd want to deep down) would want Rodgers as their quarterback. Any critics that might've still thought the Packers should've kept Brett Favre three years ago have been silenced. Moreso than what the Packers do on offense, I just don't see how Chicago can score enough points in this game. If the Bears' D gives up more than 10 points, this game could be over. You saw all those butterfly passes Cutler was throwing against the Seahawks last week. You don't think Williams or Woodson would've delivered a pick-six or two off of those?

Man, so much tension. I have a horrible feeling this will end up like the 2007-08 NFC Championship, when Green Bay looked awesome heading into a home game against the Giants, and then Mike McCarthy was thoroughly outcoached for over 60 minutes and the Pack lost. But, then again, maybe Mike Martz and Lovie Smith will get into a fistfight on the Chicago sidelines (my money is heavily on Lovie in that battle) and Jay Cutler will throw a bunch of picks and then write about it on his MySpace page.

* Jets over Steelers
Does this game ever feel anti-climactic. If the Packers lose the early game, I might be too distraught to watch this, just because the idea of a Jets/Bears Super Bowl is the shittiest thing ever. I've pretty much gotten sick of the Jets, but I've gotta admit, these guys deliver when it counts. It's interesting to note how quiet the Jets have been this week as compared to their nonstop trash talk the week before going into the Patriots game. Last week was personal, this week is basically just business.

Even though two weeks of New York hype and even more Jets trash-talking would be an annoyance to say the least, I think we're in for it. Pittsburgh is just flat-out too beaten up. They're running so low on offensive linemen that they gave my dad a call this week to see if he could suit up on Sunday. My father had to decline, not because he hasn't played organized football in 40 years, but because there's curling on that afternoon. It's a fair point. The bottom line is that the Steelers at full strength at home could beat New York, but not in their current state. It'll be another close matchup, but in the end, the Jets eke another one out.

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