Conference Championship Game Picks
By: Mike Meltser
For me, it’s always the best weekend of the NFL season. Championship Sunday is a real football day, when you don’t have to deal with Super Bowl parties and 30 minute halftime shows. Tomorrow features one of the better rivalries in league history, along with an excellent matchup in the AFC.
Packers -3.5 at Bears
In the NFL playoffs, I try not to pick against momentum. The Packers have been extremely impressive in January, winning at the Eagles before dismantling the top seed Falcons 48-21 last Saturday at the Georgia Dome. By all measures, Aaron Rodgers had one of the best performances in playoff QB history, with 3 touchdowns and 366 passing yards in Atlanta.
Remember, there was a ton of hype around this Green Bay team back in August. After a sloppy, up-and-down regular season, we’re finally seeing the combination of an elite passing game with a top-notch defense. In Rodgers, Clay Matthews, and Charles Woodson, the Packers have 3 elite, impact players.
Basically, I trust Rodgers more than I do Jay Cutler. The Bears have a very good defense, but can they hold down a Green Bay attack that has been on fire for the last 2 weeks? I doubt it.
As far as the line itself, it’s always very tough to lay 3.5 points on the road in a conference championship game. I give Chicago a chance to win, but at this point it’s extremely hard to bet against a Packer team that seems to be peaking at the right time.
Steelers -3.5 vs Jets
I’ve said this throughout the week on the Mike Meltser Show (10-11am M-F): if you line up the teams unit-for-unit, the Jets may actually have the overall edge. My only problem is that I can’t pull the trigger on going with Mark Sanchez over Ben Roethlisberger. Big Ben is putting together one of the prolific playoff careers of all-time, even though he’s under 30 years of age.
To get a sense of how the Steelers QB is viewed around the league, notice that the mouthy Jets were highly respectful of him all week long. These defensive players see Roethlisberger as one of their own, because he plays tough, hurt, and isn’t seen a prima-donna quarterback.
Two areas of concern, if you’re a Pittsburgh fan:
- their offensive line is shaky, and that is a concern going up against a Rex Ryan-coached defense. You can’t have pass protection breakdowns and ridiculous penalties for unnecessary roughness, as they did against the Ravens
- if you really look at it, the Steelers were a bit lucky to escape last Saturday. They trailed 21-7, and tied the game after getting 3 turnovers in the 3rd quarter. Plus, the Ravens helped them with 2 huge drops from Anquan Boldin and TJ Houshmandzadeh
Like the NFC Championship Game, it’s tough to lay 3.5 points in a contest I expect to be close. However, with the edge at quarterback, I’ll go with the Steelers to make their 3rd Super Bowl appearance in the Ben Roethlisberger era.