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Column: My prediction - Steelers won't play in big game
The greatest sporting event will soon be upon us.
At 3 p.m. Feb. 6, Animal Planet will host Puppy Bowl VII. There will be rambunctious puppies, shy puppies, sleeping puppies, puppies in timeout, a water bowl Kiss Cam and probably a few viewers dying from cuteness overload.
If you’re one of the few to survive Puppy Bowl, there’s also something called the Super Bowl that is taking place that day on FOX around 6:30 p.m. It will be far less entertaining, but it’s another option in case you get bored.
Before the thing called a Super Bowl can begin, the teams have to be determined. This weekend, four teams that I have no real vested interest in will be battling for a spot in their sport’s most important game.
To try something different, I am going to predict the winners of the AFC and NFC championship game using data and logic. OK, mainly my personal logic but there might be some stats* thrown in for good measure.
NFC Championship game
At 3 p.m. on Jan. 23 (FOX), bitter rivals Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers will meet for the third time this season. They split the regular season (each winning at home) and those games were quite boring to watch. In fact, I think I turned them off. (Come on, like a 10-3 outcome – with the Pack being the victors for that snooze fest - was real exciting).
Obviously, these teams have extremely good defenses. In the postseason, the Packers rank third in total defense, giving up 273 yards per game (ypg) and the Bears come in a close fourth, giving up 276 ypg. (Note: The Packers D ranked fifth in total defense during the regular season.)
The Bears D has Julius Peppers coming off the edge (he recorded eight sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions during the regular season) and Brian Urlacher prowling, and the Packers have Clay Matthews, AJ Hawk and Charles Woodson, to name a few.
But where I think the Packers have the advantage in this game is the offense. I know the Bears are second in total offense (in the postseason), but you never know how QB Jay Cutler is going to play – or if his O-line can protect him adequately. Not to mention the Packers’ RB James Starks is coming along nicely at the right time and QB Aaron Rodgers is kind of on fire this postseason.
My prediction: Packers beat the Bears by a Clay Matthews hair.
AFC Championship game
At 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 23 (CBS), the New York Jets will travel to Pittsburgh and take on the Steelers. The teams met once during the regular season with the Jets winning 22-10.
It’s pretty rare for teams to win at Heinz Field, especially during the play-offs and especially for the Jets, so this will be tough to get a victory. It also doesn’t help that Troy Polamalu is back.
Like in the NFC game, defense will be the key. The Steelers ranked second in total defense during the regular season (first in the postseason) and the Jets ranked third. They played a tremendous playoff game against the Patriots, sacking QB Tom Brady and locking down his play-making wide receivers.
Unfortunately, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is clutch in the playoffs (he’s 9-2 in postseason play with two Super Bowl wins to his credit). His Jets counterpart Mark Sanchez is 4-1 in the postseason and taking his team to a second straight conference championship game.
In a reversal, Sanchez has WR Santonio Holmes as his deep threat after the Steelers traded the former Super Bowl MVP in the off-season. I hope Santonio holds a grudge and plays lights out.
Obviously, I’m not a Steelers fan. In the NFL-dom, I am a sad Browns fan who also likes the New Orleans Saints, who were bounced in the first round. Now, I like Troy Polamalu and Hines Ward, and I will always love former Buckeye Will Allen, but he’s injured and likely to miss the game.
My intense dislike stems not from being a sad Browns fan (although it doesn’t help) but because of their creepy QB. Roethlisberger literally makes my skin crawl and I want the Jets D to play extra awesome and take away his postseason clutchness. Pretty please, with a sprinkle of efficient Jets O to add into the mix.
My prediction: A Jets upset. (It’s likely wishful thinking though.)
(* Stats denote info from NFL.com as of Jan. 16.)
Dedra Cordle is a Messenger staff writer.
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