Updated Apr 4, 2011 - 8:52 pm
NFL Championship Weekend preview
By Mike Salk and Brock Huard
We will both be offering previews of the remaining NFL playoff game. Here are our thoughts on Championship Weekend. We'll post a Super Bowl preview Friday, Feb. 4.
Green Bay at Chicago, Sunday at noon.
Brock's take: One of the vivid memories I will always have of Hall of Fame Coach Mike Holmgren was the number of times he would say to me, “Help me trust you. If you want me to call Red Right Out, 24 Double Go, then make the right decision with the ball.”
Thus, for my preview of NFL Championship Weekend, I will channel my inner Mike Holmgren and focus on “trust.” Let’s start with the NFC match-up first.
The Chicago Bears have two trustworthy components to their football team: their dominant front seven and their return units led by Devin Hester. The field conditions also favor the home team, and the familiarity with the Packers personnel is also an asset. The Packers on the other hand have the hottest quarterback in the game, a dynamic receiving core, two excellent coordinators, a relentless pass rush, and two shutdown corners. Therefore, I trust the Packers more, and while I think the Bears will play extremely hard and disciplined, they just won’t have enough firepower or quarterback play to move on to the Super Bowl.
Brock's pick: Packers, 23-13
Mike's take: Everyone and their mother was so impressed with the Packers on Saturday that Green Bay is the favorite even on the road. I agree (and I may buy a cheese head to support the only team left I don't hate), but after spending the previous week doubting the Bears, I'm starting to have some doubts now. Take a look at the best rushing defenses in the NFL this year. The top three teams (Pittsburgh, Chicago and New York) all remain in the tournament. The Packers were 18th.
I'm not going to let one statistic convince me that my eyes are lying to me, but I wanted to point out that it is the one stat which many experts believe carries over to the playoffs better than any other.
Of course, if Aaron Rodgers shows the same poise, accuracy and escapability he displayed in Atlanta, it isn't going to matter much. I'd also look for the Packers secondary to seize the opportunities Jay Cutler gives them. Green Bay picked off 24 passes this year – second most in the NFL. Tramon Williams, Nick Collins and Charles Woodson are a formidable group.
Mike's pick: Packers, 31-17 (Go Packers!)
* * *
New York at Pittsburgh, Sunday at 3:30 pm.
Brock's take: The Jets and Steelers in the AFC Championship is a tougher call. The Jets have dethroned Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive weeks. They were my Super Bowl pick before the season began, and they have been playing with tremendous balance on both sides of the ball.
The Steelers simply know how to win, and Big Ben is second only to Bart Starr in postseason winning percentage. Troy Polamalu missed the first match-up with the Jets, and he changes the game. The Steelers are at home, on another terrible surface, and have the best defensive coordinator in football. When it comes to trust, their defense is clutch, special teams solid, and Big Ben inspires his huddle.
In the end, I don’t trust the Steelers offensive line, which is by all NFL accounts, extremely average. On the flip side, I don’t completely trust Antonio Cromartie and a Jets secondary minus Jim Leonhard on the back end, even though they limited the Colts and Pats. The difference between the two faults is Big Ben’s ability to improvise and buy time, which negates his line’s deficiencies. Therefore, as much as it pains me, the Steelers sneak into the Super Bowl on a breakdown in the Jets secondary.
Brock's pick: Steelers, 20-17 (Go Jets)
Mike's take: I can't imagine anyone finding too much running room in the AFC matchup so quarterback play will be critical. As much as I may not want to admit it, Ben Roethlisberger has experience in these situations and is adept at keeping plays alive long enough to let his receivers come open. On the other side, I think Santonio Holmes has established himself as one of the great big-game players but I simply don't trust Mark Sanchez to make enough plays to win the game, especially considering how Pittsburgh takes away the running game.
One note: I can't imagine how the NFL will deal with Roethlisberger in the Super Bowl after his legal issues this past off-season. No accounting for the refs in this game (tin hat theory)...
Mike's pick: Steelers, 24-10
(This is the second in a series of blog posts that Mike and Brock will be writing over the first few weeks of the Seahawks offseason. See the entire schedule near the top of this page on the righthand column.)
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By Mike Salk and Brock Huard
We will both be offering previews of the remaining NFL playoff game . Here are our thoughts on Championship Weekend.
- Jan 18 - Jeremy Bates, we hardly knew ya
- Jan 20 - Mike grades the Seahawks offense
- Jan 21 - Brock and Salk look at playoff matchups
- Jan 24 - Mike grades the Seahawks defense
- Jan 25 - What's at stake for Jake?
- Jan 27 - What's in store for Matt Hasselbeck?
- Feb 1 - Seahawks Offense: Who stays, who goes?
- Feb 4 - Brock and Salk's Super Bowl preview
- Feb 8 - Three Seahawks at career crossroads
- Feb 14 - How a lockout affects Seahawks
- The Welcome Back Wak-Off! Youth is served!
- Mariners can't keep Jack Wilson, Wedge shows he's in charge
- SI's Peter King fears Jake Locker will be a bust
- 4/5: Ryan Mallett or Jake Locker?
- Mariners show something we hardly saw in 2010 -- heart
- Blue 42: Ryan Mallett doesn't fit with Seahawks
- 4/4: Justin Smoak looks good in Mariners' opening series
- 4/1: Seahawks' top offseason priorities
- Blue 42: All quarterbacks are picked apart
- What will Michael Pineda give the Mariners?