by Ryan Meehan
Championship weekend in the NFL is great because the games start later. Instead of having any games at noon, you start the first game at 2PM, and then the second one is pretty much on in primetime. (5:30 – 9PM) Sunday brought two very well played football games, and now we officially have our participants for Super Bowl XLV in North Texas February 6th.
GB 21- CHI 14
The Bears-Packers game was interesting. It’s hard to win a trip to play in the big game when you’re driving down the field down 7 points and you have to have a third stringer run the two minute drill in the biggest game in the history of such a storied rivalry. That’s right folks, Chicago had Caleb Hanie in there when it got to be crunch time. And other than the two picks he had, he played quite well. The two interceptions were indicative of a guy who didn’t get a lot of reps in practice, which I’m sure he didn’t.
I’m beginning to become a bit of an Aaron Rodgers fan. He wasn’t able to play at the level to which he played the previous week in Atlanta, but that guy has a very precise awareness about the things that are going on around him. If Green Bay gets up early, the oppostion is in a rough spot. I can’t believe how many plays the Packers have that are designed for eight or nine yard gains. It just blows me away. And he gets the ball off SO fast when he’s running all of them, it’s very impressive. And I think it’s very important to point out that the Packers are easily the best Six Seed since the format began. The only team that would even come close? The 2005 Steelers.
There’s a lot of people on the social networking sites today bagging on Cutler for not going back into the game. Of course, the team says it was the trainers and coaching staff who pulled him from the game. Look, I wasn’t there and I don’t know who told who what, but I do think that Cutler needs to sell people on the fact that he gives a shit a little better. Right now to me, Jay Cutler doesn’t look like Jay Cutler cares, and that’s going to be a problem in Chicago if he returns next year and starts 1-4, which is very possible. Sunday night on Sportscenter they had Trent Dilfer talking about how he was questioning Jay Cutler’s mentality and I thought there was a very odd moment in irony there. Pictures of people burning his jersey surfaced on the internet within hours. The fans don’t care the Bears got all the way to the NFC Championship because they want Super Bowls NOW. Ask Rex Grossman if you can pull a fast one on that franchise. (You can probably find him riding the ponies outside the Wal Mart in DC) Cutler gives off this vibe that he doesn’t give a shit and people are starting to take notice of that. You don’t need to be an expert in body language to know when someone’s mailing it in. Especially when it’s a guy that looks hung over as hell every single week. And if he was hurt why was he standing up on the sidelines? Crying about it Monday didn’t help much either. I’m going to continue to follow this story because it does seem a tad fishy. At press time, it is being reported as a MCL sprain. It would have been risky to continue to allow Cutler to play, but other players have played with bad knees before.
The real story here is seeing Aaron Rodgers lead an extremely motivated and driven team to victory once again. Barring injury, he’s going to have a very long and productive NFL career. At only 27 years old, he now has the chance to match the number of Super Bowl victories won by the legend that he replaced in Brett Favre. And the Packers defense is no bullshit either. They had to beat Philadelphia, Atlanta, and Chicago to get here and they held on to the lead at the end of all three of those games. (And to think I had the Eagles going all the way) I had said last week that Dom Capers probably gets a ton of credit for his schemes during the game because their defensive roster is so stacked. It’s kind of a lame take to say that it’s a combination of both, but he presented some looks on Sunday that made it nearly impossible for the Bears to score.
PIT 24, NYJ 19
The Pittsburgh Steelers are headed back to the Super Bowl for the third time since 2005. They scored 24 points in the first half and their defense was playing well enough to just come out and run the ball and eat time up until the end of the game.
Roethlisberger is a confusing case to me. Some downs he’s John Elway and some downs he’s Seneca Wallace. Consider this: They just made it to the goddamned Super Bowl after going an entire thirty minute half without scoring once and gave up a safety. I’m not bagging on the Steelers…they deserve to go to the big one, but I do think they have this weird “trapdoor” thing going on. They fall into these extended periods of time where they can’t function effectively on offense. It happened first half last week in the Ravens game, but this one worries me a little more because they didn’t finish well. Big Ben had a passer rating of just 35.5 Sunday Night, but he’s still headed to the Super Bowl. It’s very puzzling.
Rashard Mendenhall had 121 tough yards against a very physical defense during this game. It’s amazing how a guy can sit out for a whole season and so many fans can forget how good that player really is. Right now, Mendenhall is their anchor, and he’s getting the ball down the field so he’s going to get that ball quite a bit.
The Jets had a good year, but it’s pretty obvious to me at this point that Mark Sanchez is not a reliable long term option. He doesn’t fit on that team either: He’s a pretty boy and has less than ten children. He can’t pick apart really good defenses. Sanchez racks up great stats every once in a while, but it’s always against a team like the Dolphins or the Bills so he doesn’t get any credit. Which is great because he really didn’t deserve any to begin with. I don’t know why everybody’s sold on Sanchez this soon. Yes, he’s made it to two AFC Championship games. But, don’t you think there are a lot of quarterbacks that could win with the current roster the Jets have? Their backup is Mark Brunell. And he’s not a future hall of Famer, but I’d think he could step into a game today and give the Jets just as much of a chance to win as if they had Mark Sanchez in there.
It’s not entirely Sanchez’ fault that they played so poorly in the first half…The Jets only racked up one rushing yard the entire first and second quarter. LaDanian Tomlinson needed to have a clutch performance to give the Jets a better shot at winning the game, and he didn’t.
Overall, the Steelers played well enough to earn the victory, but still have a lot of issues heading into Super Bowl week.
Very Early Super Bowl Preview
I think it’s a good matchup for the NFL. Steelers and Packers are two small market teams that love their football. I was online after the games and it never ceases to amaze me how quickly people will say that the Super Bowl will be “weak this year”. This should not be one of those years. In this area, all of the dart league Bears fans that own one jersey (and ignore football completely after they’re eliminated from the playoffs, providing they even make it) are all depressed at the moment because their team didn’t make it to the big one. So they get online and blab on and on, forgetting that absolutely no one would want to see a Bears-Steelers Super Bowl. I’m crossing my fingers in one aspect of the game: I’d like to see a Super Bowl game go into overtime, and this would be a great one.
Other news from around the league
Peyton Manning is about to be a very rich man again and this time it doesn’t have anything to do with selling TVs. The Colts have extended a very generous first offer that will make him the highest paid player in the NFL. However, sources say team president Bill Polian presented a pitch Thursday that the Colts want more cash flow to build the talent around Manning with a more aggressive offseason that could include a few key free-agent signings. I’m not exactly sure how they plan to do both of these things, but if I was Manning I’d take a pay cut for a couple reliable guys to throw to. Or (God Forbid) a legitmate running threat.
NFLPA head DeMaurice Smith sounded off at a meeting last week, stating that the union is “at war” with the league. Anybody who compares their profession to war needs to know that comparison is a little bit more effective when there isn’t an actual war going on. March 3rd is the deadline for all of the labor negotiations, but I just think there’s too much money at stake to make this thing happen. Goddell does look worried about it, but he always has that “standing over a urinal” look on his face. And where are all of the sponsors during all of this? I would think they’d have something to say if the most popular sport in the country just up and took a whole season off. If Coors Light can’t run those copy and paste press conference ads for a whole season, how in the world are they going to convince anybody to purchase the swill they fill millions of bottles with every year?
Brett Favre’s sister got busted for methamphetamine possession, and if that’s the last report we read about him that’s hilarious.
Carson Palmer wants out of Cincinnati, and I’m sure they won’t fight to keep him after the year he had. It would be in the Bengals’ best interest to contact the Arizona Cardinals and see what they can get for him. Reports coming from the franchise’s camp suggest that President Mike Brown has no intentions of trading him, a very stupid and stubborn take on something that could have probably been decided after that playoff loss last year.
I remember getting the Sports Illustrated NFL preview issue back in August. SI Senior NFL Editor Peter King predicted a Steelers / Packers Super Bowl, and we all thought he was insane. That might still be true, but he nailed that pick.
We’ll see you next weekend here at FOH with a full breakdown of Super Bowl XLV.
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