CHICAGO – OK, it’s getting to be about that time.
Here are my amazingly accurate predictions (ahem, 2-6 so far in the playoffs) for today’s games.
I don’t know much, but this much I feel pretty confident in saying: this game will be decided in the first 20 minutes of the game. Either the Packers come out hot and continue to roll – no team outside New England is better as a front runner – or the Packers come out with their usual sloppy road offense, let Chicago hang around and it becomes a 60-minute game. It was hard to see under the avalanche of points, but the Packers actually started slow on offense – again - against the Falcons when Greg Jennings was stripped. Those types of things (and penalties and sacks) happen early on the road for the Packers. Teams that play Green Bay have to make them pay for those mistakes early because at some point in time – and I think I’ve said this about five times previously – Aaron Rodgers is going to catch fire. And look out. Also, the Packers getting an early lead plays into the hands of defensive coordinator Dom Capers, who will get more aggressive. But if this is a 60-minute game, and I think it will be because Mike McCarthy’s offense has always lacked explosion against Cover 2 defenses, it favors the Bears. The Packers are great in blowouts, but they’re terrible in close game when Mike McCarthy’s questionable game management comes into play. He also gets tight, which makes his team play tight. And I’m sensing a big play from the Bears’ special teams. The Packers have long been crummy covering kicks. For some reason I envision McCarthy having to answer questions about why they kicked to Devin Hester.
Bears 20, Packers 17.
The x-factor is how much did the Jets leave at Gillette Stadium? Can they play another perfect game? They don’t need to play a perfect game to beat the Steelers, that’s why I think they can win again. It comes down to this for me: the Steelers’ defense isn’t as good as they have been in previous years, and their offensive line is terrible. The call here is the Jets leave Heinz Field the same way they left Gillette Stadium: with everyone realizing the Steelers don’t have that many good offensive weapons and their defense has trouble getting stops against good run teams that can spread you out with big-play threats (Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards, Brad Smith).
Jets 23, Steelers 17