New York Jets @ Pittsburgh Steelers AFC Conference Championships: I know the Steelers didn’t party like it was 1999 when they beat the Ravens to get a spot in the AFC Championship game. I know they are expecting bigger and better things, with the Super Bowl on their “to do” list. I can’t say the same about the Jets, a team that acted like last week was the first time they’ve ever won a football game before. I think they’ve been great thus far, and getting past the Pats was a major stepping-stone. I’m sure the Steelers are happy about that as well. While both defenses are nasty, and the Steelers lost at home to the Jets once already this season, I still think Pittsburgh has the advantage in this match-up. I’ve already seen Pitt win the Super Bowl, a couple times, and I’ve had plenty of that – but picking with my brain has them getting a chance to ring another finger.
Anytime a team is getting as much hype as the Jets, they aren’t a value pick. I’m sure there’s an exception to that rule, but it’s hard to argue that case. Underdogs often out perform super-teams in terms of the spread, and while nobody is trying to claim that the Jets are the super-team in comparison to the Steelers, nobody can argue that they are the media sweethearts headed into the final weeks of NFL football.
This is a Jets team that talks the talk before walking the walk, though so far their walk isn’t far behind their talk. They put on a show for us with HBO’s “Hard Knocks” then told the Patriots they were going to whip them good all week. The Super-Bowl favorite Patriots. And they did.
But it comes down to mentality, and I think the Jets will lose a bit after “finally” conquering the Patriots last week. If they feel like they’ve already won, that chip has less weight on their collective shoulder. Make it two for two with home team picks this week.
Green Bay Packers @ Chicago Bears NFC Conference Championships: The Bears haven’t been my favorite team this season, but they look pretty impressive defensively. The Packers can have some blocking problems, and with Tommie Harris and Julian Peterson playing well up front, that could be dangerous for the Packers. I love the Packers, I really do – they looked great the last two weeks and Aaron Rodgers looked as good as any QB I’ve seen in a long time. But this game has been close both times these two have played. Green Bay won in Week 17 in Green Bay when the Bears played all their starters despite having nothing to play for. The Packers had to squeak out a 10-3 win in one heck of a battle. Earlier in the season the Bears won in Chicago by 3, and they played very well last week against the Seahawks. I don’t know who wins this game, but the value has to be on the home team dogs.
The “experts” are going with the Packers and so are those talented public bettors. In fact, despite getting more than a field goal at home, the Bears are taking in just 37% of the bets – making Green Bay the overwhelming favorite.
Listen, I know the Packers have completely shut down Jay Cutler (Just 199 passing yards in the first meeting, 117 in the 2nd) but despite that horrid play from the frumpy-faced often color-blind former Bronco, the Bears have stuck right with Green Bay.
As I said above, with playoffs on the line for Green Bay, and nothing but a week off ahead for the Bears, Week 17’s game between the Packers and Bears was a battle. It was a 3-3 tie going into the 4th quarter, and a 1-yard touchdown pass from Aaron Rodgers to Donald Lee was the only touchdown of the game.
This is going to be a battle, and while I love the Packers, I love getting a field goal plus with my home team in this one.