Posts Tagged ‘AFC’

Super Bowl XLV – Let’s Get Ready!!!

After a few days recovering from last weekend’s Conference Championship games, we’re back!  Unless you have been living under a rock, you know that on February 6th, Super Bowl XLV will feature the AFC Champion Pittsburgh Steelers vs. the NFC Champion Green Bay Packers.  As the big day approaches, we will be bringing you all the latest player, coach and team news, as well as what we think the keys to the game are for both teams.  We will also include some features that look at some of the interesting and unique aspects of this year’s Super Bowl.

The Steelers are the oldest team in the AFC, having been established in 1933.  Pittsburgh has 6 Super Bowl championships – the most in the history of the NFL.  The Packers franchise was started in 1919 and they have the most league titles, twelve of which are prior to the establishment of the Super Bowl.  With two teams so rich in tradition, Super Bowl XLV is shaping up to be one of the greatest matchups in recent history. 

We hope you will join us over the next 10 days as we explore the on and off field storylines – like an in depth feature on Cowboy’s Stadium, a look at the very loyal and unique fan bases of both teams, a preview of the pre-game and half time entertainment, and of course, an in depth analysis of both teams!

As we prepare for next Sunday’s festivities, we want to share one of our very favorite tailgating recipes that will be a great addition to your Super Bowl party menu.  It is super easy and can be made the day before the big game.  Enjoy!

Touchdown Tortellini Skewers

Marinade: 

½ cup olive oil

4 Tbsp. sugar

4 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

Salt, pepper, oregano, basil

Cook one package of fresh tortellini (cheese filled).  I use the multi-colored tortellini to make it look more interesting.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Add cubed Jarlsberg cheese.  I buy the pre-packaged wedge of Jarlsberg from the deli and use the entire thing, cubing them to approximately equal the amount of tortellini pieces I have cooked.  Add sliced pepperoni (use enough to approx. correspond to the number of tortellini and cubed cheese) and cherry tomatoes and place in marinade.  Refrigerate a few hours to overnight.

Place on wooden skewers or long football themed picks, alternating tortellini, cheese, and pepperoni.  I use just a small amount of the cherry tomatoes, usually one or two per skewer.  Place on tray and cover with plastic wrap.  Keep refrigerated until ready to serve.

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Who Will Make it to the Super Bowl? Here are Our Predictions!

Today will determine who will be going to the Super Bowl on February 5th.  Will the Chicago Bears win today in the longest rivalry in the history of the NFL?  Or will the Green Bay Packers represent the NFC and make a run for the ultimate title?  In the AFC, will the Steel Curtain be lowered on the Jets or will New York find a way to soar above Pittsburgh’s tough, stingy defense?  Whatever the outcome, this is shaping up to be an electrifying day for gridiron fans!  Here’s our take on who emerges victorious today.

Chicago has home field advantage, but we think the Packers’ overcome the crowd, weather conditions and the Bears’ defense and win in a close game.  Aaron Rodgers is playing phenomenal football and we think he will do whatever it takes to win the game. The keys to a Green Bay victory are…

  1.  Keeping the game from being one dimensional.  Most of the season, the Packers relied almost exclusively on Aaron Rodgers and the passing game.  When they found a running game, they became a much more balanced offense that is simply harder to defend.  The Bears have the #2 rushing defense in the NFL, which will make it a real challenge for Packers RB James Starks.
  2. The Packer’s defense needs to pressure Bears QB Jay Cutler.  Last week against the Seahawks, Cutler had 274 yards passing and 2 TDs, but that was against a Seahawks defense that did little to pressure him.  The Bears have the #5 pass defense in the league, which means Cutler will be facing a much different situation than he did last week.
  3. The Packers need to stop Matt Forte.  Forte poses a threat as a running back and a wide receiver and is peaking at just the right time.  If the Packers don’t have an answer for Forte, he may just win the game for the Bears – especially given the frigid, wintry conditions expected at Soldier Field today.  Since the Packers are better at pass defense than run defense, Forte could be a real game changer.

 

The Jets/Steelers game is a tough one to call.  Big Ben has the experience to take the Steelers into the Super Bowl and is hard to pick against.  But the Jets are coming off a huge upset win against the Patriots and sometimes sheer momentum is enough to beat even the toughest opponents. We pick the Jets in what should be another close one!  For our prediction to come true here is what has to happen.

  1.  Real pressure on Big Ben.  Last week the Jets defense pressured Tom Brady, causing him to lose his rhythm.  Big Ben has the physical size, strength and mobility to escape that pressure.  For the Jets to win, they MUST find a way to disrupt the two-time Super Bowl winning QB.
  2. Contain strong safety Troy Polamalu and head hunter linebacker James Harrison.  If the Jets cannot control these two defensive dynamos, Sanchez is in for a very long day – much of it on the ground looking up at the sky!
  3. Make Shonn Greene and LaDainian Tomlinson key components in the offensive game plan today.  For the Jets to win, they must run a balanced offense, using their two RBs and using a game plan that allows Sanchez to make quick, short throws downfield.  This will be an enormous challenge, given the relentless rush defense of the Steelers.

Given all these seemingly impossible tasks, why have we picked the Jets over the Steelers?  Jets coach Rex Ryan has lost two AFC Championships in a row and simply won’t tolerate a third.  Combined with the momentum the Jets are on after last week’s defeat of the Patriots, we think he and his team will back up their season long tough talk with a victory over the favored Steelers.

Who’s Your Man?

Tomorrow’s AFC Championship game has two high profile quarterbacks – New York Jets QB Mark Sanchez and Pittsburgh Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger.  When it comes to a title game, who would you rather have on your team?

 Big Ben and Mark Sanchez are light years apart in public image.  Roethlisberger’s off the field problems – careless motorcycle driving, two different accusations of sexual assault and a possible drinking problem – have given him a bad boy image.  His QB performance this season has certainly helped repair that image somewhat, but if he doesn’t take the Steelers to the Super Bowl, we have to wonder if fans will once again be reminded of his misdeeds.

Sanchez, on the other hand, has somewhat of a golden boy image.  His wholesome looks, combined with his Southern California roots, make him the perfect candidate for a Hollister ad campaign.  Not only can he pull off a sun-kissed, fun loving surfer image, but he also embraces his refined, cultural side as well.  This past summer, he appeared at the Tony Awards and introduced a song from a Broadway musical, while admitting that he is a big fan of theatre and the arts since moving to New York.  Talk about a multi-faceted personality!

Both Roethlisberger and Sanchez were first round draft picks.  Sanchez was the 5th overall pick in 2009.  When drafted, he had only 16 starts under his belt as a USC Trojan.  He started only one season, but led the Trojans to a 12-1 record and Rose Bowl Championship.  In his first year with the Jets, he took his team to the playoffs, but ultimately lost to the Colts in the AFC Championship game.  He became the 4th rookie QB in NFL history to win his first playoff game and the 2nd to win two playoff games in his rookie year.

Despite only 2 years in the NFL, Sanchez exudes the confidence of a much more experienced player.  Perhaps his poise and leadership skills can be traced to his childhood.  Sanchez’s father – a former Army Sergeant and fire department captain – believed in teaching his son how to think quickly and to be a leader.  As a child, Sanchez mastered these skills by doing drills such as dribbling a basketball without looking – while reciting multiplication tables.  Sanchez’s father would have Mark stay after practices and do these drills in order to learn how to concentrate and think fast in a pressure situation – two skills that are serving him well as the NY Jets QB.

Roethlisberger was the 11th pick in the 2004 draft.   When drafted, he had 3 years of experience playing at Miami University of Ohio.  He broke every major record at the university and dominated the Mid-American Conference as well.  Since he started playing for the Steelers in 2004, Big Ben has compiled an impressive resume, too numerous to list.  Some of his major accomplishments include 2004 Offensive Rookie of the Year, a Pro Bowl Selection in 2007, and oh, by the way, TWO Super Bowl Championships!  Big Ben was the youngest starting QB to ever win a Super Bowl.

Sanchez may have had an upbringing that helped him develop leadership and quick thinking skills.  But Roethlisberger clearly has the advantage when it comes to playoff experience, where those types of skills are truly tested.  He has a 9-2 playoff record, compared to Sanchez’s 4-1 playoff record.  Another advantage Big Ben has is his 6’5” 240 pound frame that makes him a real challenge for defenders to bring down. 

So, which QB would you want on your team tomorrow?  If we were only choosing based on likeability, Mark Sanchez – the California surfer with a love for Broadway – wins hands down.  But if we want to have the best chance of winning the game, Big Ben is our man.   His size, combined with his playoff experience, arm strength and mobility, make him our choice for this fabulous AFC Championship game.

Next Up: NFL Conference Championship Games!

With less than 4 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter on Saturday, the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves tied with the Baltimore Ravens.  With Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger in charge, was the outcome ever in doubt?  The calm, veteran QB gathered the team in the huddle and simply stated, “I’m going down to score.  Who is coming down with me?”  With that, he and the Steelers put together an 11 play drive that resulted in the game winning TD by Rashard Mendenhall. 

The Steelers 31-24 victory earned them a spot in the AFC Conference Championship game next week.  This is Pittsburgh’s 4th AFC title game in seven years.  They will face the New York Jets at home.  The Jets defeated the top seeded New England Patriots yesterday 28-21.  After a week of trash talking from Jets head coach Rex Ryan and some of his players, Gang Green backed up their words with their on field play.  The key to the game was stopping Tom Brady and the Jet’s defensive strategy did just that – sacking the likely MVP 5 times and intercepting him once.   Prior to yesterday, Brady had not thrown an INT in 335 pass attempts.  

The Steelers versus the Jets!  Game time is 6:30 pm ET Sunday.  Make sure to check back this week for the latest news and analysis of what promises to be an exciting AFC Conference Championship!

Meanwhile in the NFC, the Green Bay Packers manhandled the NFC’s top seeded Atlanta Falcons Saturday, defeating them 48-21.  We stated before that Packers QB Aaron Rodgers seems to be a man on a mission and he certainly played like one.  Rodgers completed 31 of 36 passes for 366 yards and three passing TDs, plus a rushing TD.

Green Bay will travel to Chicago to take on the Bears in the NFC Conference Championship game.  The Bears defeated the Seahawks yesterday 35-24.  The Bear’s offense overwhelmed the Seahawks and Bears QB Jay Cutler, in his first post-season appearance, threw 2 TD and rushed for 2 as well. Despite a valiant effort by Seahawks QB Matt Hasselbeck, the Seattle offense simply could not get things going.  The question remains – were the Bears that good, or were the Seahawks really that bad?

The Packers and Bears have a long-standing rivalry, dating back to 1921.  They have met 181 times, but this is the first time they have are playing for an NFC title.  Sunday’s game will air at3 pm ET.  We look forward to breaking down this traditional, storied rivalry in the days to come!

NFL Playoffs – Who is Hot and Who is Not?

After today’s NFL games, the playoff berths are set.  While one game is still in progress (St. Louis Rams and Seattle Seahawks), here is a look at who’s hot and who’s not.

Who is Hot in the NFC?

#1 Seed Atlanta Falcons (13-3) – Earned a bye for next week

#2 Seed Chicago Bears (11-5) – Earned a bye for next week

#3 Seed Philadelphia Eagles (10-6) – Will host #6 Seed Green Bay Packers (10-6) next week

#4 Seed St. Louis Rams (8-7) OR Seattle Seahawks (7-8) – Will host #5 Seed New Orleans Saints (11-5) next week

Who Was Eliminated from the NFC?

After a Green Bay win over the Bears, the New York Giants and Tampa Bay Buccaneers find themselves eliminated from the playoffs and definitely NOT feeling very hot!

 

Who is Hot in  the AFC?

#1 Seed New England Patriots (14-2) – Earned a bye for next week

#2 Seed Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4) – Earned a bye for next week

#3 Seed Indianapolis Colts (10-6) – Will host #6 Seed New York Jets (11-5) next week

#4 Seed Kansas City Chiefs (10-6) – Will host #5 Baltimore Ravens (12-4) next week

Who Was Eliminated from the AFC?

The Jacksonville Jaguars are out of the playoffs after their loss to the Houston Titans.

The NFL playoff season begins next week.  There are some great games to look forward to, so check back for the latest updates and analysis from your Gridironglamourgirl Team!

Under Pressure

“Mm ba ba de
Um bum ba de
Um bu bu bum da de
Pressure ..pushing down on me
Pressing down on you… no man ask for
Under pressure…”

If Peyton Manning is singing in the shower today, he may very well be belting out the words to Queen’s famous song “Under Pressure”.  Basically, his performance tonight will determine whether the struggling 6-6 Colts can pull off a win and keep moving towards a playoff spot.  While it seems unfair that Manning’s play tonight is “do or die”, he simply is the key to a Colts victory.

Manning’s recent slump has been a hot topic these last few weeks, with some questioning his ability and age.  As we pointed out in our recent blog “Peyton Place  – A Football Soap Opera??”, Manning’s slew of interceptions comes down to three major issues:  lack of a running game, poor offensive line protection and an injury-laden receiving corps.

The Titans come into tonight’s game at 5-7, having lost 5 in a row.  They have not scored an offensive TD in 13 quarters and an overtime period.  Starting QB Vince Young is out with an injury, leaving backup Kerry Collins to try and salvage the rest of the season.

With two teams desperately trying to break out of their slumps and have a shot at the playoffs, tonight’s game is critical.  Here is our take on the matchup.

Titans Offense vs Colts Defense

With the loss of Vince Young, QB Kerry Collins has been struggling to establish a passing game.  Their passing offense is last in the AFC and 31st in the NFL.  Randy Moss was recently added to the roster and there is no doubt he has the ability to make big plays, although he has had a lackluster run with the Titans so far.  Wide receiver Kenny Britt will return tonight after missing the last few weeks with a hamstring injury.  Prior to his injury, he led the team in TD receptions.  If Collins can get the ball to Moss and Britt, it could be the key to victory. 

A passing threat would also open up the running game and, given the opportunity, Chris Johnson is simply lethal.  Johnson has been a superstar the past few years, but has been unable to shine this season.  He is averaging slightly over 85 yards per game.  With little or no passing threat, defenses can key in on Johnson and effectively shut him down.

While the Colt’s offensive struggles are well known, Indy’s defense has also been problematic as well.  Against the Cowboys last Sunday, they gave up more than 200 rushing yards.  The Colts run defense is ranked 29th in the NFL and they are giving up over 142 yards per game on average.  If they do not contain Chris Johnson, this can be a game changer.  Like Manning, Johnson has a great deal of pressure on him to carry his team tonight, given the Titan’s ineffective passing game.

While the Colt’s run defense has been vulnerable, they have had a very effective pass defense – ranked 4th in the NFL.  However, on Tuesday, Colts cornerback Jerraud Powers was put on IR on with a broken arm.  In addition, safety Bob Sanders has been out with an injury since the season opener.  He was finally placed on IR and yesterday the Colts signed rookie defensive back David Pender to replace him.    A weakened Colts secondary could give Moss and Britt the opportunity to make big plays.

Colts Offense vs Titans Defense

The Colts rushing offense ranks last in the NFL.  It is basically non-existent.   Opposing teams know that the Indy’s offense is all about Manning and the passing game.  With running backs Joseph Addai, Mike Hart and Donald Brown out with injuries, the Colts are left with rookie Joique Bell, who they only signed in mid-November.  Their other RB is rookie Javarris James, who was cut from the Colts in September, then signed with the Patriots and was cut a month later.  James next signed with the Redskins for one day, until returning to the Colts in October.  Clearly these 2 rookies do not pose a rushing threat, which makes the Colts a one dimensional team.

Despite their recent woes, the Colts rank 1st in passing in the NFL and 4th in overall offense.   The 11 interceptions Manning has thrown in the last three games have definitely impacted the outcome of some of the games, especially when a number of those interceptions were returned for TDs by opponents.  Manning has taken the blame for his poor play of late, which is not surprising given his character and his role as leader.  But he is not shying away from passing because he knows it is THE only way the Colts will find any offensive success.  There is a great deal of pressure on Manning to exploit a Titans passing defense that has also struggled and is ranked 23rd in the league.

For the Colts to win, the O-line needs to step up and protect their 4 time NFL MVP, who has always played his best when he has a protected pocket from which to pick apart opponents.  If the Titans can disrupt the pocket and force Manning out of his comfort zone, interceptions are more likely.  Titans’ linebackers are salivating at the chance of picking off a Peyton pass, so keeping pressure off of Manning is vital.  The Titans have had a great deal of success pressuring QBs, with 33 sacks this season.

Under Pressure… Who Will Rise and Who Will Fall?

When the season began, it was expected that tonight’s Colts/Titans game would be a matchup between two high flying teams battling for first place in the AFC South.  No one predicted that the defending AFC champion Indianapolis Colts would be 6-6 and that the Titans would hold a pitiful 5-7 record.  Both teams now find themselves struggling to simply stay alive in the playoff picture. 

The pressure for both teams to pull off a victory is tremendous.  But when the season is on the line, we believe Peyton Manning is the player who will rise to the challenge.  Look for Manning to regain his poise and use the indefinable quality he possesses to turn adversity into success.   Our prediction:  Colts 31, Titans 24.

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