Posts Tagged ‘Ben Roethlisberger’

Inside the Mind of a Football-Loving Female

Online Fantasy Football advice is as plentiful as Photoshopped pictures of Kim Kardashian’s wedding these days.  So if you’re looking for yet more expert guidance on the subject, you have clicked on the wrong link!  While I may not provide the same information that a seasoned sports writer or big time TV analyst can offer, my draft picks can give you a glimpse into the mind of an average football-loving female!  At the very least, my logic (and often unorthodox reasons) for drafting players will convince even the greenest FF player believe he or she is a draft day genius!

Pick #1 LeSean McCoy – Running Back – Philadelphia Eagles

For my first pick, I took a bit of a gamble.  I had the 8th pick in the first round, which gave me the 3rd pick in the 2nd round.  Despite conventional wisdom, I had decided weeks earlier to take Michael Vick as my #1 pick if he had not already been snagged.   As draft day adrenaline rushed through my body, I abruptly selected McCoy, counting on Vick still being available early in round 2.  My reasoning?   My fantasy team is comprised of players from Atlanta – aka Falcons fanatics/Vick haters.   I figured I would get two extremely elite picks – McCoy and Eagles – and be well on my way to winning the league.  My sly tactics failed me, though, when Vick was chosen as the 10th pick in the first round!

Despite my disappointment in not obtaining the most dynamic, athletic player in the NFL (Vick), I am thrilled with McCoy.  Like Vick, he is a dual threat.  Last year, he ran for over 1000 yards, had nearly 80 receptions and scored 9 TDs.  LeSean is the Real McCoy and I think he will give me a lot of value in my PPR league.

Pick#2 Darren McFadden – Running Back – Oakland Raiders

With my dreams of dominating my league via Vick smashed to smithereens, I decided to use my next pick on another hot RB.  McFadden seems to be a player on the rise.  In 2010, he rushed for nearly 1200 yards and scored 10 TDs, making him the #2 RB in PPR points per game.  The only downside to this pick is McFadden’s tendency to get injured.  The numbers he posted last season were incredible and he missed 3 games!  If he can stay somewhat healthy, he and I could be in for a winning season!

Pick#3 Ben Roethlisberger – Quarterback – Pittsburgh Steelers

By the time my round 3 pick came around, not only was Vick taken, but Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and Drew Brees were no longer on the board.  I felt the pressure to pick a QB, so I held my breath and chose Big Ben.  Sure, he has incredible numbers and is a wildly successful QB.  But I have a knee-jerk reaction to Roethlisberger that nearly caused me to pass on him.  Maybe it is because he very likely has treated young woman disrespectfully (putting it mildly) and has pretty much remained unscathed for his behavior.  So despite my instinct to choose a less effective QB on some high moral grounds, I chose Big Ben on the grounds of trying to win my fantasy league.

Pick#4 DeSean Jackson – Wide Receiver – Philadelphia Eagles 

Feeling pretty good about snatching up 2 elite RBs and a high caliber QB, I knew it was time to get a good receiver.  Luckily for me, Eagles wideout Jackson was still on the board.  I’ve heard all the naysayers spouting stats from last year that demonstrate his inconsistency.  But I believe Jackson and Vick are headed for some big time plays this season.  Jackson may hand me a few wins this year based on some single game performances.  Besides that, he has the speed and natural ability to shed defenders that makes him one of the most dynamic receivers in the game today – and he is just plain COOL!

Pick # 5 Beanie Wells – Running Back – Arizona Cardinals

Rookie RB Ryan Williams (a Hokie!) was headed for some big time carries this season with the Cardinals.  Sadly, Williams suffered a season ending injury a few weeks ago so teammate Beanie Wells will likely play a far greater role.  Beanie has a history of injuries and his numbers last year were unimpressive and forgettable.  I think at some point early in the season the Cardinals may make a trade or sign a free agent to replace Williams, thereby cutting Beanie’s playing time.  So while I think he may have been a decent choice and can give me some points early on, I expect that I too may replace Beanie as the season progresses.

Pick #6 Marques Colston – Wide Receiver – New Orleans Saints

Off season knee surgery dropped the value of Colston.  They say New Orleans is a place where you don’t follow the rules, so I threw out conventional wisdom and gambled that Colston will re-visit his stellar stats of last year.   It is fantasy football – not life or death – so what the heck?!!

Pick #7 Kevin Kolb – Quarterback – Arizona Cardinals

As an Eagles fan, I had the opportunity to watch Kevin Kolb last year before he was injured and ultimately lost his job to Michael Vick.  I think he’s a smart player who will surprise many gridiron gurus this season. He may not be a Tom Brady or Peyton Manning caliber player, but he is a solid choice for the #2 QB slot.

Pick#8 Mark Ingram – Running Back – New Orleans Saints

While a Heisman Trophy winner like Ingram defies the word “sleeper” in most senses, as an untested rookie in the NFL, he became my “sleeper” in this draft.  Is it a risk to pick a rookie?  Yes.  But at #8, I like my chances.  There’s no doubt Ingram is loaded with talent.  With Pierre Thomas on the team, he won’t be the “go to” back for the Saints, but he should get enough carries to justify my pick.  I think for someone with his potential, this pick was a steal!

Pick #9 Santana Moss – Wide Receiver – Washington Redskins

As 9 round approached, I decided it was time to stock up on another receiver.  I was surprised to see a consistent veteran like Moss available this late, so this was an easy-peasy pick!

Pick#10  Defense /Special Teams – Chicago Bears

Da Bears!  As the rounds quickly progressed, my fellow teammates were little by little choosing their defenses.  I planned on waiting to my 16th or 17th pick, but fell to peer pressure.

Pick#11 Dustin Keller – Tight End – New York Jets

I will admit that I have often neglected the TE position in my draft.  Frankly, this year was no different.  As I looked over my roster through 10 rounds, I realized I had not yet drafted a TE.  I am aware that sometimes a TE can give a fantasy owner some big points, but I have never truly paid the position the attention it most likely deserves.  For this pick, I basically used a FF cheat sheet to pick my first TE.  So much for planning…

Pick #12 Ben Tate – Running Back –  Houston Texans

Arian Foster was the #1 pick in countless fantasy drafts this year.  But with his hamstring injury plaguing him, little known Tate could see some extra carries.  As a late round pick, this seemed like a pretty good bet.  Should Foster improve quickly and Derrick Ward gets the bulk of the remaining carries, I could envision dropping Tate for another unforeseen need.  But a 12th round gamble like this seems like a no-brainer!

Pick#13 Aaron Hernandez – Tight End – New England Patriots

I am not a big fan of Tom Brady’s personality, but the guy has talent.  With a QB like Brady, Hernandez is a solid choice as my #2 TE.  As much as it pains me to admit it, any Brady receiver is a steal in the 13th round.

Pick#14 Jerome Simpson – Wide Receiver – Cincinnati Bengals

By all accounts, Simpson is a “sleeper” in this year’s draft.  He finished last season on an upswing and could be in for some big numbers this year.  He has a rookie QB to contend with, but this is definitely going to be an interesting choice.  As a 14th pick, I thought he would be a fun addition without a lot of risk.

Pick #15 Darren Sproles  – Running Back – New Orleans Saints

Competing for time with Mark Ingram will be tough for Sproles.  But the potential for some strong games is there, making him a fantastic find to join my RB corps.

Pick #16 Josh Brown – Kicker – St. Louis Rams

I don’t waste time and energy on picking my kicker.  In the last round or two, I pull up a list of available kickers and pick the highest ranked one.  Badda Bing, Badda Boom!!

Pick #17 Anthony Dixon – Running Back – San Francisco 49ers

For my last pick, I went for yet another RB.  Anthony Dixon’s rating was one of the best ones still available in the RB position by the end of the draft, so I made an easy decision and took him!

My team is set to go and I eagerly await the start of the season.  My roster will surely change many times throughout the season, but I am pleased with my picks, despite my Vick-less roster.  Many people spend months preparing for their draft.  That’s way too serious for me.  I like to select my players based on a dash of research, a pinch of “expert” advice, but a huge helping of instinct.  Will I be the ultimate fantasy football champion with this strategy?  Probably not, but I do think I will be a contender, and at the very least, have a lot of fun!

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Can Clay Matthews and the Packers Bring Down Big Ben?

The clock is ticking down to Super Bowl XLV and we are getting excited for this classic match up!  We’ve taken a look at Pittsburgh’s offense, focusing on the offensive line and the adversity it has faced this past season.  We believe that the O-line must win the battle in the trenches and allow a rushing game to develop in order for the Steelers to win.   Standing in their way is Green Bay’s defensive guru – Dom Capers.  Let’s examine Capers, some key players and the potential strategies Green Bay will use to stop Big Ben and company.

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers is considered one of the most organized and thorough coaches in the league.  He keeps volumes of notes and is a master at devising schemes that confound opposing offenses.  When he coached at Pittsburgh in 1992, he and Dick LeBeau, the Steelers’ current defensive coordinator, created and installed the 3-4 zone defense that the Steelers use today.  On Sunday, Capers and LeBeau face off against each other in a battle of defensive masterminds.  There is no doubt that both defensive coordinators will devise clever, well designed game strategies.  The game will come down to which team best executes those game plans.

In 2009, Green Bay lost to Pittsburgh 37-36.  Roethlisberger had over 500 yards passing and 3 TDs in that game.  Capers and his pressure oriented defense sacked Big Ben 5 times, but it wasn’t enough to throw the big, physical QB off of his game.  Mike Wallace also had a huge impact on that game.  He had a TD on the first play from scrimmage, as well as the game winning TD in the final seconds of the game.   Capers will likely use that 2009 game as inspiration as he draws up his 3-4, zone-blitz scheme to contain the Steelers. 

In the 2009 contest, Capers didn’t pressure Big Ben as much in the final minutes of the game because his deep coverage was falling apart and Roethlisberger was picking them apart.  He was only able to rush 3 or 4 players in the final minutes and the opportunistic Wallace scored on a 19 yard TD pass.  The Packers have cornerbacks Sam Shields and Tramon Williams to provide much better coverage than in the 2009 game, which should allow more Capers to rush more players towards the pocket and apply more pressure on Big Ben. 

Given Pittsburgh’s patchwork O-line due to injuries, Capers will look to exploit any suspected weaknesses.  With Pittsburgh standout center Maurkice Pouncey doubtful for Sunday, 6’ 2”, 337 pound nose tackle B.J. Raji is likely chomping at the bit.  Raji has become a YouTube phenomenon after he intercepted a pass in the NFC Championship game, returned it for a TD and proceeded to celebrate by dancing with his hands on his waist and wiggling his hips like he was in a hoola hoop contest.  Raji is the heaviest player to ever score a TD in post season play!  If Pouncey is out, Capers will look to disrupt his replacement – undrafted center Doug Legursky – and the dancing Raji may just be the one to cause that disruption.

Another potential mismatch exists between tenacious left outside linebacker Clay Matthews and Steelers right tackle Flozell Adams.  In last year’s game, Matthews annihilated Steelers tackle Max Starks as he sacked Big Ben twice and hit him hard three times.  Mathews also forced a fumble that eventually got overturned.  Big Ben is hard to bring down, but with Matthews’ success against him from last year, it is an advantage that Capers is sure to use, especially as he is lined up against the declining, older Adams, who is in his 13th year in the NFL.  Both Raji and Matthews will try to disrupt the pocket all game long, pressuring Big Ben and causing a potential game changing turnover in the process.

The Steelers know they will need to run the ball to win and will count on Rashard Mendenhall to carry the load.   In the AFC Championship game against the #3 ranked Jets rush defense, Mendenhall ground out 121 crucial yards.  The Packers have a run defense ranked a mediocre 18th in the league.  At first glance, that appears to give the Steelers a real advantage in running the ball.  However, Capers has deliberately designed his defense to allow opponents to gain 5 or 6 yards on 1st and 2nd down.  They use their nickel package, with 5 defensive backs on the field.  Capers’ strategy is that in passing to set up the run, this scheme gives the Packers a chance of creating an interception.  When it matters, Capers dials up a defense that stiffens to stop the run. 

Raji and tackle Ryan Pickett have been effective in stopping the inside run, which Mendenhall favors.  Matthews and linebacker A.J. Hawk will be called upon to stop Mendenhall from getting to the second line of defense.  In 2009, with much of the same defensive personnel in place, the Packers run defense ranked first in the league.  That is why the #18 ranking is so deceptive.  Capers has simply devised a different tactic that gives up short yardage on 1st or 2nd down, but can effectively stop the run on crucial third downs.

After looking at the matchup between the Steelers offense and Packers defense, we give the edge to Green Bay.  While Roethlisberger will undoubtedly make some clutch plays, we think Capers and his pressure oriented defense will slow down Big Ben’s scoring.  We also think turnovers by the Packers’ defense will play a pivotal role in the outcome of the game.  Clay Matthews missed the Associated Press’ coveted Defensive Player of the Year this season by the slimmest of margins (a mere 2 votes) to Super Bowl rival Troy Polamalu.  The relentless Matthews has something to prove and we feel he may very well be a critical factor in Super Bowl XLV.

Steelers O-Line May be Key to 7th Super Bowl Championship

This week, as we look forward to Super Bowl XLV, we will look at each team’s offensive and defensive units and what they need to do to be successful as they appear on the biggest gridiron stage in the world!   Today, we examine Pittsburgh’s offense, including its strengths, the challenges it has faced and the keys to holding off a very talented Green Bay defense.  While Pittsburgh is known for its defensive prowess, like the lore of the Steel Curtain, offensively the Steelers must have a big day if they want to walk away with their 7th Super Bowl title.

Ben Roethlisberger is the face of Pittsburgh’s offense.  With 2 Super Bowl rings and an impressive record in post season play, he is a critical component to the Steelers’ success.  While he may not have the accuracy and poise of Peyton Manning, Big Ben can make the clutch plays needed to pull off a win.  He has grit and determination that does not quit and it is those attributes that have brought the Steelers to Super Bowl XLV. 

Big Ben’s 6’5” 240 pound frame has been essential this season.  His size and strength make it difficult for defenders to bring him down.  But Roethlisberger has faced a great deal of pressure since the offensive line has been plagued with injuries all season.  Right tackle Willie Colon was injured in July and missed the entire season.  Right guard Trai Essex missed 4 games early in the season, left tackle Max Starks was out Week 9 and left guard Chris Kemoeatu missed a game with an ankle injury as well.  Rookie center Maurkice Pouncey, the Steelers’ first round draft pick last year, is the latest misfortune to affect the O-line.  Pouncey suffered an ankle injury in the AFC Championship game and it is unlikely he will play on Sunday.

If Pouncey does indeed miss the Super Bowl, it means that right tackle Flozell Adams will be the only offensive line player to have started every game this season.  Adams is a veteran who played for the Cowboys the past 12 seasons before being released by them this year.  This is his first Super Bowl appearance and as he returns to play for the Lombardi Trophy in Cowboys Stadium, we can’t help but wonder if Jerry Jones regrets his decision to let him go.

The adversity that the Steelers’ offensive line has lived with this season would have caused many teams to fail.  Injuries forced some O-lineman to play positions they had never played before.  Despite these challenges and Roethlisberger’s 4 game suspension early in the season, the Steelers found a way to win.  Against the Packers, they will have to be able to run the ball, which could prove to be especially difficult if Pouncey is out.  But in last week’s AFC Championship game, the O-line played what was arguably its best game yet.  Rashard Mendenhall rushed for 121 yards in that game, but more importantly he consistently gets the tough, short yardage when most needed.  In post-season play, the Steelers have scored on all 6 of their first and goal situations and Mendenhall scored 3 of those TDs.

When Mendenhall isn’t being asked to grind out some yardage, Big Ben will go to the air.  Roethlisberger will no doubt be pressured by Dom Capers’ defense.  Big Ben has the ability to escape pressure, but the Packers will be relentless with their very talented defensive unit, including linebacker Clay Matthews and defensive tackle B.J. Raji. 

With a strong pass rush from the Packers, the key for Big Ben will be to get rid of the ball quickly.  He has the ability to make quick passes, especially on crucial third downs, that can prove deadly to blitzing defenses.  Roethlisberger’s downfield targets include veteran Hines Ward, who was the Super Bowl MVP in 2005.  However, look for the younger players in the receiving corps, like Mike Wallace and Antonio Brown to play bigger roles in Sunday’s game. 

As a rookie, Wallace caught the game winning TD in a 2009 game against the Packers, just as the clock expired.  This season he led Pittsburgh with over 1200 yards and 10 TDs.  In the post season, rookie receiver Brown has been more of a factor, as Wallace has been drawing double coverage.

The Steelers face an intimidating defense on Sunday orchestrated by Capers who is simply a master at disguising his schemes.  Pittsburgh’s offense will face a daunting challenge trying to read and contain the defense, but they can triumph if their offensive line plays well.  While Pittsburgh’s O-line is often criticized, it has scraped and scratched its way to success amid much adversity.  For the Steelers to win, the O-line MUST contain the Packers so that Roethlisberger is not constantly shedding off defenders all day long.  If they can step up as they did in the AFC Championship game, the running game can be established and it will allow Pittsburgh to control the clock.  A running game will also force more Packers to the line of scrimmage and open up Big Ben’s passing game.   While Roethlisberger may indeed be the face of the Steelers offense, on Sunday it will be the O-line that determines whether they win or lose.

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!

Ravens vs. Steelers – Are You Ready for Some Smash-Mouth Football?

After a crazy Wild Card weekend, the Divisional Playoffs are now upon us.  Over the next few days, we will look at this weekend’s games, which should prove to be just as exciting as last weekend’s contests.  We went 1-4 in our Wild Card predictions, so if you’re entering an office pool, you may want to reconsider putting any wagers on our picks!

The first game this weekend is an AFC North Divisional Playoff featuring Baltimore and Pittsburgh.  Game time is 4:30 pm ET on CBS.  These two hard hitting teams embody good ol’ fashioned, smash- mouth football and the testosterone level will be sky high!  What better way to start the divisional playoffs than with an intense rivalry between two physical teams?

It’s a home game for the Steelers and fans will be out in force, frantically waving their “Terrible Towels” and cheering for their beloved team.  The last time these teams met was in early December when the Steelers overcame a 10-3 deficit, scoring 10 points in the 4th quarter to pull off a 13-10 victory.  Earlier in the season, at Heinz Field, the Ravens defeated the Steelers, but it was a game in which Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger was missing due to his NFL suspension.

Last weekend the Ravens beat the Chiefs in a Wild Card game that held KC to only 7 points, despite the Chief’s prolific rushing offense.  Their 30-7 victory certainly provides momentum coming into this week’s heated rivalry with the Steelers.  But their win last week had a lot to do with the turnovers (3 interceptions and two fumbles) committed by the Chiefs.  In the third quarter Baltimore led only 10-7, but their powerful, fast defense rattled the Chiefs and the offense was able to capitalize on the KC’s miscues.  Ravens QB Joe Flacco completed 25 of 34 passes for 265 yards and 2 TDs.

Flacco is 4-2 in road playoff games and will need an error free day to win against a tough Steelers defense.  Running back Ray Rice will need to have a big game as well.  The Steelers led the NFL in rush defense this season and held Rice to just 32 rushing yards and 18 passing yards in their last match up.

Defensively, the Ravens have 4 Pro Bowlers on their roster – linebackers Ray Lewis and Terrell Suggs, defensive tackle Haloti Ngata and safety Ed Reed.  Ranked third for fewest points allowed this season, the defense wins them games and will be crucial if they are to emerge victorious against the Steelers on Saturday.  Safety Ed Reed is a critical defensive factor, capable of making some big plays.  Ray Lewis is the leader on the field and also provides the inspiration and motivation 

The Steelers, on the other hand, had a bye last weekend.  They will be rested and ready to face their division nemesis.  Since 1970, the Steelers have not lost to a divisional rival in post season play. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger has won his last 6 games against the Ravens, even after suffering a broken nose in the first quarter of their last meeting.  He has thrown 158 straight passes without an interception.  Big Ben has playoff experience (and two Super Bowl Championships) and will undoubtedly be poised and ready to play in front of his home crowd.

Like Baltimore, Pittsburgh is also known for its defense.  Safety Troy Polamalu has game changing abilities.  He played a pivotal role in the last game between the Steelers and Ravens when he stripped the ball from Ravens QB Flacco, which led to the game winning TD.

With the two defenses so evenly matched and the last 4 games being decided by a 3 point margin, who will prevail in this clash?  While the Ravens have momentum, we think Pittsburgh wins in a close battle that comes down to the 4th quarter and possibly even overtime.  The home crowd, combined with Big Ben’s playoff experience, should be enough to give Pittsburgh the edge in this tough, physical matchup.

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