Who Am I?

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I served in the US Navy from 2002-08; four of those years were as a Nuclear Propulsion Operator aboard an aircraft carrier. I engage in political activism in various Democratic circles when I am able to. I have a cat, and I am an uncle.

All opinions that I express are my own and do not reflect the views of any organization that I represent.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

NFL 2010 PLAYOFFS: CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIP SUNDAY













GREEN BAY PACKERS at CHICAGO BEARS, 2PM Fox




Halas. Lambeau. Lombardi. Nitschke. Hornung. Hutson. Nagurski. Sayers. Butkus. Luckman. Starr. Kramer. Sweetness. Davis. The Fridge. Singletary. Ditka. Favre. White. Hester. Urlacher….

Some of the names that make up the unique rivalry that is the Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers.

The first meeting between these two teams was on November 27, 1921 when the Chicago Staleys beat the Green Bay Packers 20-0. They have played each other every season except for the 1922 and 1982 seasons. These teams have played each other three times in a season before: 1929-33 and 1941.


CHICAGO
GREEN BAY
WINS*
92
83
ALL-TIME RECORD
709-524-42
679-534-36
LARGEST WIN
61-7 (1980 at CHI)
49-0 (1962 at GB)
SMALLEST WIN
2-0 (1938 at GB)
2-0 (1932 at CHI)
PLAYOFF APPEARANCES
27
26
DIVISION TITLES
18
14
NFL HALL OF FAMERS
29
26
NFL TITLES
9
12
SUPER BOWL APPEARANCES
2 (1-1)
4 (3-1)
NICK NAMES
“The Monsters of The Midway”, Da Bears
Cheese Heads, The Pack, Titletown USA
*INCLUDES 6 TIES (Last one: 11/8/1953 21-21 at Chicago)


This division rivalry makes its first post-season appearance since December 14, 1941. In that season, the teams split their season series and ended up tied in the Western Division. The two teams met in the Western Division Playoff for the right to face the New York Giants from the Eastern Division. The Bears running attack was unstoppable in that game as the offense gained 277 rushing yards and scored 3 touchdowns en route to a 33-14 win over the Packers. The following Sunday, the Bears claimed their fifth and second consecutive NFL Championship with a 37-9 drubbing of the Giants at home.

Now to the present…

In last weekend’s 48-21 win over the Falcons, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers put on a passing clinic completing 31 passes on 36 attempts resulting in 366 yards and 3 passing touchdowns.

Again, like in the wild card game against the Eagles, the Packers defense came up big again with five sacks and forcing four turnovers. One of those turnovers was a 70-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Tramon Williams that made the score 28-14 at halftime and literally took the Falcons crowd out of the game. Williams was the team leader in interceptions in 2010, and recorded his first pick-six in his career with that play.

It was no surprise that linebacker Clay Matthews recorded two sacks in this game. He led the team in sacks and was fourth in the NFL in that category.

Aaron Rodgers has led the Packers to their two highest playoff point totals in team history. The previous record was 45 in last year’s NFC Wild Card loss at Arizona.

Meanwhile, in Chicago, the Bears jumped out to a 21-0 halftime lead against the Seahawks; their largest post-season halftime lead since the 1941 playoff game against the Packers. Quarterback Jay Cutler, in his first post-season game, threw for 274 yards and two touchdowns. He even displayed his running skills by rushing for 43 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Greg Olsen contributed to the early scoring barrage by catching 3 passes for 113 yards, one of them was the 58-yard catch-and-run for the Bears first score of the game.

Even though the final score does look close, do not let that fool you. The Seahawks did not score points until it was 28-0. The Bears did allow the Seahawks to at least make it look competitive when running back Matt Forte threw an interception on a halfback option pass play. There was no need for that play call by offensive coordinator Mike Martz.

Despite both teams coming in with quarterbacks that can throw the ball well, both teams have been known for top ranked defenses this season. A look at how each defense stacks up in some major categories:


CHICAGO
GREEN BAY
YDS/GAME
314 (9th)
309 (5th)
RUSH YDS/GAME
90 (2nd)
115 (18th)
PTS/GAME
17.9 (4th)
15 (2nd)
SACKS
34.0 (17th)
47.0 (2nd)
TURNOVERS
35 (T-3rd)
32 (6th)
3RD DOWN DEF PCT.
75/216 = 35% (6th)
77/213 = 36% (9th)
TOTAL TD AGAINST
32 (T-4th)
24 (2nd)


In the regular season meetings, each team won on their own homefield. In their first meeting in Chicago, the Packers outgained the Bears 379-276, but were done in by a 62-yard punt return touchdown by Devin Hester, a fumble by James Jones with the score tied in the fourth quarter, and a franchise record 18 penalties. The final penalty was a pass interference call that negated an interception and set up a 19-yard game winning field goal that Bears kicker Robbie Gould made to give the Bears a 20-17 victory.

The next meeting was in the season finale three weeks ago. The Packers needed a victory in order to clinch the NFC’s #6 seed or the Giants were going to the playoffs. The Bears had secured the NFC’s #2 seed once the Falcons defeated the Panthers in the Noon games. Even though Chicago had nothing to play for in terms of the playoffs, they still played their starters.

Chicago led 3-0 through the third quarters. Aaron Rodgers led the Packers to the game’s only touchdown and the defense picked off two Jay Cutler passes to secure a 10-3 victory and the NFC’s final playoff spot.

Again, the Packers were my Super Bowl pick at the start of the season and I am going to stand by it. The Packers have won their last four games and is a hot team going into this game. I see them extending their winning streak to five in a row.

THE PICK: Packers 20, Bears 16









New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers, 5:30PM CBS


Talk about revenge.

The Jets succeeded in erasing the embarrassing 45-3 Monday Night December Debacle with a 28-21 over their division rivals New England in Foxborough. New York talked the talk and walked the walk. They continued New England’s post-season losing streak which is currently at three and have won 4 out of 5 post-season games.

The Jets defense succeeded in getting after Tom Brady sacking him five times and doing something that hasn’t been done in a long time…. Intercepting a pass from Tom Brady. Also, coach Rex Ryan succeeded in being a better play caller that day than Bill Belichick due to some puzzling play calling on the Patriots’ sideline. In particular, the Patriots drove the ball for 7-plus minutes in the fourth quarter and showing a lack of urgency doing so. The drive stalled and instead of kicking a 51-yard field goal on 4th down and long being down 10 points, the Patriots went for it and were unable to convert for a first down. Eventually New England did score a field goal with two minutes remaining in regulation and had to rely on an onside kick in order to get the ball back in order to tie the game. Cornerback Antonio Cromartie was able to field the kick and return it 23 yards. Shonn Green capped the Jets’ win with a 16-yard touchdown run.

The victory prompted one of the most passionate on the field post-game interviews that I have seen.

Jets linebacker Bart Scott, you are cleared to land beside ESPN’s Sal Palatonio:


This post-season, the Jets’ offense has been aided by a couple of castaways: running back LaDainian Tomlinson from the Chargers and Super Bowl XLIII MVP wide receiver Santonio Holmes. Tomlinson, who was let go due to declining production in San Diego, has come up big in the post season rushing for 125 yards and scoring three total touchdowns. Santonio Holmes came to New York via trade from the Steelers due to off the field conduct. Holmes has kept himself out of trouble this season. In a three week period Holmes had huge plays: a 52-yard reception at Detroit to set up a game winning field goal in overtime; the following week in overtime at Cleveland a 37-yard touchdown catch-and-run; and in Week 11 against Houston at home Holmes again caught a game winning score. Those three wins were part of a four-game winning streak. Holmes added to his Jets’ resume by making a key touchdown catch early in the fourth quarter to make the score 21-11, Jets.

Quarterback Mark Sanchez currently is tied with 4 playoff road wins in a group that includes Joe Flacco, Jake Delhomme when he was with Carolina, and two NFL Hall of Fame members: Len Dawson and Roger Staubach.

The last meeting between these two teams was in December. The Jets came away with a 22-17 victory for their first ever franchise victory in the Keystone State. Not playing in that game was Steelers safety Troy Polamalu. Since 2009, the Steelers are 16-4 when Polamalu is in the game. Without him, they are 6-7. Evidence of that absence was seen in 2009 when the Steelers were unable to make the playoffs as the defending Super Bowl champion. For this game, Polamalu will start despite an Achilles injury.

Last week’s divisional playoff victory was a point scoring barrage. Instead of a low scoring affair as many people predicted, the two teams combined to score 55 points. In the two regular season matchups, the teams combined for 54 points with a total score of 27-27. One team passed that 27 point mark; the other was unable to.

In that game, the Steelers were able to implement their shutdown defense and took advantage of Ravens miscues to erase a 21-7 deficit and scored 24 out the game’s final 27 points. With the score tied at 24 with 2:07 remaining in the fourth quarter, Ben Roethlisberger launched a 58-yard reception on third down to Antonio Brown that set up Rashard Mendenhall’s eventual game winning touchdown run.

Even though the Steelers gave up 24 points against the Ravens last week, their defense held Baltimore’s offense to a season-low 126 yards. Again, there is proof of the impact of turnovers, penalties, and dropped passes at the wrong time in a game.

Just like the NFC Championship game, cold weather defense will be the name of the game.


PITTSBURGH
NEW YORK
YDS/GAME
277 (2nd)
292 (3rd)
RUSH YDS/GAME
63 (1st)
91 (3rd)
PTS/GAME
14.5 (1st)
19 (6th)
SACKS
48.0 (1st)
40.0 (T-8th)
TURNOVERS
35 (3rd)
30 (T-8th)
3RD DOWN PCT.
70/209 = 34% (3rd)
81/219 = 37% (10th)
TOTAL TD AGAINST
22 (1st)
36 (T-9th)


The Steelers are making an NFL record 15th Conference Championship Game appearance. Their record in the AFC Title Game is 7-7 with a two game winning streak. The city of Pittsburgh is also hosting its 12th AFC Championship Game where the home town favorite Steelers are 6-5. Even though they started with a 4-1 home record (first AFC Title game was at home and a lost to the Miami Dolphins in 1972), the Steelers have gone 2-4 with a similar record of 1-2 in both Three Rivers Stadium and Heinz Field.

Perhaps Pittsburgh is not as intimidating as people make it out to be….

The Jets are making their fourth AFC Title Game appearance and their first time of making consecutive conference championship game appearances in the team’s history. All of their conference championship games have been on the road. All of those games have been double digit losses. The Jets belong to a club of teams that have never won a Conference Championship: Cleveland, Kansas City, Houston, Jacksonville, and Detroit.

The Jets and Chiefs, the last two AFL Champions, have not won an AFC Championship Game since their last Super Bowl appearance. For the Jets, the last time they won a game to gain entry into the Super Bowl was the AFL Title Game in 1968 by defeating the Oakland Raiders in a rematch of The Heidi Bowl that took place earlier that season.

This game is going to be like the last one, but having Troy Polamalu in the lineup will be important to the Steelers victory. The Jets have been playing with passion that has never been seen in this franchise since the days of Joe Namath. These aren’t the same old Jets as coach Rex Ryan has preached to his players. It would not surprise me if the Jets do win BUT the Steelers have that championship experience and will be playing for their third Vince Lombardi Trophy in six seasons.

THE PICK: Steelers 17, Jets 16

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