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NFL Picks & Pans: Conference Championships

Wow, just going 2-2 in the Divisional Playoff Round is sort of disappointing, although not nearly as bad enough as seeing the Baltimore Ravens losing once again to the Pittsburgh Steelers, after having a two touchdown lead at halftime. It would have been much easier to stomach going 1-3 as long as the one correct pick was the Ravens. Alas, that was not to be and we have to now not only figure out who's going to represent the AFC and NFC in the Super Bowl, but in the AFC the rooting decision is a bit tougher, at least for me.

Being a bit older than the average reader on Baltimore Beatdown, I can somewhat remember Broadway Joe Namath running off the field after his New York Jets upset the powerhouse Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl 3. Of course, we have that NFL Network commercial playing all the time, with Namath's you-know-what grin saying "We did it," to remind you if you didn't see the game in January 1969. So to think it's easier to root for the Jets than the Steelers just does not come that easy to me. As much as I liked Rex Ryan while he was Defensive Coordinator here in Baltimore, the thought of two weeks of his pontificating for the press just rubs me the wrong way.

As far as rooting for the Steelers, I've lived by the mantra that here in Baltimore we root for two teams and they are the Baltimore Ravens and whomever is playing the Pittsburgh Steelers. I guess that mantra is usually reserved for the regular season, because I've got that same feeling that most people have that the best viewing match-up for the Big Game would be the Green Bay Packers against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Therefore, that's going to be the results of my picks this weekend, and not just for the entertainment value, as I actually think those two are the best teams remaining in their respective conferences. So here's my reasoning:

Steelers over Jets:  Yeah I know New York went into Heinz Field and beat Pittsburgh earlier this season but that was without safety Troy Polamalu and as much as us Ravens fans thin that Ed Reed's absence changes our team the Steelers record is significantly better with Troy in the lineup. He is a huge difference-maker and Jets QB Mark Sanchez didn't play that well in the first meeting without him, so I see him having a tougher time in this game. Despite their injuries on the offensive line, Ben Roethlisberger, as much as we hate him in Baltimore, just always seems to make plays. He stays upright, manages to extend plays, and has the stones to take the necessary risks to get it done. The Jets defense has proved it can be scored on, as both the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears put up a ton of points on them this year. The Steelers won't need to put that many up, because their defense will limit the Jets offense enough to outscore them regardless of how many points it takes. No way the Steelers lose the AFC Championship Game at home.

Packers over Bears:  Green Bay is on their way to being a sixth seed that wins three layoff games on the road to make the Super Bowl. They've had their ups and downs all season, with injuries and tough losses, but now seem to be peaking at just the right time. Aaron Wilson is playing the best ball of his career and looks as good or better than Tom Brady in his prime (which wasn't last week!). They seem to have found a running back and no team has the plethora of receivers that the Packers seem to do. In addition, Green Bay's defense is quietly among the best in the league but seems to play second fiddle to the offense, and for good reason. Conversely, Chicago's offense has proved it an put up some points as well, but has not been nearly as consistent as the Packers have been. The Bears defense is as solid as Green Bay's, but they will be facing a much more talented offense than the Pack will be facing. Bears QB Jay Cutler, while having a very good season, pales in comparison to Aaron Rodgers and is much more prone to turnovers, which could be the difference in this game. I like the Packers to score more and their defense to limit the points that the Bears will need to keep pace.

A Steelers- Packers Super Bowl is what most people are looking for (outside of New York and Chicago), and that's what I'm on board with predicting Of course, a thorough thrashing of the Steelers by the Packers in that Big Game would make me just as happy, as at least we can say to those gloating Pittsburgh faithful that despite getting there, they couldn't win!

Last week:  2-2

Season record:  162-100