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Road to the Super Bowl: Conference Championships

By Gordy Stillman

Section: Sports

January 21, 2011

Welcome back to another semester at Brandeis. For those of you who kept track last semester, my weekly picks ended with a record of 54-29, not bad at all. Rather than merely make picks for the two games this week, I thought I might offer a preview of the match-ups.

Interestingly enough, in the case of both the AFC and NFC championships, the second seed teams are hosting the games.

AFC Championship: This game places the New York Jets in their second consecutive bid for the Super Bowl against the hometown favorite Pittsburgh Steelers.

Both teams have overcome a lot of challenges to make it this far.

The Jets entered the post season as the sixth seed after losing three of their final five regular season games.

To get this far they defeated last year’s AFC champion Indianapolis Colts (17-16) in what would have been the upset of the week had the Seattle Seahawks not beaten the defending champions, the New Orleans Saints, earlier that same day.

After the first upset, the Jets returned to Foxborough last week to face the New England Patriots for the third time this year.

After an embarrassing defeat last time (45-3), the Jets returned with a vengeance winning (28-21) to secure their spot in this week’s game against the Steelers, a team they beat (22-17) last month. The Steelers on the other hand entered the postseason as the second seed behind the Patriots. Unfortunately for Pittsburgh, one of the only teams that was able to beat the Steelers this season was the Jets, as stated above.

One of the many things the Steelers have going for them is that throughout the post season, rematch games have been going differently than their regular season counterparts.

Last week, every team that lost in the regular season won and, if the pattern holds true, then the Steelers would be expected to overcome the Jets this week.

NFC Championship: This game places NFC North rivals the Chicago Bears and the Green Bay Packers against each other in what ESPN.com’s Kevin Seifert likes to call the “Epicenter of Humanity.”

Interestingly enough, these two teams, two of the oldest teams in the NFL (both were founded in 1919), have only ever faced each other once in the post season before. Back in 1941, the Bears beat the Packers (33-14) at home.

Whether the Bears can assert their dominance over the Packers or not, this game is officially set to be the biggest game in the rivalry’s history, sending one team to the Super Bowl.

Green Bay entered the postseason as the sixth seed (like the Jets)after beating the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field on the last day of the regular season. To get this far they overcame the third seed Philadelphia (21-16) followed by the first seed Atlanta Falcons (48-21). Earlier this year the Packers and Bears split their series, both taking their home games, raising the question of whether Aaron Rodgers can beat Jay Cutler at Soldier Field.

Chicago entered the playoffs as the second seed (like the Steelers) and secured their spot in this week’s game with a win over the Seattle Seahawks (35-24) in a rematch of a regular season defeat (23-20). Additionally, the Bears have President Obama on their side.

Obama has also indicated that he plans to attend the Superbowl should his prediction of a Bears victory play out.

At the very least, this weekend may turn out into another example of the crazy year that this season has been.

At the start of the season the Packers and the Minnesota Vikings were expected to make strong bids for the post season. Instead of the Vikings, it turns out the Bears host the NFC championship while the Steelers host the AFC championship. Additionally, if there’s any consolation for Vikings fans and Patriots fans, it is this: the hated rivals get terrible draft picks next year.

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