The anticipation of Super Bowl 45 grows another step closer this weekend. The New York Jets fly into Heinz Field to take on the Steelers, while Green Bay invades Solider Field and the Bears. Here’s an overview of how these teams got to this point...
New York Jets vs. Pittsburgh Steelers:
Gotta luv Rex and the J-E-T-S, JETS, JETS, JETS. Rex maneuvered his team through Hard Knocks, a midseason slump and embarrassing video. He and his players trash-talked and backed it up all the way to the AFC Championship game yet again. The Jets won an improbable game last week against the Patriots because they didn’t forget the whippin’ New England handed them just a few weeks prior. QB Mark Sanchez’s play was suspect throughout the regular season, but, his play has been stellar during when it counts. The Jets defense will definitely give Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger a run for his money.
The team from the Steel City is playing in their 15th conference championship game. Their road here was long and tumultuous. Roethlisberger placed the organization in a precarious position with his suspension for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s Personal Conduct policy. The team survived with an impressive 3-1 record during Roethlisberger’s suspension and didn’t look back. Pittsburgh showed their strength and playoff prowess by beating their arch rival Baltimore Ravens last week, even without a strong showing by defensive juggernaut Troy Polamalu. The Jets actually beat Pittsburgh during the regular season and this will certainly give the Steelers pause. However, the Black and Gold will be too much for Gang Green.
Green Bay Packers vs. Chicago Bears:
The Bears had their share of detractors this season, especially from former players who happen to be Hall of Famers. Before the season, Head Coach Lovie Smith was given an ultimatum - either get rid of your staff or find other employment. Smith decided a new staff would be fantastic. The Bear defense was fairly solid, so, one of Smith’s key staffing acquisitions was former Rams head coach Mike Martz as offensive coordinator. Martz was brought in to maximize QB Jay Cutler’s talents. Early on, it looked as though the Martz/Cutler experiment would in fact falter. Amazingly, Cutler/Martz got on a roll, the defense kicked into gear, and now their Bears are playing for a trip to Super Bowl 45.
The Packers entered the playoffs as a six-seed and had two great games on the road. Green Bay, an early Super Bowl pick by oddsmakers, suffered through severe injuries this season. Despite have more than 15 players placed on Injured Reserve and countless other players in and out of the lineup due to injury, the Pack has stayed resilient. Their defense, under Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews has been fantastic. Since returning from his second concussion late in the season, Aaron Rodgers’ play has been phenomenal during the playoffs. The only question is whether Green Bay, and Aaron Rodgers in particular, can keep up their red-hot play. The folks in Vegas seem to think so, and so do I. While this will be a close game, Green Bay has too many weapons for Chicago to handle.
My predicted Super Bowl 45 matchup: Pittsburgh vs. Green Bay.