Photo: Flickr/Mike K
Two games will be played this Sunday and the winners will meet in Dallas in two weeks for “all the Tostitos,” as Brent Musburger would say. If that’s not reason enough to get you amped for the games, maybe a little bit of money on the line will. Here’s where we’re putting ours:MATCHUP: New York Jets at Pittsburgh Steelers
Steelers favoured by 3.5, Over/Under 38.5
Rex Ryan stood at the podium after the Jets’ triumph over the hated Patriots last week, and said: “Same old Jets, right back in the AFC Championship Game.”
Of course, as any longtime Jets fan can attest, just because you use “same old Jets” positively, doesn’t mean the team’s years of losing are suddenly irrelevant. And the same old Jets do everything they can to get their fans’ hopes up – beating the Patriots certainly qualifies for that – only to turn around and disappoint. Here’s why they’ll lose a game fans think is in the bag:
- The Jets played their best game of the season last week thanks to an intensity, passion, and anger that probably can’t be matched for a second week. We bet they can’t beat the mighty Steelers without Patriots-level intensity. Where’s all the trash talk?
- It’s hard to imagine any team beating the Steelers in Pittsburgh two times one season.
- Don’t forget how big Brad Smith’s kickoff return for a TD was for the Jets in the previous meeting. We bet lightning won’t strike twice.
- Sure, the Jets beat the Steelers earlier this year, but Pittsburgh playing without ball-hawking safety Troy Polamalu, and sure-handed tight end Heath Miller. Lo and behold, the Jets rushed for more yards than any other Steelers opponent, and Miller’s replacement, Matt Spaeth dropped two touchdown passes that would have vaulted the Steelers to victory. Things won’t be so easy this time around.
- Sanchez has played very well thus far in the postseason, but the passing Ds in New England and Indianapolis are far more friendly than the one he’s about to face in Pittsburgh.
- The Steelers’ Rashard Mendenhall was one of the few backs to run the ball effectively against the Jets so New York can’t sit on the pass all day as they did against the Pats and Colts.
- Unlike the Pats and Colts, the Steelers have two weeks worth of film to study Rex’s suddenly coverage-happy defence.
For all those reasons we foresee the Steelers covering here. We’ll take the Over, too. Pittsburgh will put up at least 27 points on its own.
MATCHUP: Green Bay Packers at Chicago Bears
Packers favoured by 3.5, Over/Under 43.5
After watching Aaron Rodgers dismantle the Falcons defence, the public is very high on the Packers – 68 per cent of public money is on Green Bay – but we like the Bears to cover. Here’s why:
- With their playoff aspirations on the line, the Packers barely beat a Chicago team with nothing to play for. And that was in Lambeau. What’s more? Rodgers played his worst game since October.
- The Bears defence is excellent against the run, while the Packers running game leaves a lot to be desired. So Rodgers will be dropping back to pass all day, and Julius Peppers & Co. have been known to get to quarterbacks.
- Speaking of Peppers, the Defensive Player of the Year candidate will line up against rookie tackle Bryan Bulaga, a preaseason backup. In the teams’ last meeting Bulaga was flagged for four penalties, and he clearly can’t handle Peppers. The Bears’ DE will be in the backfield all day.
- Green Bay is giving more than three points on the road. That means Vegas pegs the Packers as more than six points better than the Bears, even though the Bears played a similar schedule and finished with a better record. The value is on Chicago.
- In what we feel will be a low scoring game, the Bears have the best gamebreaker in football in Devin Hester. He could be the difference against Green Bay’s average special teams.
- Aaron Rodgers is 3-14 in his career in games decided by five-points or less. If you think this rivalry game will be close, the smart money is against the Packers.
We’re taking the Bears and the Under here. The Packers can put up points, but the Bears have stifled them twice, and neither of their previous meetings totaled 40 points.
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