Hopefully you read my NFL Playoff Picks post last week and happened to be in Vegas to wager heavily on my advice. Just kidding. Kind of. It was though a good week of picks despite failing to actually make a pick for the New England-New York game. For the record, I would have taken New England, which would have ruined the rest of my perfect week of picks.â†µ
Moving on to this weekend's conference championship games. Let's take a look at the lines to begin. (Odds courtesy of Odds Shark, SB Nation's odds partner.)â†µ
Chicago (+3) vs. Green Bay (-116)....Over/Under = 43â†µ
New York Jets (+3) at Pittsburgh (-118)....Over/Under = 38.5â†µ
NFC: Prior to last weekend's games, I felt confident that the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears would win, with the Packers taking down their divisional NFC North rivals in the NFC Championship this coming weekend. After watching Chicago this past weekend, though, I'm not so sure they're not a whole lot tougher and more resilient than people realize. It's tempting to look at Green Bay's performance against the Falcons and feel like they're unquestionably the team to beat, but I'm not so sure that Aaron Rodgers will be so efficient and effective in the unwelcoming confines of Soldier Field.â†µ
I also wonder how Packers head coach Mike McCarthy will hold up with his game-management decision making if the game happens to be in the balance late in the fourth quarter. McCarthy's been known to have a little bit of Andy Reid in him with his clock-management and other crucial decision making. So where does that leave me? Good question. I think the Packers have a shot at blowing out the Bears, but I also think that Chicago will win if the game is tight down the stretch. So I'm going to stray away from my gut feeling from the outset of the playoffs and pick against the Packers here. The Pick: Chicago to win outright.â†µ
AFC: As a diehard Steelers fan, I must admit I'm a tad nervous about Pittsburgh's matchup with the New York Jets on Sunday evening. The primary reason is that I think Rex Ryan feels confident he can pressure Ben Roethlisberger without compromising his defense with all-out blitz packages. If the Jets front four can beat the Steelers offensive line at the point of attack, the Steelers might have trouble methodically moving the ball on offense.â†µ
However, I believe the Steelers offensive line will turn in a surprisingly good effort against the Jets and pave the way for just enough offensive production to hold off a Jets team that I think will again play fairly well against Dick LeBeau's defense. The difference, much like in the team's meeting in Week 15, might come down to special teams. The Steelers had a huge slip-up on the opening kickoff that day, and the Jets used the early score to hold off the Steelers and secure an importance conference road win in December. The Pick: Steelers to cover, but buy 1/2 point.