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NFL Playoff Picks: Conference Championship Round

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Green Bay Packers (-3) At Chicago Bears - These two teams split this year, with each winning at home. The Packers are playing their third straight road game in the playoffs and yet they're favored here. That should tell you what an impression they've made nationally. They blew out the #1 seed Falcons in Atlanta last week putting up 48 points, but they managed just 27 points in two games against the Bears. The Bears don't just have a better defense than the Falcons, they probably have a more valuable homefield advantage as well. The Packers, who are a team with speedy receivers that built to throw the ball, thrives in a dome. They won't have the same fast track in Chicago, in fact they'll be playing on the worst surface in the NFL at Solider Field. That should help slow down the Pack.

That said, any time you're picking a playoff a game you have to take a look at the Quarterbacks. Jay Cutler has played well as of late, but there were shaky moments last week against Seattle. Most notably when he threw a pass in the end zone directly into the gut of Seahawks safety Jordan Babineaux. Babineaux dropped it, which isn't something Packers DBs have done much of this postseason. They've got 3 picks in 2 games. Meanwhile, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers has been playing off the charts with 6 TDs and no picks in the playoffs. I've picked against the Packers twice now and gotten burned, I'm not going to make that mistake again. Pick: Packers

New York Jets At Pittsburgh Steelers (-3) - The Jets didn't have a particularly impressive end to their season and for most of the year they really lacked quality wins. They were only 2-3 over the last month of the season and heading into December they had just one win over a team with a winning record. Then they rolled into Pittsburgh with everyone assuming the Steelers would take care of business and deal the Jets their 3rd straight loss. However, the Jets did what they've done this whole postseason... they surprised and won 22-17. The Jets really seem to thrive as an underdog and really could not have played better against the Patriots. They hit Brady early and often and clearly that threw him off his game. While generally that's a good plan against any QB, it probably won't affect Ben Roethlisberger the same. The difference between Ben and Brady is that Roethlisberger is used to getting hit on a weekly basis. The Steelers offensive line is bad and has been all year. He thrives when plays break down and he has to make plays. Brady thrives when he's protected and controlling the offense.

The other major difference is that the Steelers have a vertical passing game that the Patriots lack. How many times did the Jets drop a ton of DBs back in coverage and rush three while the Patriots receivers tried to run quick little slants or in patterns? The entire Patriots offense was essentially bottled up in a 10 yard box. With guys like Mike Wallace, the Steelers can stretch the field and the Jets defense. When they played in December, Wallace over a hundred yards receiving while Emmanuel Sanders had nearly 80. They ran on the Jets as well, with Rashard Mendenhall gaining a hundred yards on just 17 carries.

Plus, the Pittsburgh defense is a much tougher test than the Patriots. The Steelers finished with the top defense in football and Troy Polamalu is more of a ballhawk than anyone on New England. Plus, Pittsburgh is a blitzing defense and Mark Sanchez's QB rating drops against the blitz more than almost any starting quarterback in football. Pick: Steelers