WWE Elimination Chamber Preview

Posted: February 20, 2011 in Opinions

Yeah, that’s right. Your boy thanks in large part to the Rock’s return to the WWE, is caring about “sports entertainment” wrestling one a year as I usually do. Every January or so when the Royal Rumble is announced, I can’t help but keep my inner kid that grew up with this stuff from getting excited.

True confession – I watch wrestling from January to WrestleMania in March or April, and then zone it out until the first month of the next year.

The Elimination Chamber is the final PPV before WrestleMania, so the WWE has to set its storylines straight for the company’s biggest audience.

Here’s a breakdown of how I see these matches going and who will win.

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WWE Tag Team Champions Marella & Kozlov vs. Slater & Gabriel

tagteam

Courtesy of WWE.com

This match was drawn up hours before the PPV was to go live. Honestly, who cares? Santino had some fun with the fans at the last PPV, the Royal Rumble, as he technically finished second. Slater and Gabriel, both members of Wade Barrett’s CORRE, probably would look good with gold on their waists heading into WM27. However, who they would defend against at WM may not be as exciting for fans as the odd but effective coupling of Marella and Kozlov. It makes sense to belt the CORRE but somehow this is a fan’s match, with Marella and Kozlov winning.

Winner: Marella & Kozlov

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Intercontinental Champion Kofi Kingston vs. Alberto Del Rio

IC

Courtesy of WWE.com

This match is currently set as a non-title bout, but is subject to change. Many sources are whispering that it makes sense to belt the No. 1 contender for the World Heavyweight Championship, Del Rio, heading into WM. Kofi Kingston just can not break through the ceiling and become a main time superstar. It makes no sense for Kingston to hold the belt, seeing a she will more than likely just end up in the Money in the Bank Ladder match again at WM. Del Rio should have some gold around his waist heading into Atlanta and more than likely will to build his credibility and momentum.

Winner: Alberto Del Rio

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WWE Champion The Miz vs. Jerry “The King” Lawler

wwe

Courtesy of WWE.com

Seriously? Who is worried about The King winning this match? The angle for the WWE here may by to have Michael Cole, King’s broadcast partner, interfere and screw King out of the championship, setting up a King vs. Cole match at WM. That’s honestly the best scenario I can think of. There’s no doubt this match will not end in Miz retaining. The King will not be in a main event match at WM and I can guaren-damn-tee that.

Winner: The Miz

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RAW Elimination Chamber Match – John Cena vs. John Morrison vs. R-Truth vs. Randy Orton vs. King Sheamus vs. CM Punk

raw

Courtesy of WWE.com

Since the Miz-Lawler fight is for the WWE Title, this match will not be a championship match. It will instead decide the No. 1 contender for the WWE Championship at WM27. It’s a little bit of a different angle to take, but the company obviously needs extra matches to make their scenarios work. Knowing already the Miz will win and defend at WM, who would his opponent most likely be? We can easily eliminate R-Truth and Sheamus. CM Punk doesn’t make much sense without a previous track record. Morrison still hasn’t made it to primetime status. That leaves just Cena and Orton. For my money, I think Cena would be the way to go. His rivalry with Miz would fit best into the storylines. Orton most likely will have CM Punk to himself in a non-title match at WM. If I was a gambling man, I’m choosing Cena to win in the Chamber to face the Miz for the belt.

Winner: John Cena

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SmackDown Elimination Chamber Match – Edge (C) vs. Kane vs. Drew McIntyre vs. Rey Mysterio vs. Wade Barrett vs. Mystery Participant

sd

Courtesy of WWE.com

Yes, there’s only five contenders shown in the picture. That’s because Dolph Zigler, the previous sixth man, was fired Friday night on SmachDown. This is the final PPV before WM and we still haven’t seen Triple H since early 2010, Undertaker who was buried alive at Bragging Rights months ago, and the reports of Sting coming back this next RAW. One of those three guys will be the surprise fighter and will honestly most likely win. I would think either Edge or Rey Mysterio would make the most sense of the participants we know of now. Edge is solid headlining stuff and Mysterio has a good feud with Del Rio, who awaits the winner of the match.

Undertaker, if and when he returns, needs an opponent. Reports are he will face Barrett who helped screw him out of his Buried Alive match vs. Kane the last time we saw him or he will face Triple H in a Streak vs. Career Match with Shawn Michaels guest referring. Barrett is in this match, so Undertaker-Barrett could rise again.

This is how it will go down. If Undertaker or Triple H comes into the match, I’m choosing Edge. This mystery guy is most likely going to just play a role in another WM match but not the World Heavyweight one. Overall, this is the match to watch tonight.

Winner: Edge

Albert Pujols

St. Louis needs to give "The Machine" whatever kind of contract he asks for. The fate of their organization depends on it (ESPN.com).

When the Yankees signed Alex Rodriguez to a 10-year, $275M contract in December 2007, skeptics called New York idiots for locking up a player who was 32 years old at the time for a decade deal and a nine digit salary.

Fans in St. Louis who criticized the Yankees should bite their tongues.

They’re debating doing the exact same thing.

Albert Pujols has been a three-time MVP, World Series champion, Rookie of the Year, and batting champion. He’s also been a Cardinal since his career began in 2001.

But when all is said and done, will he still be with the organization after his current deal expires at the end of this season?

The Cardinals and Pujols have tried to work out an extension prior to this season to avoid free agency from becoming a dark cloud that would undoubtedly loom over the 2011 season. The talks have gone nowhere though, and panic is starting to set in that “the machine” may decide to jump ship and test his values in the waters of free agency.

Pujols has publically said that he is looking for a 10-year deal. He has already shot down a short term offer the Cardinals proposed to try and avoid being handcuffed to a ridiculous contract.

If St. Louis can’t find the money or resources to give Pujols what he wants, there is no doubt he will vacate the city that has dubbed him the face of their franchise for the last nine years.

Many different factors play into this debate as well. Last year, the Red Birds also signed outfield slugger Matt Holliday to a 7-year, $120M deal. Would the team even consider spending somewhere in the ballpark of $45-$50M a season for their 3 and 4 hitters?

Plenty of contracts like what Pujols wants have fallen through. Players such as Alfonso Soriano of the Cubs (8-year, $134M), Barry Zito of the Giants (7-year, $126M), and the Yankees CC Sabathia (7-year, $161M) have all been proven to be average at the most. St. Louis has to fear that if they lock up a player who may be nearing the peak of his career for an extended amount of time, they too could find themselves financially burdened and unable to unload salaries.

The Cardinals have to give him whatever he wants. If he says he wants 10-years, $300M, St. Louis’s only response should be “and who do we make the check out to?”

Albert Pujols is the best hitter of his generation. He strikes fear into opposing teams similar to Babe Ruth or Barry Bonds did. He is the only player to hit 30 home runs, knock in 100 RBI, and hit .300 or better in every one of his first ten major league seasons.

He’s to put things into perspective. Pujols averages 40.8 home runs, 123 RBI, and a .331 every single season.

As Deion Sanders would say, pay the man.

Plenty of teams have already been rumored to want Pujols. The obvious suspects would be the Yankees, Red Sox, and Angels. Plenty of talks in Chicago have the Cubs signing the St. Louis slugger after 2011. Remember, the move for Carlos Pena to man first base is a one-year deal. In my eyes, he’s basically a rental with no risk until the Cubs can enter the Pujols Derby.

This last summer should have taught us plenty about how free agency can totally turn a sport upside down. The NBA experienced a frantic free agency period like none other before it. We all remember how every sports station, news channel, and newspaper had coverage of their city’s basketball team with all the financial additions they can make.

It was fantasy basketball turned reality.

Pujols means more to the Cardinals that Jeter to the Yankees, Mauer to the Twins, Wright to the Mets, or Longoria to the Rays. Not signing him and paying for his services will be the end of Cardinals baseball for years to come.

It is extremely risky, somewhat impulsive, and very committing, but it has to be done. Pujols must remain in red and white.

Brett Lyons can be reached on Twitter. Follow him at @TheLYONSDen89.

Lewis to Add New Outdoor Stadium

Posted: February 8, 2011 in News
Students need to rally support should football be resurrected after 55 years

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LU Football Pic

Lewis University has not sponsored college football since 1957. Should the school decide to bring back the sport, good things could result for the entire university.

As a student, I enjoy the occasional chuckle from reading the back of the Lewis Football t-shirts.

And as a matter of fact, yes – “We’re Still Undefeated.”

How often do you, the Lewis student, get put in the awkward situation of answering the questions of whether Lewis is getting football again and the only response you can muster up is a shoulder shrug and puzzled look?

There has been significant progress in the department of athletic expansion at the Romeoville campus.

Lewis University is beginning work on the addition of a new outdoor facility that will consist of a nine lane track, a multi-purpose artificial playing surface, and stadium style seating that could hold up to 2,500 patrons. This phase will cost an estimated $4 million and is just one of three phases, totaling $20 million. The second would consist of a 25,000 square foot training facility, even more seating, four practice fields, and additional parking lots that could hold hundreds just to name a few.

 John Noak, Mayor of Romeoville, announced this information at his State of the Village address early in January. “It is our hope that his new facility will one day bring thousands of participants and visitors to our community throughout the year,” commented Noak.

The important thing to take from this announcement is that just because the facility will be there, football is not included in this deal. The field will be there, but the trigger still needs to be pulled to bring forth a team after half a century of no competitive pigskin.

The reason I am writing this piece is to share with the community my beliefs after hours of research of just what bringing football to the student body will do for Lewis as a whole and how it will enrich the Flyer experience.

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How This Expansion All Began

The idea for this renovation started in 2007. The project, titled “Vision 2011,” was an idea to bring a football team to the school and all of the requirements that go along with it.

Before this project began, the school had to make sure the students indeed really did want a football squad. According to “Saturday Night Lights to Arrive at Lewis?” which was written by The Flyer’s Donald Woodard in March of 2007, Lewis sent out surveys to more than 3,000 students about what sport they would add.

You guessed it – football was the majority favorite.

Athletic Director Dan Schumacher in that article mentioned some important notes that would go along with the school’s addition of football. First off, no current athletic sponsored event would be cut or would suffer financial support because of this addition. Secondly, every student athlete would be treated the same. Just because football would be the newest sport doesn’t mean they would receive special treatment.

The then wished for stadium, which now is becoming a reality, was thought up with the intention of it being opened to the public when the school was not using it. This would provide a new social element to the weekend activities at the school for residents and commuters alike.

“The [multi-purpose field] will help improve enrollment because it will attract more students, prospective students,” commented Schumacher in 2007. “The stadium may also better the collegiate experience by providing activities such as going to football games on weekends, or going out and enjoying intramurals.”

The message became clear when the idea was thought up. The student body would need to be fully behind this idea and act as the driving force to make any actions actually happen.

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How Would Football Improve the School Experience?

There are many reasons to consider the addition of football to this university. Brainstorming for this article, I could not think of any severe negatives to change my opinion on the issue.

First and foremost, football would attract students. The interest in Lewis would be so great, enrollment numbers would reach all time highs. The social aspect which most residents complain does not exist on weekends would be created and thus would lower the number of students who go home simply because they’re bored. Lewis would become much more of a campus and not a “suitcase college.”

Another reason would be the local talent Lewis could attract. The school is located in close proximity to some of the state’s best high school football programs. Schools like JCA, Providence, Lincoln-Way East or Central, Bolingbrook, Naperville North, Wheaton Warrenville South, Sandburg, Lockport, and Romeoville would all be prime locations for Lewis to scout. The talent would be great and would establish a local presence, which is one of the goals of Division II colleges. Lewis would become the perfect school for local athletes who wish to play college ball close to home.

On a blunter topic, football would create an additional form of revenue for the school. Between tickets, merchandise, concession, and endorsement sales, Lewis would be bringing in a cash flow it has never seen before. In a theoretical world, this extra income would satisfy Lewis’s annual need and could lessen tuition for students. A lower tuition cost would certainly be a deciding factor for parents and students who need to loan their tuition money.

Lewis University would also gain some national attention from this move. I’m not saying they’ll become the Notre Dame of Division II, but as time goes on the possibility for larger amounts of exposure certainly grow as well.

The talks about the Bears and where they will call home for training camp beyond 2011 still needs to be settled. According to an August 9, 2010 piece by Chicago Tribune writer Brad Briggs, the Bears are debating staying in Bourbonnais, IL at Oliver Nazarene University or moving to Romeoville to practice at Lewis University. Wouldn’t it be awesome to come to school in June and July to see the Bears get ready for the NFL season? The student body would be highly interested to come support their Bears.

The final point worth mentioning would be the trickledown effect the football team addition would cause. Assuming the move would increase enrollment, those additional students would need more dorms to live in. The school would have to explore more dorms, more parking, more places to eat, and a more diverse class schedule. That would benefit all students. More options is always a good problem to have.

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Examples of School Starting Football Programs

Creating college football programs across the country is not the rarest thing to see. There multiple examples though I was able to find that are relatable to Lewis University and could help but into perspective just what football brings to the college landscape.

Mark Papich is the Director of Athletics at the University of Incarnate Word, a small school located in San Antonio, TX. Incarnate Word is a private, faith-based institution which relies on tuition as its main source of funding.

In the August 2007 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics issue, Papich explained how he went about the complicated process of creating a program at his university. Of those troubles he explained were the concerns of who to schedule in competition and how long it would actually take to get the ball rolling until his school would play its first real game.

These are both issues Lewis would have no problem solving.

If Lewis was to start creating a schedule, many local teams would be available for exhibition or out of conference games. The Flyers would most assuredly join the Great Lakes Valley Conference, the conference the school already competes in for a majority of its sporting programs, to play for championship football. That leaves just finding out of conference opponents.

Here is a list of local area schools that would make sense to play and create true rivalry games against: University of St. Francis, St. Xavier University, North Central College, Benedictine University, Aurora University, Olivet Nazarene University, and even Joliet Junior College. Perhaps some of these schools would not be the most attractive opponents, but again the options are there until something better comes along.

The second issue would be the number of years of preparation. Papich explained in his piece that his school recruited students and had them all red-shirt, so that they could legally practice and work together to build fundamental skills. The next year, Incarnate Word went out and recruited junior college and community college players to establish leadership and experience with the red-shirts.

 That following season, the third year, the team played its first ever game.

Having a blueprint like this would make Lewis, should the announcement happen in 2011, eligible to compete in its inaugural year of football in 2013.

Other school success stories were reported in The News-Herald back in August of 2007. Lake Erie College started a football program and played its first year competitively in 2007. The school’s 2008 enrollment was 32% higher than it was before the sport was added.

The school’s president, Michael Victor, commented on the school’s incredible success by saying that, “[His] research took [him] to a survey of 17,000 high school seniors, 70 percent of whom said they would reject a college that was not physically attractive… Football is a big piece of the puzzle, but it’s just a piece.”

A final example occurred just a few years ago as well. Seton Hill University , located in Greenburg, PA, wasn’t even a coed institution until 2002. The school started a football program in 2005 and already climbed the ranks to Division II status. Not to mention the school’s enrollment also increased a staggering 33% just two years after its inception.

Just think if Lewis was to increase by an approximate 30% just because of a sport, enrollment would jump from 6,000 to nearly 8,000 students.

Attendance has been shown to influx in direct relation with athletic success. Boise State University has become the underdog of Division I football over the last decade. Since the school has received more and more national attention over the last ten years, the school’s attendance has risen 17.68% to nearly 20,000 students. The Broncos during this span have been to Bowl games every year except 2001, including two BCS wins in the Fiesta Bowl.

Butler University, which very few people knew about before the March Madness tournament last spring, also benefitted from national athletic attention. The number of applications the school received from 2009 to 2010 rose an incredible 40%, thanks in large part to the Cinderella run in the tournament.

The final example is extremely close to home. St. Xavier University began its football program about a decade ago. They led the entire NAIA football division in attendance this last season. And they’ve only been playing for ten years.

Football and colleges just work.

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Great Lakes Valley Conference Football

As mentioned in the previous section, Lewis would most surely join the GLVC for competitive play. The Great Lakes Valley Conference is adding football as its 18th championship sport beginning in 2012.

The conference expanded in October 2010 to include three new universities just with the intention of football. McKendree University, located in Lebanon, IL, will join the conference in 2013-2014 and become the conference’s 17th full time member. Two partial members, Urbana University and Central State University, will join strictly to compete in football beginning in 2012.

With those three mentioned schools, the GLVC will also absorb six football teams from its current 16 members that happen to play football in other conferences. Those six schools are William Jewell College, Kentucky Wesleyan College, University of Missouri S&T, Quincy University, Saint Joseph’s College, and University of Indianapolis. These six schools are currently spread amongst three different conferences but all have tied to the GLVC.

The new football championship will be the conference’s newest title sport since indoor track and field competition began in 2000.

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The Role of Students in This Process

So where do the students fit into this puzzle?

As mentioned previously, just because the school is building an outdoor stadium that could house football doesn’t mean football will actually be coming into the picture.

Lewis students need to build enough excitement that the schools decides this is the right thing to do not just for now but for future Flyers as well. Every chance you get to talk about football with your classmates or student organizations, do it. Mention it to Brother James when you pass by that you’d like to see football games on Saturday nights.

This is not just a benefit for Lewis students now, but it could very well shape the future of the school in more ways than just athletics.

Do your part and spread the word. It’s up to us to show how bad we want this. Make a change and become part of Lewis University history.

Aaron Rodgers Can Thank Intern For Belt

Posted: February 7, 2011 in News

Story originated from 670 The Score’s website. Click here to view it.

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Aaron Rodgers

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

DALLAS (CBS) – Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has an intern with The Score-670 AM radio to thank for the pro-wrestling belt that was hanging over his shoulder as he was named Super Bowl MVP.

The intern, Mike Dubajic, has been working squarely in Bears territory, but he’s quick to point out: “I am a Green Bay Packers fan in and out. I’ve been a Packers fan since I was 8 years old.”

Dubajic bought the WWE championship wrestling belt, which is missing a gem, on WWE.com, in what he calls the best $375 he ever spent in his life. Last week, while in Dallas for the Super Bowl, he made sure the belt found its way into Rodgers’ hands.

“On Friday I went to the team hotel, and access to get into the hotel was very, very difficult as you’d probably imagine,” he said. “But one of the Packers security guys saw the belt, came over and grabbed it from me; swore to me over and over again that he would give it to Aaron, and he kept his promise.”

And when a WWE belt appeared on Rodgers’ shoulder has he accepted the MVP award, there was no doubt that it was the Dubajic’s. The belt is easily identifiable by its missing red diamond gem.

“The belt Aaron Rodgers had, definitely came from me,” Dubajic said.

So how does Dubajic feel about the fact that he will never see the belt again now?

“I don’t need to see it again,” he told The Score’s Mully and Hanley show. “I love that the champ’s got it and I’m satisfied.”

 

Jay Cutler

Bears quarterback Jay Cutler hangs his head in disappointment on Sunday, knowing he will have to face the criticism eventually this offseason (Getty Images).

The Bears loss to Green Bay in the NFC Championship was far and beyond disappointing.

Perhaps the cherry on top of the loss to Chicago’s most bitter rival was the torn MCL injury to quarterback Jay Cutler in the third quarter. The critics took an immediate chance to jump on Cutler for his toughness and durability when he failed to return to the game.

On a radio interview a day after the injury occurred, Dr. Brian Cole, an orthopedic surgeon who specializes in sports medicine at the Midwest Orthopedics at Rush, stated on WSCR-AM that there are three degrees of this injury. Cutler’s is reported to be a second degree, which may or may not require surgery and recoils discomfort and pain depending on how the knee is used. The example he gave was that an offensive lineman would likely be able to play thru the pain, but players who would be making lateral motions would likely suffer the most. The injury could result in a 2-3 week rehabilitation.

Yes Cutler had a disgusting performance. Cutler completed only 6 passes out of 14 attempts for a sad 80 yards and an interception. Cutler’s 31.8 quarterback rating was far too low for a player of his caliber. The offense seemed to never establish any success while he was in the game. While at the helm, the offense had only 99 net yards in Cutler’s half-and-one-series. A sad performance to say the least.

Whether he could have returned and played the rest of the game, only Cutler knows. If he was injured to the severity that he could not compete in the biggest game he’s ever played in, then that’s something he’s going to have to deal with for a long time.

The Packers defense feasted on Chicago for the entire first half. They seemed to have Cutler figured out down to a science. The running game was hit or miss as usual, forcing the Bears to try moving the ball thru the air. That plan failed.

But before everyone goes on to Tweet about how Jay Cutler is a wussy and he threw the NFC Championship game, the fact Chicago never had any offensive fire power early in the game is not entirely his fault.

The Bears special teams were frozen solid on the sidelines and never became the X-factor they usually do. Punts were iffy, the field goal team had two opportunities to score but never did, and the return game was dismal.

Pro Bowl kick returner Devin Hester was a non-factor in the loss. Hester, who was reignited this season as the elite kickoff and punt returner he was seasons ago, made no impact on the game. Opposing teams usually kick it away from Hester and surrender good field position or kickoff to Hester and feel the burn should he break a return free for pay dirt.

Hester returned just one kickoff Sunday for 24 yards and 3 punts for a combined 16 yards. Offensively, he caught no passes and never stretched the field to open up options for his teammates.

The Bears average starting field position as a result of the poor special teams play was their own 27 yard line, which would make any quarterback uncomfortable having to go 73 yards on average for a touchdown.

Green Bay only kicked off once to Hester. Rashied Davis, Kellen Davis, and Danieal Manning each returned one as well, combining for under 40 yards. Hester doesn’t only take blame for the crummy field position, so does the rest of the kickoff squad.

Chicago punter Brad Maynard even seemed to lose his edge yesterday. He sure got a workout punting 9 times, but averaged 33.4 net yards per boot. The Bears never forced Green Bay to have to start way deep in their own territory like the Packers did to the Bears. Green Bay started 4 drives from its own 20 or worse. Chicago had to endure that hardship 6 times, leading to 5 punts and an interception.

So while the initial fan reaction may tell you to point the blame finger at Jay Cutler, remember that he had no help at all yesterday and was faced with an uphill battle the entire first half. Matt Forte’s 160 total yards from scrimmage (17 rushes for 70 yards, 10 receptions for 90 yards) really came late when the Bears went to third stringer Caleb Hanie. Cutler just couldn’t spark big plays or sustain drives.

During the 7 drives Cutler was on the field for, the Bears punted 6 times and was intercepted. On their first 9 possessions, Chicago punted 8 times with an interception. The first 12 drives featured 9 punts, two interceptions, and only one offensive touchdown. I need not go further, you get the point.

In the end, somebody has to take the blame for the loss. While I feel it’s appropriate to give some to Cutler, just ration some to the side so special teams can receive their fair share of the loss. The defense played the best of the team’s three phases, surrendering only 14 points excluding the B.J. Raji interception return for a score.

We may never know what could have been from the NFC Championship Game with the “what if” statements. What I do know is that it is going to be a very long offseason for the Bears with nothing but questions and speculation.

For the city of Chicago, football can’t come back soon enough.

NFC Championship Preview

Posted: January 20, 2011 in News

This story was written by Marc Denson. Follow him on Twitter @vball4life614.

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Clay Matthews

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews will play a significant role in this weekend's Packers-Bears game. How well he defends the middle of the field could put pressure on Jay Cutler (NFL.com).

Round One – Chicago.

Round Two – Green Bay.

Which one of the National Football League’s oldest rival members will deliver the final knockout blow in the NFC Championship game, both literally and figuratively?

Sunday afternoon, at Soldier Field in Chicago, the Bears and Packers will clash for the 182nd time. This occasion will be the first postseason contest since 1941 – a week after the attacks on Pearl Harbor.

To the victor of this game goes the George Halas Trophy, symbolizing the National Football Conference champion. Not only are the stakes of a Super Bowl berth eminent, but the bragging rights from this game will linger on for decades to come.

The first meeting between the Bears and Packers this season came on September 27 which was also Week 3 and was the Monday Night Football game that week. The Bears won this meeting 20-17. With this win, the Bears showed that the Packers are not the only team that can win the NFC North. Jay Cutler threw for 221 yards with 1 touchdown and 1 pick, Brian Urlacher forced a key fumble and Chicago took advantage of a team-record of 18 penalties by the Packers. With 4 seconds left in the game, Bears’ kicker Robbie Gould made a 19-yard field goal. Aaron Rodgers threw for 316 yards a touchdown and a pick as well. Rodgers also rushed for a touchdown. The win in Week 3 helped the Bears build all the confidence they needed to get right where they are, back to playing the Packers again, but this time for the NFC Championship and a trip to Dallas.

When the Bears met the Packers in Week 17, January 2, the Packers were able to defeat the Bears 10-3. This game was mostly a defensive showing and met everything for the Packers and next to nothing for the Bears. The Packers needed the win in order to make it to the playoffs and at this point the Bears had already clinched not only the playoffs, but the #2 seed as well. Rodgers passed for 229 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Jay Cutler threw for 168 yards with 2 picks.

Bears’ coach Lovie Smith gave his take on the upcoming NFC Championship between the Bears and Packers. Smith stated, “If you’re beating your rival and you’re winning your division, you have a chance to achieve your ultimate goal, winning the Super Bowl. Those are our three goals that we’ll have every year I’m leading this program. Guys have bought into it and we still have an opportunity to achieve all those goals.” Lovie Smith has high hopes for his team just like he did in 2006 when they went to the Super Bowl and lost to the Indianapolis Colts. Smith also added that there is nothing better than seeing the Bears and the Packers battling it out for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.

Packers’ coach Mike McCarthy also had a few words to say about this Sunday’s matchup between the Bears and Packers for a spot in the ‘grand-daddy’ of football, the Super Bowl. McCarthy said that the Bears have a good defense. McCarthy is also aware that the Bears defense is number one.  “It’s a system that’s been in place there for quite some time,” McCarthy added about the Bears defense.  Coach McCarthy has a lot of work to do to try to solve the almost unstoppable defense of the Bears. McCarthy thinks the fact that they (the Packers) have played the Bears twice already is an advantage. “You know what you’re walking into. You know how they’re going to play, and I think that’s the way you like to play,” McCarthy adds on playing the Bears twice already this season.

This game is going to be one for the ages, that is if the Packers can establish an effective ground game and the Bears offense shows up to play like they have in the past few games.

If the Packers do not establish a ground game, then it is going to be a long day for Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Playing against the number one defense in the league, Rodgers is going to need help all around if he hopes to be successful against the Bears on Sunday. Although the Bears have the best rush defense in the game, without establishing a ground game, the Packers will be torn apart through the air at some point in the game with the heavy Bears blitz. The most obvious thing the Packers must do is keep the ball away from the best returner in the game, Devin Hester. Anytime Hester has the ball in his hands, it can go for a huge touchdown such as Hester has been doing his whole career, returning kicks all the way back.

The Bears will need to have a good offensive showing if they want to beat the Packers. Although the Bears have based winning off their defense, the Packers are a strong offensive team and are no slouches on the defensive side of the ball either. The Packers’ defense are the 5th best in both total yards per game against with 309.1 and passing yards per game against with 194.2. The Bears began the season struggling offensively because of Mike Martz’s pass heavy offense, but Martz has been able to balance the offense which has helped the Bears a lot with their success. The ground game has always been a  huge part of the Bears offense ever since the Bears came into existence. Also, the Bears have to put Charles ‘Peanut’ Tillman on Greg Jennings for most of the game. Tillman did an outstanding down shutting down the Seahawks #1 receiver, Mike Wallace, holding Wallace to just 15 yards. That is a huge feat and a key to why the Bears defeated the Seahawks. Tillman is the Bears #1 back and you have to trust him to play with Rodgers’ favorite target, Greg Jennings. Jennings is a physical receiver, but Tillman can also be physical when needed and the Bears will need that out of him on Sunday.

AFC Championship Preview

Posted: January 20, 2011 in News
Ben Roethlisberger

Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will have his hands full with a difficult Jets defense. If he wishes to run off the field in victory, he must have a strong pocker presence (NFL.com).

In one of the most exciting games of the second half of the season, the New York Jets defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers at Heinz Field 22-17 back on Dec. 19. The game, which came down to the final play to determine the outcome, was action-packed and filled with drama.

How appropriate that a rematch will determine a Super Bowl berth.

The Steelers, who have won more Super Bowls than any other NFL franchise, hope to get the better of the Jets, who haven’t been to a Super Bowl since the infamous Joe Namath promise of 1969.

In the first meeting, the Jets held on to the win as Steelers quarterback led the offense from its own 8 yard line to the Jets 10 inside of the final 3:00, only to throw two incompletions on the game’s last two plays.

New York received the opening kickoff but did not hold the ball for very long. Kickoff return specialist Brad Smith ran the opening boot back 97 yards for the game’s first score. Roethlisberger found tight end Matt Spaeth from 9 yards out a quarter later to even the battle at 7-7. Both teams exchanged field goals to make the contest 10-10 heading into halftime.

Steelers running back Rashard Mendenhall scored a short 2 yard touchdown with 5:57 to go in the third quarter to give the Steelers a 7 point lead. Jets signal caller Mark Sanchez scrambled into the end zone minutes later for the Jet’s first offensive touchdown in its last 12 quarters of play.

The game was decided by the fourth quarter. A 34 yard Nick Folk field goal gave New York a 20-17 lead. Pittsburgh had the ball inside its own 5 yard line, looking to drive the field down by just a field goal, when running back Mewelde Moore was stuffed in the Pittsburgh end zone for a Jets safety with just 2:38 left in regulation. That score made it 22-17, eliminating the possibilities of Pittsburgh tying the game on a field goal.

Roethlisberger had the length of the field to go with 2:08 and three timeouts. The drive seemed impossible when the Steelers were faced with a third-and-24 and two third-and-10 plays. Pittsburgh converted all three, compliments of receivers Emmanuel Sanders, Mike Wallace, and Antonio Brown respectively. The drive reached the Jets 10 yard line. Roethlisberger tried to make difficult throws but was only allotted for two plays because of the clock. Neither was caught and the Jets won 22-17.

The Steelers, the conference’s no. 2 seed, defeated the division rival Baltimore Ravens in the Divisional Round Saturday night 31-24. They knew going into Sunday’s action that they would either go to New England or host New York, pending the outcome of the final Divisional Round game of the weekend. After the Jets 28-21 defeat of the Patriots, the stage was set.

“I told our players after that game, hey – make your mark because we’re coming back here,” commented Jets head coach Rex Ryan in his postgame interview Sunday, knowing his team would be traveling to Pittsburgh for the AFC Championship. “We’ll take it. We’ll take it man. I’m proud of our guys.”

Things should be no different the second time around. Both teams, with respectable 3-4 style defenses, will look to repeat their strong performances Sunday.

The difference maker for the Steelers in December was Mendenhall, who finished a hair below 100 yards and scored a touchdown. In order to keep the Jets very aggressive defense from blitzing too much, the Steelers must maintain a balanced offense by running and passing the ball. Back in week 15, the Steelers ran 44 pass plays and only 25 run plays. While Mendenhall must pace the running attack, Roethlisberger will need a repeat performance from Wallace as well who had 7 catches for 102 yards in week 15.

New York has rediscovered its running attack this postseason, taking significant pressure off of Sanchez to throw. Running backs LaDainlian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene have split the load thus far, keeping both healthy and not overworking either. Wideout Braylon Edwards turned in an 8 grab, 100 yard performance in the regular season meeting, similar numbers to Pittsburgh’s Wallace.

The Jets-Steelers game will be filled with plenty of storylines. The Jets will win if they can force Roethlisberger to stay in the pocket and make bad throws. They forced two fumbles back in week 15, while the Steelers didn’t force one. Pittsburgh should win if they can confuse Sanchez with their unique zone blitzing schemes. Linebacker James Harrison is coming off a 3.0 sack performance against Baltimore. If New York can’t keep him out of the pocket, the Jets may be punting quite often.

The New York Jets meet the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game Sunday, January 23, 2011 at Heinz Field in Pittsburgh, PA. The game will be broadcasted on CBS at 6:30 EST. The winner of Jets-Steelers will meet the winner of the Green Bay Packers-Chicago Bears in Super Bowl XLV in Dallas, TX on February 6 on FOX.