Road to the Super Bowl

John Turner
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The most popular NFL team amongst locals has to be the New England Patriots.

And, after the New York Jets shocked the Patriots, what a Sunday night of tossing and turning it must have been for Goat, Chissy, Ahern, Scottie and many others.

The Jets and the mouth of Rex Ryan "Walked the Walk" by winning in Foxboro. The Freak has been critical of Coach Ryan for running his mouth, but you have to credit his team and coaches for backing it up with two big road wins against the NFL's two best quarterbacks.

Coach Ryan put his blitzing ego aside and had his defence drop (eight players) into coverage to stop the Patriots' inside passing game, and somehow got pressure from his front three while the defensive backs and linebackers locked down on Brady's receivers and backs.

Ryan dressed 11 defensive backs, so that should have given the Pats an idea about their schemes.

Pats fans' have to be getting nervous as Brady is 0-3 (won-lost) in the playoffs since 2007, including two home losses, averaged only 16 points a game and a 74 passer rating.

Pet peeve of the week

The Freak watched Jets punter Steve Weatherford fail to make a 25-yard punt five times to pin the Patriots deep. The only thing punters do all week is practise kicking. What are you doing in the NFL if you cannot punt 25 yards with some consistency?

Stat of the week

Hard to believe it's only the second time the Packers and Bears will meet in the playoffs. The previous one was Dec. 14, 1941.

Coach Parcells' 1990 NFC Championship story

On Thursday prior to the NFC Championship game, Parcells gathered the team and explained that if they beat the 49ers in San Francisco, the Giants would travel directly to Tampa for the Super Bowl. He told his players they could pack for a weekend if they planned on losing, or they could pack for an extra week in Tampa.

As the team mulled the question, Coach Parcells grabbed an extraordinary large suitcase from under the table, slammed it on the table and said, "I think you know my answer."

NFC Championship

The Packers are arguably the hottest remaining team, and there's no doubt Aaron Rodgers is the hottest quarterback.

The Bears played all their starters in a meaningless regular-season finale against the Pack, which was a must-win for them to get into the playoffs. The Packers won and, three weeks later, they're in the NFC Championship game.

Soldier Field's turf is the worst in the league. Don't think it's not like that for a reason - this will help slow down Green Bay's fast receivers and pass rush.

They have played each other 182 times, but this is the most important game for both franchises.

Packers on offence

Green Bay loves to spread the field with the four-wide formation of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and James Jones to find single coverage mismatch that ARod will find with his pinpoint accuracy. If the Bears give him that same base 4-3 look with that cover two behind it, Rodgers will pick them apart.

Rookie running back James Starks, along with Brandon Jackson, must run the ball effectively to keep the Bears off Rodgers. Rodgers can buy time with his legs, which makes him very dangerous out of the pocket. Chicago's D has its hands full.

Bears on defence

Defensive end Julius Peppers needs to have a career game to disrupt the timing of the Pack's air attack. Coach Lovie Smith should move him around at times and line up against rookie right tackle Bryan Buluga, who has struggled with speed/power defensive ends, instead of putting Peppers up against Pro Bowl left tackle Chad Clifton. Chicago's defenders are tops at pursuing and love stripping the ball.

If the Bears are going to win they need to get pressure from their front four, and their nickel-and-dime defensive backs have to shut down those Pack receivers.

Bears on offence

The Packers love to blitz from all over the field with linebacker Clay Matthews and corner back Charles Woodson.

In the last game they played, quarterback Jay Cutler was running for his life, had no time in the pocket and was sacked six times. The Freak remembers Chicago threw no more than two screens the whole game. They need to use the screen to keep the pass rushers honest.

The Bears need offensive balance, and if they run the ball more than 20 times with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor they win. Cutler, who can make mistakes with the best of them, needs to make good decisions, identify where the blitz is coming from and play within himself.

Packers on defence

Defensive co-ordinator Dom Capers has done a great job considering all their injuries.

The Pack will throw exotic looks at Chicago to hopefully confuse Cutler. One of their plays is called "Psycho" where they only have one defensive lineman on the field, and another is called "Big Okie" where they have five linebackers and only one safety.

One thing for sure is to identify where linebacker and NFL sack-leader Clay Matthews is on every snap. Capers loves to blitz, he will bring different people every time and he can do it because he has good corners in Woodson, Tramon Williams and Sam Shields for one-on-one coverage.

Special teams

The Bears' Devin Hester is a game-changer.

The Packers have struggled in this department all year, and must kick the ball away from Hester on punts. Does Green Bay punter Tim Masthay know what it means to kick the ball out of bounds?

"Can the Jets beat three Super Bowl quarterbacks - Manning, Brady and Roethlisberger that between them have six rings - in 16 days on the road? If they pull another upset and win the Super Bowl, Coach Ryan will be the most legendary coach ever in the Big Apple - even greater than buddy Bill Parcells!" John Turner

Both place kickers, Mason Crosby and Robbie Gould, are clutch.

The pick

Green Bay's secondary will be able to shut down Chicago's receivers. This will allow them to pressure Cutler into mistakes.

The Packers are off to the Super Bowl in Dallas.

AFC Championship

Can the Jets beat three Super Bowl quarterbacks - Manning, Brady and Roethlisberger that between them have six rings - in 16 days on the road?

If they pull another upset and win the Super Bowl, Coach Ryan will be the most legendary coach ever in the Big Apple - even greater than buddy Bill Parcells! However, the physical Steelers have a much better defence than the Pats rolled out, and will look to pressure you into mistakes like they did against Baltimore last week.

Local Steelers' fan Shawn Adams is heading to Pittsburgh for the second time this season to cheer on the "Steel Curtain."

Jets on offence

Quarterback Mark Sanchez has played great in the playoffs. He's managed the game well, and not turned the ball over.

The Steelers' defence is all about pressure, making plays and, with the NFL's best set of linebackers, Sanchez will have to be smart.

New York must continue to have success running it with LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, so they can use play-action over the top to a very solid group of receivers in Santonio Holmes, Braylon Edwards and Jerricho Cotchery.

The Freak thinks the Jets need to get tight end Dustin Keller into the passing game more. They need a threat in the middle of the field for this type of game. Nine of the Jets' 22 points scored in their first meeting were not scored on offence.

Steelers on defence

A big piece of the puzzle was missing in the Jets' win in Pittsburgh, safety Troy Polamalu. The Steelers are under .500 when he doesn't play, and he's a difference maker.

Defensive co-ordinator Dick LeBeau will try to confuse Sanchez into mistakes, and the best way is by pressure. Linebacker James Harrison is a monster, and the Jets need to identify him and get a hat on him on every snap.

Steelers on offence

Roethlisberger just makes plays when the chips are down. He had no business completing the third-and-19 late in the game versus Baltimore, but found a way.

Unlike Brady, he can move in the pocket to extend a play, will take a hit to make a play and is so big even if you get there you might not be able to tackle him. Wide receiver Mike Wallace can stretch the defence with his speed, and ever-reliable wide receiver Hines Ward is still their clutch third-down receiver.

Tight end Heath Miller is a great safety valve, and he missed the last game versus the Jets. Running back Rashard Mendenhall is a solid running back, but can have fumbling issues that the Jets will focus on.

Jets on defence

New York confused future Hall of Famer Tom Brady, so you think they should be able to against Roethlisberger.

The Jets have a shut-down corner in Darrelle Revis, and their No. 2 guy is a No. 1 on most teams - Antonio Cromartie.

The Freak would put Revis on Wallace on first and second downs, and on Ward on third downs, and move Cromartie to Wallace.

The Jets' front seven needs to get Big Ben on the ground when given an opportunity. Letting him escape usually leads to big plays.

Special teams

You have to think both teams are holding their breath when either Canadian Shaun Suisham or the Jets' Nick Folk kick field goals.

The ball doesn't travel well at Heinz Field. Kickers say the ball sinks in the turf, reducing kicks by five to seven yards.

New York gets back returner Brad Smith, who took one to the house on the opening kickoff in their last meeting. The Jets' return game is much stronger than the Steelers, and may give them the short field.

The pick

The Jets have a 4-1 road playoff record the last two years, but have yet to face a defence like the Steelers, who will attack and physically beat you up.

You know Roethlisberger is going to make some plays - can Sanchez match him? Don't think it'll happen - the Steelers' D is too good.

The Jets' improbable road to the Super Bowl ends.


A look at Sunday's matchups:


Green Bay (12-6, road 5-5)

vs. Chicago (12-5, home 6-3)

Head-to-head meetings

Chicago 20-17 (Week 3)

Green Bay 10-3 (Week 17)


Jets (13-5, road 8-2)

Steelers (13-4, home 6-3)

Head-to-head meeting

Jets 22-17 (Week 14)

John Turner is a Summerside schoolteacher. His column appears every Saturday during the NFL season. Feel free to e-mail questions and comments to the

Organizations: New York Jets, NFL, Steelers Giants Big Apple

Geographic location: Chicago, Green Bay, Foxboro Tampa San Francisco New York Baltimore Pittsburgh Woodson Big Ben Summerside

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