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NFL 2011 Conference Championship Playoffs Gambling Preview

NFL Conference Championship Round Weekend Playoff Previews

The table is set for this weekend’s NFL Conference Championships. It’s hard to believe that by the end of the day on Sunday, the 2010-11 NFL season will just about be over, and we will finally know the two teams that will meet in this year’s Super Bowl after a wild and unpredictable season.

Here I take a look a quick look at each of the match ups, giving you some early insight that will help make your NFL wagers winners.

SUN, JAN 23 TIME (ET)

Chicago Bears v Green Bay Packers, 3:00 PM FOX – The Chicago Bears and Green Bay Packers meet for the third time this season as they play the NFC Championship Game.

The winner will punch their ticket for a trip to Arlington, Texas to compete in Super Bowl XLV on February 6, 2011.

Chicago has been a team that has defied all the odds, finishing the regular season atop the NFC North and as the number two overall seed in the conference.

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For the Bears, it’s been a while since they have finished this good and have been a work in progress all season long as they beefed up their defense and retooled their offense with the help of offensive coordinator Mike Martz. Martz is the main reason that Jay Cutler has gone from zero to a hero in Chicago in just a single season.

Martz’s offense has improved Cutler’s turnover ratio and has opened up running lanes for Matt Forte who has been effective both running and catching the ball.

Special teams and defense has been huge asset for the Bears.

Defensively, this is simply a different unit than we saw a year ago as Brian Urlacher has shown he’s still got a little left in the tank while the addition of Julius Peppers and the Bears secondary makes this unit stronger than the team that went to the Super Bowl a few years ago. They are yielding just 18.2 points and 312.1 yards per game.

As for the Packers, they have already knocked out two division winners in the playoffs, the Philadelphia Eagles and the Atlanta Falcons, and look to make it a third in Chicago.

Green Bay has been a team on a mission since the postseason started, with QB Aaron Rodgers leading the charge. Rodgers was one of the regular season’s best playcallers, but has turned it up a notch in the playoffs, completing 77.8 percent of his passes for 546 yards and six touchdowns.

James Starks has brought the Packers run game to life as well, while receivers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones all contributing in a big way. Driver leads the pack with 11 postseason receptions.

Defensively, the Packers have been solid with veteran Charles Woodson making the big plays while leading the team in tackles this postseason with 12. Tramon Williams has been a ball hawk grabbing three interceptions with all of them being game changers. For the season, Green Bay has held its opponents to 15.4 points and 305.1 yards per outing.

There’s no doubt that these two teams know one another very well and don’t like each other at all. They split the season series this year, with each team winning at home. This one should be battle, and while both teams have weapons on offense, this will come down to defense.

Matt’s Free Prediction: Chicago

Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Jets, 6:30 PM CBS –The Pittsburgh Steelers and the New York Jets meet in the AFC Championship for what I expect will be a thrilling game all the way to the final whistle.

Pittsburgh is one game away from getting back to the Super Bowl, a place they are all too familiar. It’s been just two years since the Steelers hoisted the Lombardi Trophy and after quelling preseason doubts that they could make it back, are poised to continue  their streak of being one of the NFL’s most successful teams in the postseason. They’re 13-8 in AFC Championship Games and Super Bowls. That record is deceptive, though, because the Steelers are just 7-7 in AFC Championship Games, losing at least one conference championship game in each decade since the 1970s. betED

It sure looked like it might be one of those years, as the Steelers had to rally back the second half against Baltimore last weekend.

The Steelers and Jets have never met in the AFC Championship Game, and Pittsburgh won the only playoff game between the two teams in 2004.

New York won Super Bowl III in 1969, and hasn’t been back to the Super Bowl since. The Jets were in the championship game a year ago, but came up short much like many times before.

Second-year QB Mark Sanchez has looked like a second year QB at times and while there have been stretches where he has really struggled, he has made some clutch plays this season.

However, in order to ensure success against Pittsburgh come Sunday, he will need the continued support of his ground pounders LaDanian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene, both who didn’t have much success in their meeting against the Steel Curtain earlier this season. But Braylon Edwards had a big day against Pittsburgh that day, catching eight passes for 100 yards. Drew Coleman got to the Steelers Ben Roethlisberger twice and had nine tackles on the day, while Bryan Thomas got to him once in the loss.

The Jets will need that kind of performance if they want to stop the Steelers in this one.

Roethlisberger, although being sacked three times in that game, threw for 264 yards and a touchdown and scrambled twice, gaining 25 yards. Rashard Mendenhall had plenty of running room as well, rushing for 99 yards and a touchdown on 17 carries.

One of the big factors in the first meeting were the Steelers were without Troy Polamalu. As we have seen over the years, the Steelers defense is a different team when Polamalu is in the lineup.

This one figures to be a low scoring defensive struggle as they have seen one another before and it isn’t going to get any easier for the offenses. I expect the experience of Roethlisberger to be too much for the Jets in this one.

Matt’s Free Prediction: Pittsburgh

Matt Martz is a freelance writer located in Central California. Blessed is the gambler who expects nothing, for ye shall not be disappointed.

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