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Da picks

Because the Blob is a better-judgment-free zone, once again it's time to predict who wins this weekend's NFL playoff games, which of course means I'm going to be telling you who's going to head to Dallas in two weeks for Super Roman Numeral Whatever.

In the NFC championship game, it's the Bears, it's the Packers, it's a multiple choice question: What does the Soldier Field turf most resemble?

  • A. Hay.
  • B. Nabisco Shredded Wheat.
  • C. The floor of a barbershop after Tom Brady gets a crewcut.
  • D. All of the above.
The correct answer is "E," the slopes of Mount St. Helens immediately after it exploded.

In any case, the footing is going to be almost as atrocious as the weather, which can loosely be described as "January in Chicago." And that has a great deal to do with why, after initially leaning Packers this week, I'm picking the Bears.

The rest of it is this: Yes, Aaron Rodgers was ridiculous last week. But he was ridiculous in an artificial environment (the Georgia Dome). And he was playing a team that doesn't know him as well as the Bears do.

Fact is, the Packers could barely wheeze out a 10-3 victory in their last meeting, when the Packers had everything to play for and the Bears had nothing to play for. And Rodgers, in two games against Chicago this year, has two touchdowns and two interceptions, and a passing rating of 91 -- 10 points below his season average.

There's always the chance that the Packers are playing just too well right now. There's also the chance (always) that Jay Cutler will do something irretrievably stupid. But I think the Bears "D" knows how to play Rodgers, and the conditions will neutralize what the Packers do best.

So: Bears.

In the AFC championship game, I am tempted, sorely, to pick the Jets. Rex Ryan's motormouth tends to obscure the fact that he's a genius at putting together defensive game plans. He's frustrated the two best quarterbacks in the game the last two weekends -- including the nearly un-frustrate-able Tom Brady.

Can he do it a third time?

I'm going to roll the dice and say no.

I'll do that because Ben Roethlisberger is neither Manning nor Brady, and presents challenges neither one presents. I'm guessing it's easier to game-plan for precision than it is for instinct, and Roethlisberger plays on instinct. He's also the best clutch passer in the game; if I had to bet my life on one throw, I'd want Roethlisberger to throw it.

If the Jets can run at all on the Steelers, I like their chances. But hardly anyone runs on the Steelers -- and, having lost to the Jets already this year, I give Pittsburgh the slight motivational edge. As reluctant as I am to bet against Ryan at this point, I'm more reluctant to bet against Roethlisberger and Mike Tomlin at home.

So: Steelers. Barely.

Ben Smith's blog.

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