Championship Sunday Recaps

THE NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAME RE-CAPS --
PACKERS AND STEELERS NOW GEAR IT UP FOR
SUPER BOWL XLV DUEL IN DALLAS
BUT WE ALSO EXAMINE WHAT WENT WRONG
FOR THE BEARS AND J-E-T-S ...
COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT:
PEEKING AHEAD AT SUPER TUESDAY'S TOP TV TILT

If you happen to be holding a 'laundry ticket' with the NFC champion Green Bay Packers to win it all at 7-to-1 or perhaps you own one of the AFC champion Pittsburgh Steelers at a rich 16-to-1 price, then we'll wish you all the luck in the world while heading into Super Bowl XLV on February 6th ... but now hear this:

Nobody here in Jim Sez-land is about ready to declare either the 2010 Steelers nor this year's Packers one of the 'best ever' even though both clubs are riding high today and they've combined to register a 5-0 ATS (against the spread) mark during this year's playoff run.

As you well know, Green Bay has covered all three of its playoff games this winter -- and all of ‘em on the road, to boot -- while the Steelers snagged back-to-back post-season home covers the past two weekends against Baltimore and the New York Jets. The Hurley Network was right on the money with the Steelers, anticipating some of the fatigue the visitors showed early in the game and confident in Ben Roethlisberger's playoff experience at crunch time.

Good stuff indeed but the fact of the matter is both Packers and the Steelers allowed their NFL Championship Games to get all-too-close-for-comfort on Sunday and that has to be a concern heading into the Super Bowl less than two weeks hence -- how does a third-string quarterback for Chicago make things hairy for the Pack and how did the Steelers almost blow a 24-0 lead?

We'll get to our NFC and AFC Championship Game re-caps in just a moment while also dissecting what went wrong for the Bears and Jets but first this important message:

Jim Hurley and his Handicappers and Bloggers will release the Side & Totals Winners for Super Bowl XLV on Game-Day morning and so that means for the better part of the next two weeks it's time get your hands on all the 2010-11 College Basketball and NBA Winners.

No doubt that Jim's been red-hot in his Hoop Selections in recent weeks, a 7-2-1 streak in his elite Private Line service being the most promiennt example, and so no reason to mope just because the Super Bowl seems so far off in the distant future. There's daily Basketball Winners on tap and all you have to do is check with us at our exclusive toll-free telephone # of 1-800-323-4453 or else when you simply log online right here.

Check in either way Mondays-through-Fridays anytime after 1 p.m. ET for all the NCAA Basketball and NBA games and after 10 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday.

Keep on piling up those profits all winter long!

SUPER BOWL TIDBITS

How ‘bout we whet your proverbial appetite here with some quick-hitter Super Bowl Facts & Figures? Note that Super Bowl Betting Favorites are 21-20-3 ATS overall (. 512 winning rate for SB chalk-eaters) and do keep in mind that Underdogs have covered each of the last three Super Bowl games ... remember these?

2009 New Orleans + 4.5 Indianapolis 31-17
2008 Pittsburgh - 7 Arizona 27-23
2007 New York Giants + 12 New England 17-14


Next, note that NFC teams are a collective 23-18-3 ATS in past Super Bowls (a solid .561 winning percentage) meaning that AFC teams are covering at just a .439 clip in past Super Bowl clashes with a reminder that the NFC's covered each of the last three games and all as dogs (although you undoubtedly know that Green Bay has been installed as a 2 1/2-point betting favorite so far in SB XLV).

Finally, here's a shocker: The AFC has been the Super Bowl Betting Favorite in each of the past eight years -- the last time an NFC team was favored in a Super Bowl was back in the 2001 season when the 14-point favored St. Louis Rams lost 20-17 to the New England Patriots. Lots more Super Bowl goodies as we get closer and closer to the 'big game' in less than two weeks time ... okay?

NFL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES

NFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME --
GREEN BAY 21, CHICAGO 14 --
No question that the Packers were picture-perfect for much of the first half en route to a 14-0 lead but the problem was Mike McCarthy's club didn't have an even bigger lead. Right?

Hey, Green Bay marched down the field on its first drive -- seven plays for 84 yards in four-plus minutes as QB Aaron Rodgers connected on all four of his aerial attempts -- and sure looked like it was gonna steamroll the Bears here but a combination of things conspired to keep this one close late as the Packers showed zero killer instinct (isn't that what folks were saying about the Bears last week in the wake of that hang-on-for-dear-life 35-24 win/cover against Seattle?) and Rodgers really got out of his playoff rhythm while throwing a pair of picks and also getting rocked hard on a couple of plays.
Maybe the fact that Chicago wound up giving serious playing time to third-string QB Caleb Hanie (13-of-20 passing for 153 yards with 1 TD and 2 INT) put Green Bay into a comfy mood but what might the Packers be saying today if second-year DT B.J. Raji didn't rumble 18 yards for a score with a fourth-quarter pick or if DB Sam Shields didn't intercept that errant Hanie pass near the GB goal-line in the game's closing moments?

The fact of the matter is the Packers didn't play with a real focus after intermission and McCarthy and his coaching staff almost were forced to play sudden-death overtime had Hanie just shown some late-game magic instead of making some panicky passes. Green Bay's Rodgers had 6 TDs and 0 INTs in previous playoff road wins this winter versus Philadelphia and Atlanta but he really brain-cramped on that LB Brian Urlacher INT (yes, the Rodgers tackle downfield was great but let's not forget he really made a novice decision to throw into the middle of the field inside the 10-yard line) plus Green Bay's heralded defense really never did solve Bears RB Matt Forte who finished up with 90 receiving yards and 70 rushing yards on 27 'touches' -- remember we said in our NFC Championship Game Preview the other day here that Forte had to get a minimum of 25 'touches' for Chicago to win and once he got rolling the Bears (and offensive coordinator Mike Martz) should have figured a way to get him more carries even with the Bears staring at a couple of double-digit deficits.

As far as the knee injury to Chicago QB Jay Cutler (6-of-14 passing for 80 yards with one INT), the Bears were not efficient in his time on thee field here and so maybe Hanie was more a blessing-in-disguise despite the Raji 'pick six' but tough for anyone to call out Cutler after he took a major pounding all year long behind a less-than-adequate offensive line -- the Packers proved too good early on but this club's got lots of warts.

AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME --
PITTSBURGH 24, NEW YORK JETS 19 --
Want to know the true 'turning point' of this title tilt at Heinz Field?
It wasn't necessarily that impressive fourth-quarter goal-line stand by the Steelers (although that was one for the history books) or even the somewhat controversial QB Mark Sanchez fumble returned 19 yards for a TD by Pittsburgh CB William Gay that pushed the home team's lead to 24-0 with 1:13 remaining in the first half (although that one will stay with the Jets for a long, long time) but rather the game's opening drive:

The Steelers took the opening drive of the game and marched 66 yards on 15 plays with RB Rashard Mendenhall capping things with a one-yard scoring run: It was a drive that proved Pittsburgh's physical toughness at the point of attack -- the Jets' defense didn't tackle well on this march nor did many Jets really look comfortable trying to latch onto the aforementioned Mendenhall (27 carries for 121 yards for the game) -- and the bottom line is Mike Tomlin's team established a tone that really deflated the J-E-T-S for the better part of the first half.

If the Jets wanted to show some resiliency in the opening half, they had their opportunities but instead garnered only one rushing yards -- the Steelers sported a 135-to-1 rushing yard advantage at halftime -- and by the time the Jets got back on the beam in the second half they had zero margin for error and so that elongated 17-play, 80-yard march that chewed up eight minutes and change and produced zero points really was the death blow to a Jets team that's now lost their last four consecutive AFC Championship Games (see 1982, 1998, 2009 and 2010).

If Jets head coach Rex Ryan wants to chirp about how great his club will be next year -- and note the Jets have 12 free agents on their current roster and could look very different in 2011 -- than toughening up in the trenches is critical because this club wound up allowing 166 rushing yards and didn't 'guess' right late when Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger showed the look of a quarterback draw and instead zipped a game-sealing 14-yard strike on third-and-six to rookie WR Antonio Brown -- shouldn't the Jets at least have expected the possibility of a pass there that would have cinched matters?

Overall, Roethlisberger (133 yards passing with two picks) did just enough to push the Steelers over the top late but why did Pittsburgh retreat from an attacking style after building up that 24-zip lead ... you got us on that one!

COLLEGE BASKETBALL REPORT --
SUPER TUESDAY BIG 10 BATTLE

Tonight is Big Monday and we've got a strong parlay set for Notre Dame-Pitt and Baylor-Kansas State. Let's also glance ahead at the best matchup on the College Basketball docket this final Tuesday of the month:

#14 PURDUE (17-3, 6-1 Big 10) at #1 OHIO STATE (20-0, 7-0 Big 10) -- 9 p.m. ET, ESPN
Let's get ready to rumble ... Big 10-style.
The conference's two heavy-hitters -- yes, they're running 1-2 in the league these days -- square off in Columbus and the $64,000 question is when/who will beat these Buckeyes this season? Thad Matta's club had a close call in Saturday's 73-68 win at 3 1/2-point underdog Illinois while Purdue rollicked past downtrodden Michigan State 86-76 in ESPN's 'Game Day' prime-time special that night but now Buckeyes' freshman phenom Jared Sullinger gets another under-the-lights look here after he proved to be a stat-sheet stuffer deluxe with 27 points and 16 rebounds (while playing all 40 minutes) against the Fighting Illini. Here, Sullinger -- who drained 13-of-15 free throws last Saturday in Champaign -- must be able to shake his way free to the hoop against a Purdue team that prides itself on play prickly defense. Note that the Boilermakers have held 18 of their first 20 foes to below 70 points this year and now Matt Painter's crew is starting to get more consistent offensive play from the likes of veterans E'Twaun Moore and JaJuan Johnson who combined for 46 points against the Spartans last weekend.

Hey, anyone notice that the Boilers shot it at a 58 percent clip in that latest win (29-of-50 from the floor)?

 

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