Tag:Aaron Rodgers
Posted on: January 26, 2011 1:05 pm
 

Hot Routes 01.26.11: Fairley certain Cats want DT

Posted by Will Brinson



Got a link for the Hot Routes? Hit us up on Twitter (@CBSSportsNFL).
  • Marty Hurney told Joseph Pearson of the Charlotte Observer on Monday that the Carolina Panthers top two needs are quarterback and defensive tackle. Hurney also mentioned that Jimmy Clausen has the tools to succeed. Oh, and he drafted him. So, provided Nick Fairley doesn't do anything ridiculous between now and April, there's a good chance he's the top pick.
Posted on: January 25, 2011 2:35 pm
 

Rodgers did not suffer a concussion Sunday

Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Some have questioned if Packers QB Aaron Rodgers sustained his third concussion of the season Sunday when Chicago’s Julius Peppers smacked him on a helmet-to-helmet hit that drew a 15-yard penalty and almost surely will lead to a fine.

Nope, Rodgers told SI.com’s Peter King. The reason why: his new technologically-savvy helmet that the league would love to see every NFL player wear.

"That was lucky,'' Rodgers told King. "As much as the new helmet feels uncomfortable and I'm still getting used to it, I'm really happy I was wearing it on that hit. … I know what a concussion feels like. I'm just grateful this wasn't hard enough to give me another one.''

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Category: NFL
Posted on: January 24, 2011 3:26 pm
 

Championship Game Podcast Review

Posted by Andy Benoit

Bears-Packers and Jets-Steelers both turned out to be close in the end. And both provided plenty of storylines. (You may have heard that a few people are questioning the toughness of a certain quarterback.) 

Be up to speed on all of it. Just hit the play button below and don't forget to Subscribe via iTunes.

If you can't view the podcast, click here to download .
Posted on: January 24, 2011 2:07 pm
Edited on: January 24, 2011 6:08 pm
 

Early look at Super Bowl XLV Packers vs. Steelers

Posted by Charley Casserly

It’d be hard to ask for a better matchup in Super Bowl XLV than the Green Bay Packers vs. the Pittsburgh Steelers. These are the hottest teams in their respective conferences. Both have big-name quarterbacks, playmakers on offense and a host of Pro Bowl caliber contributors in their well-coached 3-4 defenses. It’s no wonder the oddsmakers and pundits are forecasting a close game. Here is an early overview of the matchup.

Three "X" FactorsB. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)

1. Super Bowl experience

The Steelers, only two years removed from winning Super Bowl XLIII, have an edge in experience that will come in to play both on and off the field. Having been in four Super Bowls myself, here is how I see the edge manifesting itself:

There are a lot of off the field distractions the players and staff have to deal with. These include ticket requests, media requests, family and friends travel, etc. The coaches have to manage these distractions while determining how much of the game plan to install at home and how much to install after arriving in Dallas. Some teams like to put in the game plan before they get to the Super Bowl site in order to have it done before the majority of distractions set in. Others want to wait so as not to have the players get bored or stale the week of the game.

The Steelers and their staff have dealt with this conundrum before. The Packers, for the most part, have not.


2. The two weeks to prepare and rest

I think this could favor or hurt Green Bay – we won't know until the game. On the one hand Green Bay is on a roll. They have faced elimination in their last five outings. They survived and, thus, have momentum. The two-week break could disrupt that momentum.
 
On the other hand, the break may be just the thing they need to get recharged. If they had to play next week, they maybe would run out of gas.

 
3. Green Bay’s familiarity with defensive scheme

The Packers may have an edge over many, if not all, of the opponents that the Steelers have played this year. That edge? They play the same 3-4 defense as Pittsburgh. Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers and Steelers defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau worked together in Pittsburgh when LeBeau was the defensive backs coach when Capers was the defensive coordinator (1992-94). This will help Green Bay more than other teams that have had to prepare for Pittsburgh this season, as Green Bay will have had a better look in practice from their scout team in imitating Pittsburgh's defense.

 
Two key statistical categories that could come into play

 
1. Sacks per pass play

In terms of sacks per pass play, the Steelers offense ranks 30th in preventing sacks, while the Packers defense ranks third. On the other side of the ball, Green Bay's offense is 20th in sacks per pass play while Pittsburgh’s defense is sixth. Just watching film, it would seem Green Bay has the edge here. The statistics agree.
 
Both teams will have the opportunity to sack the opposing QB. I believe it comes down to which QB can avoid the pressure and still make a play. Conversely, which team when they get that free defender can bring the opposing QB down? Ben Roethlisberger is not only mobile, he is big and strong. He can throw with defenders draping off of him. Aaron Rodgers, on the other hand, is quicker a foot than Roethlisberger and can avoid defenders. 

 
2. Rushing

The Steelers run defense is ranked number one in the NFL. The Packers rushing offense is ranked 24th. This is a clear advantage for the Steelers. How will the Packers be able to run the ball? I believe their best chance will be to spread the Steelers out to make them defend the pass first, then come back with the run second. In other words, set up the run with the pass.

 
Three matchups of note (Green Bay offense vs. Pittsburgh defense)

 
1. Green Bay Wide Receivers vs. Pittsburgh CB's

The Packers have a decided edge here. The two things the Steelers must do to negate this edge is a.) jam the receivers off the line to disrupt their timing on their routes in their rhythm passing game and b.) do a good job tackling when Green Bay’s wideouts catch the ball. Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones and Jordy Nelson are all fantastic at running after the catch.

 
2. Green Bay's OT’s vs. Pittsburgh’s OLB’s

This is an edge for Pittsburgh. Most defenses only have one good pass-rusher. Pittsburgh has two in James Harrison and LaMarr Woodley. Green Bay has to either make sure they help their OT's in some way (likely with a RB chipping or a TE staying in to block). The Packers cannot let the Steeler OLB's go one on one against Chad Clifton, Bryan Bulaga, backup T.J. Lang or one of their backs.

 
3. Green Bay’s center Scott Wells vs. Pittsburgh’s NT Casey Hampton

This is an advantage for Pittsburgh in terms of size and strength. If the Packers can't find a way to control Hampton by helping Wells or devise a running scheme to take advantage of Hampton's tendency to over-pursue (such as having the RB cut back against the grain in the opposite direction of Hampton's initial movement), they will struggle to run the ball.

 
Three matchups of note (Green Bay defense vs. Pittsburgh offense)


1. Green Bay’s NT B.J. Raji vs. Pittsburgh’s C (Maurkice Pouncey or Doug Legursky)

Raji will have a decided edge over whoever Pittsburgh plays at OC (Pro Bowl rookie Maurkice Pouncey hopes to play on his bad ankle; third-year pro Doug Legursky is the backup). It is the same principle that Green Bay faces in running the ball against Casey Hampton: you need a plan to negate the edge that the opposing NT has over your C. B. Raji (US Presswire)

2. Green Bay’s nickel defense vs. Pittsburgh’s run offense

Green Bay will line up in their nickel defense on running downs and dare teams to run the ball. (Often times, they have just two defensive linemen in these packages.) If the Packers do this, the Steelers have to take advantage and run the ball effectively.

3. Green Bay’s OLB Clay Mathews vs. Pittsburgh OT's (LT Jonathan Scott, RT Flozell Adams)

Both OT's for Pittsburgh, Scott and Adams, are backup players. Mathews, like James Harrison, is one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL. Mathews has to win his matchups against the Steelers tackles. The Packers do a good job moving him around to get him into favorable matchups. Can the Steelers figure this out and find a way to block him? 
 

Beyond the statistics and matchups: two more things to watch  

1. Will Green Bay employ a strategy similar to New England's plan against the Steeler defense? The Patriots spread the Steeler defense out and had a lot of success passing the ball. I think that is the best plan to beat the Steeler defense – and I think the Packers have the ideal personnel to execute that plan.

 
2. Will the Steelers try to run the ball to the outside early in the game to make those big Packer defensive linemen run to the ball? The hope here is that doing so will make those D-linemen tire and wear down as the game goes along. Fatigued defensive linemen, of course, are less effective against both the run and pass later in the game.

 
Prediction
 
This is a very even game, but I give the edge to the Steelers because of the slight edge at QB and their greater big game experience. I think the difference in the game will be Roethlisberger making more plays against the pass-rush than Rodgers. 




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Posted on: January 24, 2011 12:27 am
Edited on: January 24, 2011 3:00 pm
 

10 Super Bowl stories you'll get sick of hearing

Posted by Andy Benoit

Because the Super Bowl is outlandishly over-covered, offering readers 10 Super Bowl stories worth their attention seems redundant if not fruitless. With two weeks until, as your local furniture store calls it, The Big Game!!!, every possible Packers-Steelers storyline is about to be utterly exhausted. And then retold.

You can thank all the “casual fans” who suddenly get interested in the NFL this time of year for this. Somebody has to bring those people up to speed, which means somebody has to retell all the stories true football fans got sick of months ago. You best get used to it now.

Just so you can be on guard, here is an overview of the 10 Super Bowl storylines you’ll get sick of hearing between now and February 6 They’re ranked in order from overhyped to way overhyped, and they don’t even include the non-game related economic stories (you know the ones about how expensive the advertising spots cost, how magnificent the host venue, Cowboys Stadium, is, how bad the CBA talks are going or how many bags of chips are consumed by Americans on Super Bowl Sunday).


10. Wide receivers

The Packers and Steelers receiving units almost mirror one another. Both have a sage veteran (Donald Driver, Hines Ward). Both have a dynamic young big-play weapon (Greg Jennings, Mike Wallace). And both have dangerous but not entirely trD. Driver (US Presswire)usted backups (James Jones and Jordy Nelson; Emmanuel Sanders and Antonio Brown). Here are the predictable cliff notes for the stories involving these guys:

Driver: tough childhood in Houston, first chance at a ring

Ward: borderline “dirty player” who is also proud of Korean heritage

Jennings: NOT a diva, but has still emerged as a No. 1

Wallace: averaging 93 yards per catch this season (or something like that)

Jones: talented but dropped balls; his quarterback trusts him

Nelson: talented but a few fumbles; his quarterback trusts him

Sanders: talented but untested; his quarterback trusts him

Brown: big catches late in games but still raw; his quarterback trusts him

9. Hometown Players

On every Super Bowl team, there are a few players who happen to be from the town in which the game is being played. Thus, you get the homecoming story. This story is only interesting to the dozens of their family and friends who will be in the stands watching on Sunday (because, you know, the player bought dozens of tickets for family and friends!), but that doesn’t stop hard-hitting journalists from writing about it. Or from focusing on how the odds were really stacked against the kid from (insert name of Texas town), as no one ever thought he’d be playing on football’s biggest stage.

So who will the hometown stars be this year? A quick search on PlayersFrom.com (a website that sorts all professional athletes by home state) reveals that the following Packer players were born in Texas: K Mason Crosby, TE Jermichael Finley, QB Matt Flynn, C Scott Wells, WR Donald Driver. The Steelers born in Texas are DE Ziggy Hood, P Daniel Sepulveda, OT Tony Hills, OT Jonathan Scott and NT Casey Hampton.

8. Overcoming adversity

Both teams will talk all week about how they have overcome a lot of adversity this season. Good for them. We can sort of believe the Packers when they trumpet adversity because they led the NFC in injuries (in terms of games missed by starters). But the Steelers? It will be tougher for them to play this card considering they’re littered with stars on defense and have the richest winning tradition in the NFL. But they’ll still find a way to play the adversity card (probably by making veiled references to Ben Roethlisberger’s suspension).


7. Tomlin
M. Tomlin (US Presswire)
You might not get sick of this story because it’s hard to get sick of this man, but you’re going to be hearing it plenty of times: Mike Tomlin is now the only coach in NFL history to reach the Super Bowl twice before the age of 40. He’s already the youngest head coach to hoist a Lombardi Trophy.

This probably won’t be that obnoxious of a storyline. After all, it will probably include plenty about the Steeler modus operandi (which is fascinating), plus Tomlin is about as real as they come. He knows how to give a quote that is just good enough. Which is to say he knows how to say just enough to keep reporters happy but not quite enough to galvanize his opponent.


6. The defensive coordinators

Dick LeBeau is the master behind Pittsburgh’s 3-4 scheme. Dom Capers is the master behind Green Bay’s 3-4. Both are innovative and perhaps deserving of the majority of credit for their team’s success. LeBeau’s recent Hall of Fame induction ruined the hard-hitting THIS MAN SHOULD BE IN CANTON! angle that most writers had for his story, so expect most of the attention to shift towards Capers and whether he deserves a shot at being a head coach for a non-expansion franchise.

There will be plenty of crossover angles here, too, given that Capers coordinated Pittsburgh's D before LeBeau, and both men are pioneers of many 3-4 zone blitz packages.

A dark horse sub storyline here: Kevin Greene, the Packers’ excellent linebackers coach, who was a long-time Steeler.


5. Hair

You just know some idiot is going to do an entertainment feature comparing Troy Polamalu to Clay Matthews.


4. James Starks

Every Super Bowl needs an unlikely breakout star. The Steelers will unofficially nominate sixth-round rookie wideout Antonio Brown for this role, but expect the media to flock to Green Bay’s sixth-round rookie running back James Starks. The Eddie George-like upright runner from Buffalo has rushed for 263 yards since being inserted into the starting lineup for the postseason. Starks is clearly the team’s most explosive runner, but he does not offer star traits. That doeJ. Harrison (US Presswire)sn’t mean the media can’t tell you he’s a burgeoning young star, though.


3. Illegal hits (James Harrison)

Non-football media outlets have been sitting on their stories about how dangerous the sport is for several months, waiting to release them Super Bowl week. Last year, TIME magazine got this ball rolling with its cover piece titled “The Problem with Football: How to Make It Safer”. With Harrison, the poster child for illegal hits, going up against Aaron Rodgers, who suffered two concussions during the regular season, expect another slew of important but boring as hell articles about brain trauma.



2. Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers’ meteoric rise this postseason has been even louder than Drew Brees’ last season. Thank the Brett Favre drama for setting the backdrop for the first-round pick’s career. From day one we’ve admired Rodgers’ class and poise. Since finally taking the field three years ago, we’ve also added arm strength, accuracy and athleticism to his list of admirable traits. Factor in the female celebrities this guy has been linked to (Gossip Girl’s Jessica Szohr, Lady Antebellum’s Hillary Scott, ESPN’s Erin Andrews) and, oh yeah, his insanely impressive performance in five consecutive “must win” games for the Packers (which includes Sunday’s game at Chicago, where Rodgers was much better than his numbers suggest) and we have a first-class superstar on our hands.


1. Ben Roethlisberger

B. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)
As great as a quarterback’s coming out party is, it doesn’t compare to another quarterback’s redemption story. Why? Because a redemption story gives everyone a chance to rehash the drama. The only thing more interesting than Rodgers dating celebrities is Roethlisberger getting accused of mistreating college girls. Sorry, but sexual assault allegations are just too salacious for the media (and public) to ignore.

You know the background here: Nevada and Georgia, no charges filed, six game suspension reduced to four. The Super Bowl week storylines will center around whether Roethlisberger is a changed man and how jovial and humble he has become. The popular caveat will be something along the lines of “only time will tell if these changes stick”. At some point, someone will point out that Big Ben recently got engaged to Pennsylvania native Ashley Harlan. And if that isn’t proof that this one-time frat boy is settling down, what is?


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Posted on: January 21, 2011 1:37 pm
 

Five questions (or more) with Gale Sayers

Gale Sayers (Getty). Posted by Josh Katzowitz

Gale Sayers is a Hall of Fame running back who isn’t afraid to tell Bears fans what he thinks about their team. Earlier this season, the legendary Bears RB dismissed Chicago’s success – a move that predictably drew some heat – and he’s said recently that he thought he was a better kick returner than Devin Hester.

But Sayers also wants to know what YOU think. Which is why he’s teaming up with the Pro Football Hall of Fame (along with Van Heusen and JC Penny) to highlight Fanschoice.com, where fans can pick who they think should make the HOF from this year’s list of finalists.

Said Sayers: “We have about 4 million people who have voted for who they want to see in the Hall of Fame. There are some people they put down that are pretty good players. You have Ray Guy, Jim Plunkett, Lester Hayes and Donnie Shell. There are some people that probably should be in the Hall of Fame but they’re not for some reason.”

Earlier today, we caught up with Sayers and asked his thoughts about his controversial Bears predictions, about Hester’s chances for the Hall of Fame and about his thoughts for Sunday’s Packers-Bears tilt.

Previous Five Questions (or more):

Dec. 10: former Patriots WR Troy Brown

Dec. 3: Panthers QB Brian St. Pierre

Nov. 12: 49ers LB Takeo Spikes

Nov. 5: former WR, current NFL analyst Keyshawn Johnson

Oct. 29: Chargers LS Mike Windt

Oct. 15: Redskins WR Anthony Armstrong

Oct. 8:
Patriots LB Rob Ninkovich

Sept. 24: Texans WR Kevin Walter

Sept. 17: former Bengals, Titans DT John Thornton

Sept. 11: Seahawks RB Leon Washington

1. CBSSports.com:
Since we’re talking about the Hall of Fame and since you’re already in there, what do you think about a guy like punter Ray Guy? He was the most dominant punter of his time – and of all time – and I know there is only one kicker in the Hall, but what do you think? Should a player like Guy be in?

Gale Sayers:
I was playing in the league when Ray Guy was playing in the league. He was the best kicker I’ve ever seen. He could bullet that ball 70 yards. He was so unbelievable. I just don’t know why they’re not letting a punter into the Hall of Fame. It’s so crazy. One of these days he will get in there.

CBS: Just to dismiss punters doesn’t make sense to me. I mean, you see it every week how much they can affect the game. It’s just kind of crazy.

Sayers:
It really is. If you have a great punter, he’s almost (as valuable as a) great running back. Ray Guy was that great punter. What happens also is that a lot of those people and reporters who vote for Hall of Famers, some of the people who were around when Ray Guy was around are deceased. And some of the reporters don’t remember Ray Guy. He should have been in the Hall of Fame 15 years ago.

2. CBS: Considering you were one of the best kick returners of all time, tell me your thoughts about Devin Hester. Especially since he, like you did, plays for the Bears.

Sayers: They got him now, and he’s run back 14 kicks for touchdowns. That’s pretty good. That’s not bad at all (laughs). Will he be in the Hall of Fame? If he doesn’t get hurt in the next two or three years, and he’s still doing the same thing, there’s no doubt in my mind that he’ll get in the Hall of Fame. He’s been a super young man to run back punts and kick returns. He has a gift to do that. You hope he goes in the Hall of Fame, but the voters might think, “Well, he’s a kickoff returner, but he should be something else also.” Personally, I think he will get in, but you don’t know. Is (his returning only) enough to get him in the Hall of Fame?

3. CBS: Every week, there’s so much talk about how teams should play Hester. Should they kick to him? Avoid him? Punt it out of bounds? When you were playing, was there that much talk about what other teams should do about you?

Sayers: They punted to me, and after they saw what I could do with the football, they started punting away from me. But we always had two men back. When they kicked to me, I always thought I had a chance to run it back. What we did when they knew I could run back kicks, my coaches put in the offensive line to block for me. Usually, you don’t do that. You usually put in scrubs. But we had the offensive line up in front of me, and they gave me a good chance to get a block that would allow me to return the kick. With Devin Hester, they’re doing some of the things they were doing when I was playing.

4. CBS: You’ve taken some heat for some of the things you said about the Bears in the preseason and earlier this year. I wrote on this blog also about how I didn’t think the Bears were all that good and about how those early wins seemed like flukes to me. What do you think now, and do you like their chances to play for a Super Bowl?

Sayers:
I’m not against the Bears. What I saw out there earlier in the season, they didn’t look that good. I didn’t think they would be competing for the Super Bowl. With them playing the Packers, it’s going to be an outstanding game. I don’t think it will be a high-scoring game. Jay Cutler, he’s a fine quarterback, but I think at times he gets a little nicked up. And (Aaron) Rodgers for the Packers, he’s had a hell of a season. One hell of a season. I think if Cutler is not on and Rodgers is on, the Bears are in trouble. Hopefully, we can stay free of injury, and that’s one thing the Bears have done. You need to do that when you get into the playoffs. The Packers have some injuries, and that might be the difference.

5. CBS: Tell me about the Bears-Packers rivalry when you played in the mid to late-1960s.

Sayers: The Bears fans and the Packers fans really hated one another. But when we got on the football field, the Packers knew and we knew that they were going to give us their best shot and that we were going to give them our best shot. We talked to them on the field, but once the game was over, we shook hands and went home. When we got on that field, we hated one another. Ray Nitschke and Willie Wood – Hall of famers and great football players for them – and you have Gale Sayers and Dick Butkus and Mike Ditka for us, and we fought like dogs.

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Posted on: January 20, 2011 5:35 pm
 

Hot Routes 1.20.10: Favre's next stop



Posted by Josh Katzowitz

  • It appears at this point that Bengals coach Marvin Lewis won’t make many – if any – changes to his coaching staff. Cincinnati fans have fallen out of love with offensive coordinator Bob Bratkowski, but it sounds like Lewis will bring him back anyway.
  • Former Vikings offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell has taken that same job on Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle. Well, since it doesn’t look like Brad Childress will return to coaching this year, I guess Brett Favre will just have to play next season with the Seahawks.
  • The Ravens gave up 40 sacks this season, and thus, Baltimore fired OL coach John Matsko and replaced him with assistant OL coach Andy Moeller – who faces seven charges, including DUI, from an arrest in September.
  • Packers fans probably aren’t happy to see the announcement that referee Terry McAulay’s crew will be working Sunday’s NFC title game. That’s because the last time McAulay had a Packers game, the crew penalized Green Bay 19 times (18 were accepted for 152 yards). For his part, Green Bay coach Mike McCarthy doesn’t sound too concerned.
  • Apparently, Bears LB Brian Urlacher and Packers QB Aaron Rodgers get along famously on the field. They have inside jokes, and they try to throw off the other one by calling out dummy audibles. Somebody needs to mic up those guys.
  • Once again, Bears S Chris Harris sat out practice today. He says he’s going to pla y Sunday, but you’d have to assume he’s going to have to get on the practice field at SOME point.
  • An interesting story in the NY Post on some of Darrelle Revis’ exploits in high school in a small Pennsylvania town.

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Posted on: January 20, 2011 2:44 pm
Edited on: January 20, 2011 2:47 pm
 

Assessing the X-factors: Super Bowl hopefuls

Posted by Andy Benoit

Only four teams are still standing in the 2010 NFL season, and each believes they’re destined to hoist the Lombardi Trophy on Feb 6. The Steelers have hoisted the trophy a record six times. The Jets have hoisted it zero times but only because the stingy NFL does not hand out hardware for self-proclaimed preseason titles.

The Bears have won gobs of titles, but only one of them has been in the Super Bowl era (1985). The Packers have won three times that many Super Bowls (’66, ’67 and ’96). Neither the Packers nor Bears ever had to go through the other during the postseason to claim their title. In fact, they’ve only met in the playoffs once – and that came a week after Pearl Harbor. Yet, many fans have acquiesced to the television executives and marketing gurus telling them to view this as the best rivalry in football. In the spirit of Championship Week hype, we’ll go with it.

It will stoke the Bear-Packer rivalry when one of the teams ruins the other’s Super Bowl chances this Sunday. We’ll assume the same concept will also lay the groundwork for a Jets-Steelers rivalry (so far it’s been a bizarre love fest between those two teams).

So what are all these teams’ chances at actually making it to Arlington and having a shot at the Lombardi Trophy? Well, technically, 50 percent each. But vagueness disguised as mathematics is no fun. And neither is breaking down the same key matchups a million times. So, instead, we’ll drum up some Super Bowl appearance odds based on various X factors.

*taking the opponent’s factors into consideration


Green Bay Packers

Known to Football Fans for:
Offensive weaponry, aggressive 3-4 defense
C. Woodson (US Presswire)
Known to Non-football fans for: Cheeseheads

Most dangerous X factor: Charles Woodson

Most subtle X factor: Mike McCarthy’s occasionally questionable clock management

Injury factor: Nothing new this week (a nice changeup for a team that’s been a mash unit all season)

External conditions factor: Must adapt to the unfamiliar and unstable Soldier Field surface

Favorable karmic factor: Taking a hard line against Brett Favre’s wishy-washiness three years ago by turning to Aaron Rodgers
Unfavorable karmic factor: Stringing Rodgers along for three years before that (though to be fair, that Favre guy was pretty darn good)

Overall factor impact on Super Bowl chances*: +8

Final Super Bowl appearance chances: 58 percent



Chicago Bears

Known to Football Fans for:
Black and blue offense that we’re all still trying to remember is actually more of pass-first Mike Martz offense now. Also, known for classic Cover 2 defenseJ. Cutler (US Presswire)

Known to Non-football fans for: Da Bears

Most dangerous X factor: Devin Hester

Most subtle X factor: The offensive line’s ability (or inability?) to diagnose blitzes before the snap

Injury factor:
Safety Chris Harris missed practice earlier this week with a sore hip

External conditions factor: Haven’t faced an above .500 team in the postseason since losing to the Colts in Super Bowl XLI

Favorable karmic factor: Jay Cutler and Mike Martz have been able to put their big egos aside and get along just fine

Unfavorable karmic factor: Cutler and Martz are only here because so many others got sick of dealing with those big egos
Overall factor impact on Super Bowl chances*: -8

Final title chances: 42 percent



New York Jets

Known to Football Fans for:
Complex defensive scheme, run-first offense led by young quarterback and brashness
Known to Non-football fans for: Hard Knocks, Ines Sainz, foot fetishes and, before those things, being that “Oh that’s right, there are TWO teams from New York” team
R. Ryan (US Presswire)
Most dangerous X factor: Brad Smith

Most subtle X factor: The unheralded defensive line’s ability to get penetration against the run.

Injury factor: WR/KR Brad Smith (groin) practiced this week after sitting out against the Patriots; OLB/DE Jason Taylor did not practice (concussion)

External conditions factor: Attempting field goals in Heinz Field is unsettling. Attempting field goals in Heinz Field with a bewilderingly up-and-down kicker like Nick Folk? Downright nerve-wracking.

Favorable karmic factor: Their confidence

Unfavorable karmic factor: Their arrogance

Overall factor impact on Super Bowl chances*: -13

Final title chances: 37 percent



Pittsburgh Steelers

Known to Football Fans for:
Being the consummate NFL franchise

Known to Non-football fans for: Being the last true remindB. Roethlisberger (US Presswire)er that Pittsburgh once had a burgeoning steel industry

Most dangerous X factor:
Troy Polamalu

Most subtle X factor: Nose tackle Casey Hampton’s immovability against the run

Injury factor:
SS Troy Polamalu once again rested his sore Achilles; CB Bryant McFadden sat out with a strained abdomen; DE Aaron Smith (triceps) practiced for first time since October but will not play Sunday.

External conditions factor: Because they didn’t lose them all in a row like their intrastate neighbors to the east, you don’t hear much about this: the Steelers have lost four AFC title games since 1994. All at home, by the way.

Favorable karmic factor: Management dumping bright star Santonio Holmes after his off-field transgressions

Unfavorable karmic factor: Management not dumping brighter star Ben Roethlisberger after his off-field transgressions

Overall factor impact on Super Bowl chances*: +13

Final title chances: 63 percent


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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com