NFL Underdogs: Conference Championship picks

Lovie Smith didn’t mince words when he was asked what he’d change as the Chicago Bears new head coach during his induction press conference in January 2004.

"The No. 1 goal that we'll have, the No. 1 goal, is to beat Green Bay," Smith told reporters.

Yes, the statement - the first time head coach must have thought - was so nice it needed to be said twice.

The cliché top priority for a new regime is always “win the Super Bowl” but Lovie knew his Bears would have to beat Green Bay for that to happen. A younger Brett Favre had guided the Packers to three straight postseason appearances from 2001-03 and The Pack laid the smack down on the Bears, going 6-0 straight up and against the spread over that period.

But Lovie lived up to his word. Over the next four years, the Bears won six of eight games (5-2-1 ATS) against their division nemesis and one of those losses was a Week 17 game in 2006 when the Monsters of Midway were resting their starters for the postseason.

But the tables turned in the rivalry when Packers GM Ted Thompson handed the team over Aaron Rodgers. The new guy under center was something the old guy never was – patient.

Favre couldn’t stop himself from going for the big play against the Cover 2 defense. He threw just two touchdown passes to 13 interceptions in his final six games against Chicago in a Green Bay uniform.

Rodgers, despite being 14 years younger and with significantly fewer NFL starts under his belt, took what Chicago’s conservative defense gave him and that humble game plan won Green Bay four of six games (4-2 ATS) against the Bears.

This game comes down to trust. Do you trust Jay Cutler as much or more than Rodgers? Do you trust Mike Martz – a guy who’s told reporters he wants another shot as an NFL head coach and often calls plays that aren’t just unconventional but dumb – more than Mike McCarthy?

This is a column about picking NFL underdogs to cover the spread, but when there are only two games on the board I gotta go with my gut – even if that means backing a team to win and cover for the third straight week on the road in a playoff game.

I say shop around and see if you can get the Packers at -3. If not, do yourself a favor and buy the extra point. You don’t want to get caught with your pants down if this one ends up being a one-possession game late in the fourth quarter.

Pick: Packers -3.5

New York Jets (+3.5) at Pittsburgh Steelers

The only thing more uncomfortable than Rex Ryan and Mike Tomlin’s mutual love for each other is this anchorman getting all horny for Mad Men leading lady Christina Hendricks. I know this is from last summer but it’s worth watching. Skip ahead to the 2:10 mark if you’re too important to watch the whole clip.


The Yellow and Black have the better quarterback, more experience and the home field. Despite all that, I’m on Fireman Ed’s side for this matchup.

The Steelers have injury issues. Tackles Flozell Adams and Chris Scott are both expected to play but that doesn’t mean they’re healthy. James Harrison is a warrior so that’s why I’m not convinced he didn’t do more damage to that sho

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Posted by funding
3 years ago

Playing Pittsburgh -4 today. My prediction is Pittsburgh 17 N.Y. Jets 10. Good luck everyone!
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Posted by dawniewags
3 years ago

ok one win one to go and btw stop plaing the injury card dosent go far in games look at bears completly helthy vs a nicked up revamped rookie squad of packers Cutler out and wind up with 3rd string qb to finish game guess who gets moved up in next years bears offense ? JETS maybe cover maybe but to win this game out right for JETS sorry baby the best defense is on the other side slam the jets mouths shut and smack that teams O line around all day pressure snanchez and he breaks down !
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Posted by doobiebrother
3 years ago

Packers 21, Bears 20 and Steelers 27, Jets 13.
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Posted by JB13372
3 years ago

Like your Packers pick eschelon...I just see the Jets talking WAY TOO MUCH. You really shouldn't wake a sleeping GIANT. The Jets seem like the BAD GUYS in this game...it's like Mr. T versus Rocky...you can't help but pull for Rocky!
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Posted by echelon1
3 years ago

The playoff experience factor is not swaying in the Steelers favor much more than Jets as mentioned. Jets got plenty experience last year and also brought in two very playoff seasoned vets in Tomlinson and Holmes (Superbowl MVP) this year. Trust me, these players are all just as comfortable on this big stage now as the others. And the Jets have a wealth of road playoff experience now in the last two seasons. Going on the road in the playoffs is not daunting to these Jets. I'm all over Packers (by 7+), and Jets (by 3 or <).
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Posted by JB13372
3 years ago

Every year the Steelers are in the play-offs it seems the nay sayers come out in droves. It's just that way I guess. Just the expierence factor ALONE should determine the winners of the Jets/Pitt game. I really believe that...It's like the first year of High School is the most awkward and then each year after that is easier.
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Posted by nudolfan
3 years ago

Take the dogs today. The Packers and Jets will both win by 3. Both games will go under.
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Posted by TommyToronto
3 years ago

That's exactly what I was thinking, buddy. Two tight, hard fought FG games that stay way UNDER. Hope we're both cashing later today!
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Posted by DogPoundplayboy
3 years ago

Im picking Green bay & jets
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Posted by meraby
3 years ago

this is the year of the big cities. jets and bears ml. after all it is the professional sports.
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Posted by HEFADEME
3 years ago

Hey Grewal you were in coin-flip territory for most of the season. Congrats on the late rally to get to 36-25. This weekend, I can see where you might "trust" Rodgers more than Cutler, but to portray Martz as a "dumb" play caller is weak. I think he holds the career record for points scored/game, from when he was HC of the Rams. Yeah he's dumb........like a fox. I'm taking both dogs this weekend. GL
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Posted by BURG2VEGAS
3 years ago

you really think both road teams will cover? i dont see it bol
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Top Response

Posted by meraby
3 years ago

"this is the year of the big cities. jets and bears ml. after all it is the professional sports."