Four teams remain as we head into the Conference Championship round. The Lombardi Trophy is up for grabs as both Super Bowl teams from last year and both number one seeds have been eliminated, leaving the championship games between the sixth and second seeds in both conferences. The Jets continue their road trip and head to Pittsburgh after knocking off the first seed Patriots to take on the Steelers, who eliminated the visiting Ravens at home. The Packers also stay on the road heading to Chicago to take on the Bears, who ended the improbable Seahawks run with a win at home last week. FOX Business has evaluated the win/loss and stock market statistics over the past 20 seasons of playoff games for each team and come up with a ranking based on their playoff record and the prior week’s market activity.
The major indexes ended a shortened trading week mixed. The Dow Industrials gained 0.72%, extending its winning streak to eight weeks and the highest since 6/19/2008, while the S&P 500 closed the week down 0.76% ending a seven week winning streak. Positive sentiment on strong earnings by GE, Apple, and Schlumberger were offset by disappointing earnings from Bank of America, Citigroup, and Wells Fargo. The markets were also pressured on concerns that China might act to rein in its stronger than expected growth and the initial reaction to Apple’s Steve Jobs medical leave announcement.
AFC Championship Game – Jets @ Steelers
The Jets are flying high after knocking out both the favored Colts and Patriots in back-to-back road games. They’ll have to come up with a new defensive scheme as Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is much harder to bring down and can extend plays into big gains with his power and mobility. But they should have the opportunity to get to him through Pittsburgh’s offensive line which gave up six sacks to the Ravens. Brad Smith, who opened the last meeting with a kickoff return for a touchdown will be back in the lineup after a groin injury. The Jets running game will be tested by the Steelers number one rush defense which could put the game in QB Mark Sanchez’s hands.
The Steelers held off division rival Baltimore last week to advance to the AFC Championship. Expect TE Heath Miller to have a big game in both picking up the Jets pass rush and as a check down target for Roethlisberger. Miller’s receiving skills combined with WRs Hines Ward, Mike Wallace, and rookie Emmanuel Sanders will test the Jets coverage and spread Jets corners Revis and Cromartie. Steelers S Troy Polamalu is still nagged by a sore Achilles tendon but is likely to play and even not at 100%, is still a force all over the field. The Jets offensive line will need to be tight to protect Sanchez from Polamalu and LB James Harrison who had three sacks against Baltimore.
Over the past 20 years, the Jets have played 14 playoff games and have a playoff rank of .714 when the Dow closes the prior week up and .286 when the S&P 500 is down giving them a final rank for this week of .500. During the same 20 year period, the Steelers have played 23 playoff games and have a rank of .667 when the Dow is up and .546 when the S&P 500 is down giving them a rank this week of .607.
FOX Business.com picks Pittsburgh Steelers to take the AFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLV.
AFC Wildcard FBN Staff Picks:
All of my Jet-fan friends will be happy to see that I have, once again, picked the Jets to lose. I can’t seem to get their games (or any of these other playoff games) right this year. Steelers at home are the most resilient team in the league. The Jets are the second most resilient team. It will be close and hard hitting. Fun to watch, but the Steelers move on.
Jets – I would LOVE a Chicago/ New York Super Bowl!
The road to the Super Bowl has been kind for visiting teams and underdogs. The Jets have knocked off the top two quarterbacks of the past decade in successive weeks using a stifling pass defense. The Steelers Ben Roethlisberger is trying to join that elite company with a third Super Bowl appearance in the past 5 years, but a patchwork offensive line will not provide enough support. The rollicking ground game and a lethal-enough aerial attack helps the J-E-T-S soar to their first Super Bowl since Joe Willie Namath made good on his guarantee.
NFC Championship Game 2 – Packers @ Bears
The Packers continue their hot streak behind QB Aaron Rodgers, whose stats are just scary completing 77.8% of his passes with a passer rating of 134.5 in the postseason. Rodgers has spread the ball around to WRs Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson as well as FB John Kuhn and TE Andrew Quarless, giving the Bears many targets to cover. RB James Starks has come on and has 189 yards in the playoffs but will be tested by the Bear’s 2nd ranked run defense. Bears QB Jay Cutler, who tends to throw some bad passes while under pressure, will be running from the Packers pass rush led by LB Clay Matthews who has three sacks in the postseason.
On the other side, Cutler had zero turnovers in his first postseason appearance. The offensive line, which gave up a league worst 52 sacks this season, will have to stiffen against the aggressive Packers pass rush. Chicago is not without defensive stars of its own with LB Brian Urlacher shutting down the middle and DE Julius Peppers combining pass rush speed and run stopping power. If the Bears can shut down the Packer’s running game, these two can make life difficult for Rodgers. The special teams advantage has to go to the Bears behind KR Devin Hester in a catch-22. If you kick to Hester, he can take one to the house and if you kick away from him, as other teams have tried, you risk giving the Bears better field position.
Over the past 20 years, the Packers have played 23 Playoff games and have a playoff rank of .692 when the Dow closes the prior week up and .500 when the S&P 500 is down, giving them a final rank for this week of .596. During the same 20 year period, the Bears have played 10 Playoff games and have a rank of .571 when the Dow is up and .600 when the S&P 500 is down giving them a rank this week of .586.
FOX Business.com picks the Green Bay Packers to take the NFC Championship and advance to Super Bowl XLV.
NFC Wildcard FBN Staff Picks:
I cannot pick against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers after last week’s dismantling of the Falcons. The cold won’t impact Green Bay. The Super Bowl is set: Steelers vs. Packers.
GO BEARS – Need I say more?
The cold weather and chewed up turf of Soldier Field can be quite an advantage, except when the team you play is from the frozen tundra of Green Bay. The high-quality quarterbacking of Aaron Rodgers and a newfound rushing attack with the fresh legs of rookie James Starks will put the Packers over the top in a defensive battle that pits two hard-hitting, ball-swarming squads.