The Andrew Preview: NFL Conference Championship Playoffs

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The Jets take on the Steelers this week, with a trip to the Superbowl on the line.

1. Raiders Offensive Coordinator Hue Jackson was promoted to head coach this week, filling the final head coaching vacancy in the NFL. Owner Al Davis introduced Jackson as his new coach on Tuesday, promising it was the start of a brighter future for the team. Davis made a statement that, “The fire in Hue will set a flame that will burn for a long time in the hearts and minds of the Raider football team and the Raider Nation.” Jackson was hired last year to take over the play calling duties from the Raiders’ former head coach, Tom Cable. Under Jackson, the offense doubled its scoring output from the prior season. Jackson was widely thought to be the leading candidate for the position, and this will be his first head coaching job at any level.

2. After a long flirtation that many thought was a fait accompli, the Dallas Cowboys officially announced today that Rob Ryan will become their new Defensive Coordinator. The son of NFL legend Buddy Ryan and twin brother of current Jets’ head coach Rex Ryan, Rob will coming to Dallas to coach the Cowboys’ defense next year. Ryan has been the DC in Cleveland for two years under Eric Mangini, but became free with the hiring of new head coach Pat Shurmur. He has been an NFL coach for thirteen seasons, including a five year stop in Oakland as the Raider’s defensive coordinator. In brother-related news, in addition to a Harbaugh bowl between the Ravens and 49ers, next season will also feature a Ryan bowl when the Jets take on the Cowboys.

3. It’s very rare that the top news organizations report take the time to report the absence of something, but when it comes to the 2011 New York Jets, you just have to throw the playbook out the window. Major news outlets are reporting that the Jets and fiery head coach Rex Ryan…are not talking trash about the Pittsburgh Steelers. Outspoken defensive back Antonio Cromartie, who had some choice words about the New England Patriots said, “We’ve moved on. We’re getting ready for Pittsburgh now.” Adding to the comparative love fest, Ryan said that he and Steelers’ coach Mike Tomlin were a lot alike, noting that both men were defensive coaches who received unique opportunities. Ryan added that Tomlin is one of his favorite coaches in the NFL. Will the Steelers reciprocate these veritable love letters from the Jets? Only time will tell.

Registering For The Draft

Here is the current order for the first round of the 2011 NFL Draft.

1. Carolina (2-14)
2. Denver (4-12)
3. Buffalo (4-12)
4. Cincinnati (4-12)
5. Arizona (5-11)
6. Cleveland (5-11)
7. San Francisco (6-10)
8. Tennessee (6-10)
9. Dallas (6-10)
10. Washington (6-10)
11. Houston (6-10)
12. Minnesota (6-10)
13. Detroit (6-10)
14. St. Louis (7-9)
15. Miami (7-9)
16. Jacksonville (8-8)
17. New England (14-2) — from Oakland
18. San Diego (9-7)
19. New York Giants (10-6)
20. Tampa Bay (10-6)
21. Kansas City (10-6)
22. Indianapolis (10-6)
23. Philadelphia (10-6)
24. New Orleans (11-5)
25. Seattle (7-9)
26. Baltimore (12-4)
27. Atlanta (13-3)
28. New England (14-2)
29. Green Bay (10-6)*
30. Chicago (11-5)*
31. New York Jets (11-5)*
32. Pittsburgh (12-4)*

* Final draft position depends on the outcome of the playoffs.

Two Big Match Ups

1. Green Bay at Chicago, 3 P.M. EST on FOX – The NFC Championship game will be all-North this year as the Green Bay Packers and the Chicago Bears match up for the third time this season. The Green Bay Packers have essentially been competing in playoff games since Week Sixteen of the regular season. Fortunately, the team has been playing at a playoff level since that time as well. When they faced elimination from playoff contention, they delivered a beatdown of the New York Giants to the tune of 45-17. When they needed a victory to guarantee a playoff berth in Week Seventeen, they pulled out the hard-fought win. When they had to beat Michael Vick and the Eagles to advance to the next round of the postseason, they played a great game and got the W. And when they had to face their third division champion in as many weeks, the Packers responded by decimating the Falcons in front of the Atlanta faithful with a final score of 48-21. With the team firing on all cylinders for weeks now, the Packers are a tough out.

Still, Green Bay wasn’t the only team to win in a dominating fashion last week. While the Seahawks managed something of a comeback in garbage time, the Bears had a 28-3 lead at the start of the fourth quarter, and Seattle never really stood a chance as Chicago took absolute control of the game from the getgo. Having not played a truly meaningful football game in two weeks, the Bears shook of the rust and put in a stellar performance in their first playoff game in four years. Jay Cutler managed to score four touchdowns – two through the air and two on the grounds. With home field advantage on their side, the Bears are looking to stamp their ticket to Arlington in front of their home crowd. These teams have played twice this year. Chicago squeaked out a three-point victory in Week Three, and Green Bay picked up the duke by a touchdown in Week Seventeen. Still the Bears had nothing to play for in that game, though now they might wish that they’d taken that chance to knock out their upcoming sparring partner. With an NFC North rivalry and a pair of teams who’ve played each other close this season, expect a great game.

2. NY Jets at Pittsburgh, 6:30 P.M. EST on CBS – It didn’t look good for the Pittsburgh Steelers last week. Down 21-7 to Baltimore at the half, the Steelers walked into the locker room with what appeared to be thin hopes for beating the division rival Ravens. Baltimore had taken advantage of Pittsburgh’s miscues and pumped up their running game to build a two-touchdown lead going into halftime. Then, all of a sudden, Pittsburgh came back out in the second half and rallied in a big way. They scored three touchdowns and a field goal, holding Baltimore to just 28 yards of total offense in the second half, and slaying their divisional foes. Now, Big Ben will look to secure his third trip to the Superbowl in just six seasons. It was a physical game between two physical teams, and both sides got their shots in, but at the end of the game, Pittsburgh emerged victorious and are now one win away from Arlington.

The Jets, for their part, faced a tight game against a division rival of their own. New York and New England has been exchanging cross words the whole week, and it showed on the field with a fair chunk of penalties and lots of rough play. The Jets grounded at 14-2 Patriot team that looked nigh unstoppable, with a defense that sacked Tom Brady five times and intercepted him to boot. Mark Sanchez threw for three touchdowns, and the rushing tandem of Shonn Green and LaDanian Tomlinson managed to ice the game at the end. New England did manage to do some damage in the fourth corner, and threatened a comeback, but after two unsuccessful onside kicks and a questionable call on fourth and thirteen, it was too little too late. The Jets won 28-21. For all that jawing, for all the criticism, for all of the circus that’s surrounded the New York Jets this season, they’re one win away from the Superbowl. The Jets and the Steelers met in Week Fifteen, with New York walking away victorious, 22-17, but there’s much more at stake this time around. Again, expect a great game from two teams who have been playing some great football lately.

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