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Each Tuesday morning, Whatifsports.com's NFL simulation engine will provide you with predictions, box scores and statistics for every NFL game that week. The NFL simulation engine generates detailed information, including the home team's chances of winning (Home Win %), average score and comprehensive box score link. If you want to share your newfound NFL knowledge with friends and family, make sure to check out our NFL Widgets on the WhatIf To Go page or click on the social networking share bar located at the top and bottom of the article.
The statistical inputs to the thousands of NFL games simulated are based on rigorous analysis of each team's roster, depth chart and statistically based player ranking. Roster modifications have been made for injuries and suspensions, and those players are not part of their team's game simulation.
To account for injuries and roster moves announced late in the week, we will be re-simulating some games on Thursdays throughout the 2010 NFL season.
NFC Championship Game: Packers at Bears
The Thrilla in Manila. The 1987 NBA Finals. Rocky III. The third installments of sporting rivalries are one of the few forums in life where the performance matches the hype. Round Three of Packers vs. Bears should adhere to this statement, as the showdown in Soldier Field is the WhatIfSports Game of the Week.
Green Bay arrives to the NFC title game thanks to the play of Aaron Rodgers. The Packers field general has been blazing the past month, producing 12 touchdowns (11 passing, one rushing) and throwing just one pick in four straight Green Bay victories. Rodgers was especially brilliant in a 48-21 thumping of Atlanta, throwing for 366 yards and three touchdowns for a QB rating of 136.8. Rodgers also added a seven-yard run into the end zone to help the Pack upset the top-seeded Falcons.
But according to the NFL adage, defense wins championships. During Green Bay's four-game win streak, the Packer defense has surrendered just 14.25 points per game. Linebacker Clay Matthews and cornerback Tramon Williams have been catalysts for the unit during that time span, with Matthews registering four sacks and Williams hauling in four interceptions. Truth be told, the Packers employ perhaps the best defense detachment in the league. During the season, Green Bay held opposing signal callers to a NFL-low 67.2 QB rating and forced 24 interceptions (best in the NFC).
Packers vs. Bears Feature1941 Chicago Bears vs Green Bay Packers
The Chicago Bears aren't foreign to the concept of impeding the work of opponents' offenses. The Monsters of the Midway have held adversaries to a meager 17.9 points per contest in 2010. The Bears are particularly stout against the run, stifling rushing attacks to 90.1 yards, second best in the NFL. But their pass protection is far from pedestrian; Chicago conceded a scant 14 aerial touchdowns (second lowest in the NFL) while picking off 21 passes and subduing quarterbacks to a rating of 74.4. This can be attributed to the offseason arrival of defensive end Julius Peppers, who frequents the backfield so often one could mistake him for a fullback despite commanding double and triple teams.
While the improved play of quarterback Jay Cutler seems to dominate the Chicago headlines, another revival has gone relatively unnoticed. Bears back Matt Forte burst onto the NFL scene during his rookie campaign of 2008, rushing for 1,238 yards and totaling another 477 in the passing game, correlating to 12 touchdowns. Forte had a sophomore slump in 2009, failing to reach 1,000 yards rushing and finding the end zone just four times. This decline carried over to the beginning of this season, as Forte rushed for more than 60 yards just once in the first eight games.
But since Week 10, Forte has emerged as one of the hottest running backs in the league. In the last nine games, the Tulane product is averaging 83.1 yards on the ground. This has allowed Cutler and the passing game to flourish as defenses can no longer disregard Forte and the rushing attack.
Round One of Chicago vs. Green Bay was a sloppy slugfest in which the Packers committed a team-record 18 penalties, giving the Bears a 20-17 W. The rematch wasn't exactly aesthetically pleasing either, as both offenses were stagnant in a 10-3 Green Bay victory. So who will win the rubber match? According to the WhatIfSports.com simulation engines, the Green Bay Packers come out on top 52.1 percent of the time by an average score of 20-19.
NFL Week 20
|New York Jets||37.6||17||Boxscore|
|@ Pittsburgh Steelers||62.4||20||Simulate Game|
|Green Bay Packers||52.1||20||Boxscore|
|@ Chicago Bears||47.9||19||Simulate Game|
AFC Championship Game: Jets at Steelers
"I will have my vengeance, in this life or the next." - Maximus, “Gladiator”
The above quote seems apropos for Round 2 of Jets vs. Steelers as the AFC Championship Game should resemble a gladiatorial battle rather than a football game. Both teams are fueled by revenge: Pittsburgh seeking payback for their 22-17 loss to New York in Week 15, while the Jets are trying to shut up any critic (real or imagined) who discounted their title aspirations.
To Pittsburgh's credit, its loss to New York comes with a slight asterisk. Troy Polamalu, the perennial Pro Bowl safety, was forced to the sidelines with an Achilles' tendon issue. With Polamalu in the lineup, the Steelers have one of the most formidable fronts in the league. The Pittsburgh D ranks first in the AFC in sacks (48), QB rating (73.1), rushing yards allowed (62.8 per game), rushing touchdowns (five) and points per game (14.5).
Which is why it was surprising to see the Steelers down 21-7 heading into the third quarter against Baltimore in the Divisional Round last week. Granted, one of the Ravens' scores came via a fumble return and Baltimore wasn't amassing an abundance of total yards, but the Terrible Towel faithful are not familiar with a 14-point deficit. So all seemed right in Steel City when Dick LeBeau's unit recovered two fumbles, picked off an errant pass and forced a punt in Baltimore's four possessions in the third quarter to provide the forum for a Pittsburgh comeback.
The Jets know a thing or two about defense, as well. Rex Ryan's squad held opponents to 90.9 rushing yards and 19 points per game. The secondary was occasionally underperforming, surrendering 24 aerial touchdowns while intercepting a relatively low 12 passes but yielded just 200.6 yards through the air. They did, however, hold Tom Brady to a QB rating of 89.0 last week and forced the QB's first interception since Week 6 in New York's 28-21 upset of New England.
While the defenses will be the focal point of this matchup, each respective offense contains its own firepower. The combination of LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene has ignited the Jets’ rushing attack to an average of 148.4 yards per game. Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes have both found career redemption in the Meadowlands, giving Mark Sanchez two lethal down-the-field threats. Dustin Keller has quietly become one of the better tight ends in the game, finishing the year with 687 yards and five touchdowns. The only question mark lies with Sanchez, who can be dazzling and dreadful on the same drive.
Ben Roethlisberger lies on the other side of that spectrum, as the Pittsburgh quarterback has become one of the NFL's best playoff performers. With a 9-2 record, Roethlisberger hasn't put up mind-boggling stats (17 TDs, 12 INTs, 88.7 QB rating), but no one constantly delivers in the clutch like Big Ben. This was illustrated when the Steelers signal caller orchestrated the game-winning drive against Baltimore, keeping alive broken plays with his legs and finding his receivers on third downs. With the emergence of wide receiver Mike Wallace (60 receptions, 1,257 yards, 10 touchdowns) and running back Rashard Mendenhall (1,273 yards and 13 touchdowns), the Steelers have perhaps the most complete team left in the playoffs.
So which team will get its revenge? According to the WhatIfSports simulation engine, the Steelers win 62.4 percent of the time by an average score of 20-17.
Joel Beall is a Content Writer for Whatifsports.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.