As the semester winds down, some of us look back on the fall and wonder what went right (or wrong) with our favorite football teams. Times-Delphic writers Mike Wendlandt and David Johnson shed some light over the winter football picture.
1.Does TCU deserve a shot at the BCS national championship?
DJ: TCU deserves a chance to play for the national title, but due to the bowl system and the BCS rankings, the world will never know if it could compete with Auburn or Oregon, who will play for the national title on Jan. 10, 2011. Try to name one other college sport where a team can go all season without suffering a loss and still not have the opportunity to prove it belongs on the top of the rankings. Just because TCU doesn’t have the opportunity to play in a conference like the Pac-10 or SEC doesn’t mean it can’t win. The Horned Frogs beat a Big 12 team and a Pac-10 team in nonconference play and have the top-ranked defense in the nation.
MW: TCU does not deserve to be in the title game. There is no way that they are more deserving than Auburn or Oregon, teams from tougher conferences, or possibly even Wisconsin, who tied for the Big Ten title. The Horned Frogs have been good, but not good enough. Coming from the Mountain West is not the greatest pedigree, and this entire debate will bring up memories of Hawaii-Georgia in the 2007 Sugar Bowl, when Hawaii went undefeated and then got hammered by a solid Georgia team. Good luck, TCU, against Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
2.Are the Chicago Bears for real?
DJ: The Chicago Bears are what we thought they were. Well, maybe they are even better. All nine wins this season may not have been pretty, but a person can’t argue with the 9-3 record. They have the No. 3 defense in the league. The defense is held down by three players who have been regulars at the Pro Bowl over the past five years: Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs. Their offense is not the best, but it can explode to score points quickly with the speed of Johnny Knox and Earl Bennett. Over the past few weeks, the running game has developed an impressive one-two punch with Matt Forte and Chester Taylor. The Bears’ entire season could depend on Jay Cutler’s head. Nobody questions the fact that his right arm is a cannon. Nobody can question the ability of Devin Hester. Who else has been given a 100-speed rating in Madden? Nobody.
MW: As a Packers fan, this will come off as a homer pick, but I say no. With possibly the toughest schedule remaining in the league, the Bears will be hard-pressed to keep up this success. The New York Jets, Minnesota Vikings, New England Patriots and Green Bay Packers will all be hard games, and I only see them winning maybe one. The team’s main priority has to be protecting Jay Cutler, and all four teams left on the schedule are great pass rushing teams. Also, Cutler has to keep playing like he has the past couple of weeks, as in mistake-free. If he makes mistakes, the team loses, plain and simple. The Bears are not good enough to overcome multiple mistakes by their high-paid quarterback.
3.Does a team from the NFC West deserve a playoff birth?
DJ: The NFC West appears to be a division full of teams battling for the right to next year’s first overall draft pick and not one of the teams is looking to make the playoffs. If the playoffs started today, the St. Louis Rams (6-6) would host the New Orleans Saints (9-3) in the first round. The Rams’ six wins is equal to the teams’ win total in the last three seasons combined. The San Francisco 49ers haven’t had a good team since the days of Steve Young, the Arizona Cardinals don’t have a quarterback and Seattle is, well, Seattle.
MW: If it wins the division, a team with a sub-.500 record deserves to go to the playoffs. If not, then why are there divisions? The playoffs are a reward for being the best in your division, no matter how bad your team is. If you’re 7-9, that’s fine as long as you won your division. We’ve seen it in the NFC West this year, with Seattle and St. Louis vying for the division lead. Neither of the teams is remotely threatening, but the division winner will get a home playoff game, even though the Saints are on pace to be a 13-3 wild card team. We had this same conversation when Arizona went to the Super Bowl two seasons ago. It was a mediocre division winner at 9-7, and almost became world champions.
4.Who will play in Super Bowl XLV?
DJ: Super Bowl XLV will be between the Pittsburg Steelers and the New Orleans Saints. The Saints have hit their stride after some early-season hiccups. They have marched their way to a five-game winning streak.
They have the No. 3 offense and the No. 9 defense. This has been with their top three running backs suffering injuries this season. Reggie Bush is back and both Pierre Thomas and Ladell Betts are expected back for the playoffs. The Steelers almost always have one of the top defenses in the league, and this year is no different. They rank No. 5 overall and own the top run defense in the game. Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu will make the big plays at the end of close games and could lead the Steelers to their seventh Super Bowl win.
MW: Again, a homer pick, but there will be a rematch of Super Bowl XXXI between the Packers and the Patriots.
Green Bay – I picked the Packers because of their trend to be a second-half team.
The NFC championship game will be between Green Bay and Atlanta. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan are the two best young quarterbacks in the game, but I think that the Pack pull it out by less than seven.
New England – This is no contest. The Patriots at this point look unstoppable. With their 45-3 drubbing of the Jets on Monday night, they are by far the class of the league.
FINAL: Packers 27, Patriots 24. This was my pick in the preseason, and I’ll stick with it.
Photos: Connor McCourtney