I'll be rooting for the Steelers, of course, as they are my second-favorite NFL team (I only root against the Steelers when they are either playing the Bills or are in a situation in which a Steelers win hurts the Bills in some way, such as playoff positioning), but it really won't break my heart if the Packers win. There's just something about the Packers that's frankly awesome, and I'm not talking about this year's team but the franchise itself. The idea that one of the NFL's better franchises resides in a relatively tiny town in northern Wisconsin is one of sports history's cooler quirks, even if the existence of the Packers will allow the NFL to feel a bit less guilty when they inevitably put the screws to their franchise in Buffalo.
I'm not as down on Ben Roethlisberger as a lot of people are; if I'm going to believe in second chances for the Michael Vicks and the Marshawn Lynches of the world -- guys who were actually committed and were charged with crimes -- then I've gotta be on board with extending a second chance to a guy who wasn't charged with anything at all. (In fact, come to that, I'd love to know how Roethlisberger's sexual escapades merited a longer suspension than Marshawn Lynch's hit and run of a pedestrian.)
As for the other teams, the ones that lost: I'm seeing all kinds of criticism of Jay Cutler this morning for essentially quitting on his team. I don't know about any of that, but it does happen sometimes. I've got to ask, what was his coach doing? I'm reminded of Thurman Thomas in Super Bowl XXVIII, who was emotionally shattered after he fumbled a handoff that Dallas ended up returning for a touchdown. Marv Levy has even said in recent years that he wishes he'd gone over to Thomas that day and gotten him up off the mat. Oh well. Was Cutler really hurt? Or did the Packers get that far into his head? Either way, his career going forward is going to be tough.
(But for the ultimate in a team getting into another quarterback's head, check this out, from the NFC Championship Game after the 1989 season. Rams at 49ers. Jim Everett against a San Francisco pass rush that was so persistent that...well, look what happens.
Amazing -- he flinches at nobody!)
As for the Jets, well, I don't like them. They're not the Patriots yet, but I find them obnoxious and irritating. I'm also wondering which Mark Sanchez is the real one, because he's frankly starting to look as inconsistent as New York's other franchise quarterback, the Giants' Eli Manning. The Jets do an awful lot of things right on the field, but Sanchez does not inspire great amounts of confidence. He strikes me as a "Things might go great, or things might go horribly" kind of guy. I'm also not a fan of Rex Ryan. I think Buddy Ryan was one of the biggest douchebags in NFL history, and his son seems cut from the same cloth. (The "foot fetish" thing actually kinda counts as a point in his favor to me. Not that I'm into feet -- I find the foot generally to be a fairly unattractive part of the human anatomy -- but it does make Ryan seem like more of "just a dude" in my mind.) I'll give Ryan credit where due, though: I thought his postgame interview with Steve Tasker was one of the classier ones I've seen. He was disappointed, but still confident in the direction he's taking his team, and why not? Two AFC Championship Games in a row isn't bad. This interview was certainly better than the "What? I lost?!" reaction that Bill Belichick always conveys.
So yeah, time to gear up for the Super Bowl. Or, as we've come to think of it in Buffalo, "Football's biggest event between the end of the Bills' season and the Draft."