Scott Novak: It’s the Packers and the Steelers for the title

Published 7:07 pm Thursday, January 20, 2011

The “Final Four” of the National Football League is set and the teams remaining are steeped in tradition.

Four of the NFL’s most storied franchises are set to do battle this weekend for the National Football Conference and American Football Conference championships.

When you think of NFL tradition you think of teams like the Chicago Bears, the “Monsters of the Midway;” the Pittsburgh Steelers, the “Steel Curtain;” the Green Bay Packers, who played in the “Ice Bowl;” and the New York Jets, whose brash young quarterback “Broadway” Joe Namath boldly predicted a Super Bowl victory.

Even better yet, the NFC and AFC championship games will be played outside in the elements and the forecasts for both Chicago and Pittsburgh call for cold conditions. That’s the way football should be played. It should be played out in the elements.

I am not a big fan of domed stadiums. Yes, they are nice for the fans, but you don’t see Chicago, Pittsburgh, Green Bay and New York fans staying away just because it may be cold and snowy.

Professional football is supposed to be played by tough men who endure their climate to play the game. I can’t think of four other franchises that offer up a better example.

You go down the rosters of each team throughout their history and you find plenty of examples.

In Chicago it was the likes of Dick Butkus and Mike Ditka. In Pittsburgh it was Mean Joe Greene and Franco Harris. In Green Bay it was Bart Starr and Ray Nitschkey. In New York it was Namath and Matt Snell.

Those are just a few of the names of all the tough guys who played the game when it was still tough. There were no special rules protecting quarterbacks and wide receivers. There was just a bunch of tough sons-of-a-guns, who played the game with reckless abandon.

There are still some tough guys playing on the four teams that will take the field this weekend. Guys like Ben Roethlisberger and James Harrison for the Steelers; Brian Urlacher and Olin Kreutz for the Bears; Charles Woodson and Clay Matthews for the Packers; and D’Brickashaw Ferguson and Darrelle Revis for the Jets.

To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time watching NFL games. I pay some attention to the results because I have a fantasy football team. But I don’t spend my Sunday afternoons glued to the television set watching the games.

But come playoff time, I follow the action a little bit closer and come Sunday I will be keeping an eye on the games while I work on Monday’s paper.

I enjoy the post season of pretty much every sport. The action is more intense and that’s the way I like to see the games played, especially in football.

Over the years, I would have to say that conference championship weekend games are the best of the bunch. There are four teams left that still have a chance to play in the Super Bowl and they go all out and leave everything on the field in order to get that shot.

Often times the Super Bowl is a letdown because one of the teams shows up and is just happy to be there. But sometimes you get a great game and I think with the four teams we have left, not only will this weekend be a great time to watch football, but the Super Bowl could be one of the best we have seen in quite some time.

Although I predict college winners for our football forecaster panel, and this year I started doing local high school games, I rarely predict the winners when it comes to professional sports.

That being said, I am going to give you my prediction of the winners of the NFC and AFC titles and who will win the Super Bowl.

In the NFC it is going to be the Green Bay Packers. The Packers are a better team than the Bears and especially at quarterback. I have a bad feeling for you Bears fans that the real Jay Cutler is going to show up against Green Bay and have a terrible game.

Over in the AFC there is no way I can pick against the Steelers. Pittsburgh knows how to win these types of games and the Jets, despite their loud mouth coach Rex Ryan’s efforts, are not ready for this stage quite yet.

The Packers and the Steelers in the Super Bowl gives me chills just thinking about it and it’s not because the temperatures are below freezing outside.

This could be a classic. Two teams that have great quarterbacks and two teams that know how to get after you on defense.

Again, I can’t pick against the Steelers because they know how to win the big game. Aaron Rodgers has been great for Green Bay this year, but it will be Roethlisberger hoisting the Lombardi Trophy that Sunday evening for the third time in his career.

Scott Novak is sports editor of Leader Publications. He can be reached at