Black and … Yellow?

For seventy-five years, Pittsburgh has been the city of Black and Gold. And that’s not just for the Steelers. The Pirates, Penguins, and even the University Pittsburgh Panthers also rock the black and gold. It represents the culture of the hard-working city of Pittsburgh, the steel industry center of the USA. But all of this changed when a young man from Pittsburgh came out with a new song.

Wiz Khalifa’s single “Black and Yellow” was released in September of 2010 and quickly shot up into the Top 10 of the Billboard Top 100, peaking at #5. His song is a tribute to the city he was raised in and quickly became popular in the Steel City. Eventually, the song was played after Steelers victories; Khalifa even expressed interest in making the song the Steelers’ anthem.

So now, the culture seems to be a bit changed. Hip-hop culture is taking over sports, and this is just another example. More and more, people are cheering for “Black and Yellow” instead of Black and Gold. All this does is affirm the impact of the growing rap community on sports.

So it’s your move, Pittsburgh. Who are you? Black and Gold … or Black and Yellow.

Here are my Championship Game picks, home teams in CAPS.

BEARS (+3.5) over Packers

When a home playoff team is an underdog, that’s usually all you need to know. Vegas doesn’t respect a team so much that they give the visiting team the edge. That is certainly the case here, as the Packers are getting more than a field goal edge over their division rivals, who actually topped them for the NFC North Title.

But this case is different to me. This one is just a little bit different. I think the day belongs to Chicago.

The main knock on the Bears coming into the playoffs is that Jay Cutler couldn’t make the big play. Not only could not make the big play, but he would make the big mistake. But after Cutler’s first game — albeit against 8-9 Seattle — he proved to be quite the opposite.

Cutler accounted for four of the five touchdowns, threw for 274 yards, rushed for 43 more, and was completely, entirely, 100% mistake free. He was a true leader of men, posting 35 points, and Chicago led by double digits for over 46 minutes of the game. This was a new Jay Cutler.

To win a Super Bowl, you need a quarterback who can make the big play. He needs to be able to make THE play on THE drive to win THE game. That’s something Big Ben has done. That’s something Tom Terrific has done. But oddly enough, it’s something Peyton Manning can’t quite figure out. Jay Cutler can make the play. Sure, he’ll probably make a bone-headed mistake early on in the game, but when it matters most, he can make it count.

Then there’s Aaron Rodgers. Thanks to the prominence of fantasy football, he’s been thrust too the top of the league. Boy, can he put up numbers! He’s been averaging 263 yards passing per game with 6 games of at least 300 yards. He’s even rushed for 356 yards! But a lot of that is garbage time yardage racked up at home against bad teams. How does Brett Favre’s successor do in bigger situations?

On the road this season, his passing yardage falls down to 245 per game. Not that big of a slip, huh? But his record goes down to a lowly 5-4 mark. In his two games against Chicago, he only put up 27 points on two touch downs to two interceptions. Not only that, but Chicago didn’t even put out full effort in their Week 17 matchup. He’s just not the same quarterback in the bigger games.

We know what kind of offenses will show up, but what about the defenses? Green Bay is usually near the top of the league at stopping the run, but this year they’re just awful. At 28th in the league, Green Bay is giving up 4.7 yards per carry. That’s a full yard per pop more than Chicago’s 5th ranked run D. As for pass defense, they’re just about equal. Green Bay gives up on average 6.5 yards pass with Chicago just trailing at 6.6 per try. Both have nice secondaries, the Packers having better corners, but oberall, they’re about even.

Remember, special teams is still one third of the football game.

Remember, special teams is still one third of the football game.

Whichever team can put more pressure on the opposing quarterback will have a huge edge in this game. As good as Clay Matthews, A.J. Hawk, and they’re long flowing hair have been, I’ll take Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher, and Lance Briggs. For my money, Julius Peppers is the best pass rusher in the league. He’s built like a beast and is freakishly athletic. Also, he played basketball at Carolina (in case you haven’t heard).

The Bears are at home. They are motivated. They’re talented. They’ll shove Matt Forte and Chester Taylor down the Packers’ throat and power their way to the Super Bowl. Oh, yeah, and they got that Devin Hester guy.

STEELERS (-4) over Jets

Can’t Wait!

Can’t Wait!

Can’t Wait!

Geez, can the Jets get any more annoying? Actually, the Jets are finally shutting their mouths.

After beating Peyton Manning and Tom Brady in consecutive playoff games (the first time any team has done it), Rex Ryan finally decided to tone his antics down. He took shots at Peyton. He took shots at Brady. But he had nothing to say about Big Ben and the Steelers.

So what does this mean? Do they truly fear the Steelers? Do they see something we don’t? I think they’re afraid of Big Ben.

Why else would a team who has blown smoke all year suddenly stop their talking. I don’t think you should repeatedly call out the other team, but when you’ve gone this far down this road, there’s no point in turning back. You’ve just gotta role with your crazy game.

Mike Tomlin, one of the league's best coaches, doesn't get near the praise he deserves.

Mike Tomlin, one of the league's best coaches, doesn't get near the praise he deserves.

The Steelers clearly out-match the Jets. They out-match them in almost every way. Quarterback? Check Plus. Running back? Check. Receivers? Check. Defense? Check. Coaches? Check. But that doesn’t mean this game will be a blow out.

New York has a knack for winning games. Rex Ryan found a way to win four of his first five playoff games, all but one of which were on the road. I’m still not exactly sure how he does it, but he wins games. Their defense steps up, and Mark Sanchez makes enough big plays not to single-handedly kill his team.

If we’re talking about defenses, no one is better than Pittsburgh. Number one run defense by far. Number one pass defense per play. You can try to beat this team’s defense, but you won’t be able to. They have the best front seven in the game and the biggest defensive difference maker in Troy Polamalu. How important is he? With him, the Steelers are 24-5. Without him? 6-7.

To beat the Steelers, the Jets are going to have to out-score the Steelers. With Sanchez going into Heinz Field, the chances of that are about equal to that of Jared Sullinger’s number. Pittsburgh’s offense is more potent and their defense is more dangerous. I don’t see this as a blowout, but I certainly don’t see this game being a big speed bump for Black and Yellow.

This is your Bojangles’ Lock o’ the Week. Can’t Wait!

Last Week: 2 -2

Season: 130-134

Bojangles’ Lock o’ the Week: 13-6

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