x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Jets and Packers edge closer to Super Bowl

Two wild card teams in the Super Bowl? The New York Jets and Green Bay Packers like that scenario, and it is impossible to ignore them.

Santonio Holmes, of the Jets, celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Patriots.
Santonio Holmes, of the Jets, celebrates after scoring a touchdown against the Patriots.

Two wild card teams in the Super Bowl? The New York Jets and Green Bay Packers like that scenario, and it is impossible to ignore them after this weekend's NFL play-off games.

The Jets went to New England and handed the league's top regular-season team a 28-21 defeat on Sunday. Their reward is a date with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC championship game next Sunday night.

"We're not afraid of anybody," Rex Ryan, the Jets coach, said after Mark Sanchez threw for three touchdowns against New England. "Maybe people take it the wrong way. We don't badmouth an opponent, but we don't fear anybody."

Nor, apparently, do the Packers. They routed the NFC's top seed, the Atlanta Falcons, 48-21 on Saturday night, and will head to Chicago for the NFC title game. The Bears whipped Seattle 35-24 to set up the 182nd meeting in the NFL's longest series, but the first for an NFC championship.

"We're both familiar with each other, so nothing's going to be new," said Jay Cutler, the Bears quarterback who threw for two touchdowns and ran for two more in his first post-season appearance. "We have our hands full."

The AFC title game will be a rematch of a December 19 game, won 22-17 by the Jets. Troy Polamalu, the Steelers safety, missed that game and he is a huge playmaker.

The Jets have won four of their five play-off road games under Ryan, the latest their stunner on Sunday at Foxborough, where the Jets fell 45-3 on December 6.

"We knew we'd have to beat those kind of opponents, got to get a team that can beat New England, beat Indianapolis at their places, and beat Pittsburgh, hopefully," Ryan said.

In the NFC, Chicago and Green Bay have been going at it for 90 years, but, amazingly, this will be only the second time they have faced each other in a play-off.

In 1941, just days after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor and a quarter-century before there was a Super Bowl, the George Halas-coached Bears beat the Packers 33-14 for the Western Division title. The play-off was needed after both went 10-1 during the regular season.

The Bears went on to beat the New York Giants for one of their nine NFL titles. But they have not won it since 1985.

The Packers have won a record 12 NFL titles, most recently after the 1996 season.