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New York Giants Notes: Super Bowl is Set Edition

The big story in the NFL Monday morning is that the matchup for Super Bowl XLV is set--Green Bay vs. Pittsburgh for the Lombardi Trophy. Just like the Giants did three years ago, the Packers won an improbable three straight road games to get there, and they did it as the #6 seed while the Giants were the No. 5 in winning Super Bowl XLII. It also validates that Green Bay was the best team in the NFC, or at least they certainly were when it counted most. Of course, this is good news for Giants' fans too because finally the New York Jets are heading home after a nice run as a No. 6 seed themselves ended with a loss in Pittsburgh. Here are some thoughts from Sunday's games and otherwise...

Rex Ryan's Jets go home early again after Ben Roethlisberger denies Mark Sanchez one final drive
There was none of the confetti that Rex Ryan had talked about all week, the confetti he said meant you had won the game that took you and your team to the Super Bowl. There was just all this Steelers noise now at Heinz Field, and the stage for the trophy presentation being rolled out, and this crazy, loud, barroom singing about the Super Bowl as Rex Ryan took the long walk past the stage and into next season. The singing was about somebody else's Super Bowl, again.

Some of us are thrilled today that the Jets lost Sunday, but some of us can definitely feel their pain. And coming up short in yet another AFC title game has got to sting pretty bad.

Brian Schottenheimer lacks sense of urgency as play-calling dooms Jets on Steelers' goal-line stand
After cutting the Steelers' lead to 24-10 in the third quarter, another fourth-quarter miracle didn't seem out of the question. But offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer showed no sense of urgency in his play-calling when the Jets started at their own 19 with 50 seconds left in the third quarter. It took them 13 plays to finally get to the Steelers' 2-yard line with 8:39 left. This is where the Jets lost the game, and where Schottenheimer's strategy was out of whack. How many times have we heard Ryan bragging about the Jets' ground-and-pound philosophy?

Boy, does this stink of Kevin Gilbride or what? I mean, look what the Steelers did on the game-clinching play when everyone and their mother expected them to run the ball, completing a 14-yard pass play to keep Mark Sanchez from touching the ball again.

Green Bay Packers news | Green Bay Packers win 'gratifying' for GM Ted Thompson | Green Bay Press-Gazette
It was fitting that this game was a struggle, which mirrored the entire season. Nothing has come easy for the Packers, who fought through myriad injuries and a difficult three-game playoff road stretch to punch their Super Bowl ticket to Dallas, where they will play the Pittsburgh Steelers.

True, the Packers overcame a rash of injuries to key players this past season. But let's not forget two-plus years ago, when Thompson and Mike McCarthy pulled off that trade of a wishy washy Brett Favre to the Jets, making the decision to make Aaron Rodgers their QB of the future and giving them this chance to win it all two seasons later. And speaking of Rodgers...

Chicago Bears: Chicago Bears' Jay Cutler not the quarterback Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers is -
At this stage of Cutler's career, he is not where Rodgers is. Both are 27. Cutler is one year behind Rodgers in NFL experience. But Rodgers is more of an old soul of a quarterback. He has been in the same offense for his entire career, playing for the same head coach for five years. He has been throwing passes to Donald Driver since his first season and Greg Jennings since his second. Cutler has played under four offensive coordinators. He still is getting to know his latest offense, his third in three years. He still is getting to know his receivers.

There surely will continue to be criticism of Cutler after Sunday's game, and after he failed to take the Bears back to the promised land, and then sat out the second half with a knee injury in the biggest game of his pro career. But how about Rodgers? This article is dead on about the guy being an old soul, and a savvy veteran already at the age of 27. Now, can he win the big one? That remains to be seen.

Lovie Smith, Coach of the Year -
But in 2010 and early '11, Lovie Smith brought a mediocre Bears team within a few points of Super Bowling in Texas. This longer-than-it-deserved-to-be season limped to a peculiar finish Sunday: You had third-string quarterback Caleb Hanie steering the Bears, and 338-pound defensive tackle B.J. Raji — "The Freezer" — loping to score the margin-maker touchdown for the Green Bay Packers.

But Coach of the Year? I don't think so. The coach on the other sideline may get just as many votes, and may have even before the postseason started. And I'd surely take Raheem Morris, Bill Belichick, Todd Haley and Andy Reid over Lovie. What do you guys think?

NFL Confidential: Tom Brady's window for another Super Bowl ring is closing |
But when Brady wasn't at the top of his game — probably because of a combination of the foot injury and the Jets — the Patriots were vulnerable. Especially when you throw in a bad play like the fake punt late in the first half. Now the question is where Brady and the Patriots go from here. He will be 34 next August, and older players are always more vulnerable to injuries.

Interesting take, but with Brady the Patriots will always be in the running to get to the Super Bowl, and that's what it's all about in the NFL.

Super foes had memorable 2009 battle
The Steelers will play the Green Bay Packers in Super Bowl XLV Feb. 6 in Dallas and if the game is anything like the last time the two teams met it should be one of the most entertaining Super Bowls in history. That game was played in December 2009 at Heinz Field and the Steelers won, 37-36. It wasn't over until the final play when Ben Roethlisberger hit Mike Wallace with a winning 19-yard touchdown pass. The final touchdown wasn't the only big, game-changing play that occurred in the closing minutes. Both teams made huge plays in a fourth quarter that saw four touchdowns and two field goals scored.

I was trying to remember the last time these two teams met, and here it is. Though it sure is hard to imagine a 37-36 Super Bowl, it should for sure be a close game, something most of us always hope for no matter who is playing.

Hey, cheer up, Giants' fans. At least we have a potential lockout to look forward to sooner rather than later. Ugh.