NFL Divisional Round Predictions

January 13, 2011

Divisional playoff weekend. Four teams left in each conference. Two division rivalry games in the AFC. A showdown in Hotlanta. And the Seahawks. Analysis and picks below.

Pittsburgh (-3) vs. Baltimore

Week 4: 17-14 Ravens, in Pittsburgh

Week 13: 13-10 Steelers, in Baltimore

Football purists are drooling over this matchup. Defense-on-defense, dude-on-dude, Ray Lewis on Ben Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu on (Westchester native and Rutgers alumnus) Ray Rice. FOOTBALL.

The first team to score in the teens will probably win this matchup. Big Ben was suspended for the week 4 matchup because he had a little too much Loko and started assaulting (ugly) rural Georgia chicks. The week 13 Sunday night matchup was a classic, and Troy was the difference maker. Although the Ravens defense has regressed a little, they are still a force. They have a solid young QB in Joe Flacco and a great running game with Rice and McGahee. The Steelers are the second best team in the AFC IMO, and Ben has proved that he can win big games (and creep) with the best of them.

Pick: These teams are so similar and evenly matched, it’s impossible to predict, but I have more confidence in Big Ben than Joe Flacco. Polamalu will make a big play late, and the Steelers will escape this bruising AFC North matchup.

Green Bay (+2.5) vs. Atlanta

Week 12: 20-17 Falcons, in Atlanta

Saturday night. Primetime. Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan, two of the best young QBs in the league. Their first matchup saw Aaron Rodgers, or “the next John Elway” (according the Phil Simms), throw for 344 beans against the soft Falcons D. Eric Weems had a huge kick return to set up the game winning FG after Rodgers drove the Pack down the field to tie the game.

Clay Matthews and the solid Packers defense will give Matty Ice plenty of trouble. By the way, did anyone see Clay’s brother Casey force a fumble on Heisman winner Cam Newton late in the BCS title game? The Matthews’ are quickly supplanting the Mannings as America’s football family (Archie Manning > Father Matthews, though). Michael Turner ran the ball very effectively against this team in week 12, but a repeat of that 110 yard performance is unlikely.

If the Packers run the ball as effectively this week as they did against the soft Filthadelphia defense last week, they won’t lose. The Atlanta defense is not as bad as the Eagles’, but they’re not not bad. I fully expect Rodgers to torch this young, risk-taking secondary.

Pick: Poor Falcons. They get the number 1 NFC seed, and their reward is a second round matchup against Aaron Rodgers. Meanwhile, da Bears get the two seed and get… Matt Hasselbeck. The red-hot Packers give Matt Ryan his 3rd home loss of his young career.

Chicago (-10) vs. Seattle

Week 6: 23-20 Seahawks, in Chicago

The Seahawks! Marshawn Lynch finally unleashing beast mode against the defending Super Bowl champions in one of the greatest postseason runs ever! And he went to UC-Berkeley to boot! What a guy, what a team.

Erratic Jay Cutler and Da Bears catch a huge break here, getting Seattle fresh off one of the greatest upsets in NFL history. As much “momentum” as the Seahawks have, they do not stand a chance on the road against this defense. Devin Hester will probably take one to the house. Forte will score, Cutler will score.

The Seahawks actually beat the (early season enigmatic) Bears in week 6. Don’t expect the same here.

Pick: Chicago wins by a couple of touchdowns. They will not make the same mistake as the Saints, and the Seahawks will not have the 12th man advantage.

New York (+8.5) vs. New England

Week 2: 28-14 Jets, in New York

Week 13: 45-2 Patriots, in New England

Clearly, the game in New England with the division on the line was a better barometer than the week 2 matchup in which Randy Moss was still alive. However, the 42 point difference does not accurately reflect the disparity between these two teams. The Jets entire franchise, from Woody Johnson to head (foot?) coach Rex Ryan to Mark the Sanchize, panicked in that game. They were completely outplanned and outmanned by Bill Belichick and Tom Brady.

Belichick’s gopher Eric Mangini figured out perfectly how to beat this team: RUN THE FOOTBALL. Fans of Hard Knocks recognize that Ryan has been preaching his “ground and pound” philosophy since training camp. If offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer doesn’t panic early and depart from his gameplan, the Jets can be successful against this team. LTT and Greene need to step up if the Jets want to stay in this game. The Jets played beautifully against the Colts in the 2nd half: they held on to the ball and kept Peyton off the field. Do that again against this soft New England defense, and *gasp* the Jets will be in the game in the 4th quarter. But Brady is 14-4 in the playoffs and 2 wins short of tying Joe Montana (the Jim Harbaugh era will mark the 49ers resurgence to football relevance) for all-time playoff victories.

Pick: The last time the Patriots were this good was 2007-08 (LOL good season, guys). The persistent banter from my friends, “sexy Rexy,” and Boomer & Carton In The Morning may have influenced my pick, but this line is too high. The Patriots win, but the Jets cover.


One comment

  1. […] Bears-Seahawks game, as expected [by most], was a snoozer.  The Bears jumped out to a 28-0 lead before they started toying with Seattle.  We […]

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