Jan 14, 2011
We are back for the Divisional Round matchups after going 2-2 in my picks last week. Interestingly enough, I correctly predicted the two toss-up games (Ravens, Packers), while missing on the games I felt comfortable about (Saints, Colts). We have four rematches this week, and I am intrigued to see what kind of adjustments will be made.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
Not a whole lot needs to be said about this matchup since we’ve seen these teams play each other so often in recent years. Both teams can run the ball well when they choose to, but the Steelers tend to rely on throwing it more because they believe Ben Roethlisberger is their best player. That should continue in this game because of Baltimore’s exploitable secondary. The Chiefs didn’t do much against them last week, but as we know, Dwayne Bowe is their only legit receiver. Pittsburgh goes three deep at WR with Hines Ward, Emmanuel Sanders, and Mike Wallace, who is the only player I feel somewhat confident about from a fantasy perspective in this matchup. We know about the Steeler OL issues, but Baltimore’s OL also has had trouble in pass protection meaning both QBs could be under pressure for most of the day. I’d expect this to be the usual hard-hitting, competitive game we’ve seen from these teams in the past, but I’m leaning towards the Steelers only because I think they can have more success throwing the ball.
Prediction: Steelers 24 Ravens 21
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
I’m actually a little surprised to see so many people picking the Packers in this game, mostly because you don’t often see a #1 seed get so little respect. However, I agree with the notion that Green Bay should win this game because they are a better team than the Falcons when both teams are at their best. Atlanta has shown to have a much-improved defense and an efficient offense, but I’m not sure that’s enough to beat the Packers twice in a season. Atlanta doesn’t have the firepower on offense to quickly make up a double-digit deficit. We discussed this with D. Orlando Ledbetter from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on the radio show during the week, and he agreed that no one is really sure if Matt Ryan can lead this team to a comeback victory since he hasn’t really been tested in that fashion this season. Green Bay is good enough to win without a running game because they have such a deep and talented receiving corps, but if James Starks can continue to do what he did last week, they might be the most complete team in either conference.
Prediction: Packers 27 Falcons 20
Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
I’ll give Seattle the credit they deserve for one of the biggest upset in playoff history, but they did get every single big break and played their best game of the season while the Saints played one of their worst and they still had a chance to win. I still don’t believe in the Bears as a legit contender, but if they should be able to win this game if they stick to the formula that helped them finish the season strong. Bringing pressure with their fantastic front seven and staying committed to the run should be enough to handle the Seahawks. Seattle’s OL isn’t very good and their defense doesn’t have the personnel to handle a constant rushing attack. If the Bears want to take some shots downfield, this would be the game to do it with Seattle’s secondary continuing to look exploitable. I don’t think we’ll see Jay Cutler throw it 40 times, but 30+ attempts wouldn’t surprise me. If the Bears keep things simple, they should be able to control this game and if they do hit some big plays, they could win it big.
Prediction: Bears 26 Seahawks 16
New York Jets at New England Patriots
It took the Jets a half, but they finally figured that running the ball well is all it takes to beat the Colt defense. They limited Mark Sanchez after a horrible 1st half and fed LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene for much of the final 30 minutes. Sanchez continues to struggle with his accuracy and outside of a few throws here and there, he played one of his worst games of the season. The Jets cannot hide Sanchez against the Patriots, as they’ll need to throw to keep up. I just don’t see Sanchez playing at the level that’s needed to win this game. Tomlinson and Greene actually ran well against a solid Pat run defense this season, but that won’t be enough to win. The Jet defense should be able to keep this competitive for a little while, but the Patriots should be able to pull away in the 2nd half because of their abundance of weapons. Even if Darrelle Revis takes whomever he covers out of the game, the Jets still have issues in coverage in the middle of the field and down the seam, which is where the Patriots can do damage with their rookie TEs Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez, Danny Woodhead, and Wes Welker. I wouldn’t expect this to be a repeat of the Monday Night Football Massacre, but the Patriots have just too much for the Jets to handle.
Prediction: Patriots 30 Jets 20
Enjoy what should be a great weekend of games and as always, thanks for reading.