Thursday, January 13, 2011



1. New England Patriots

2. Atlanta Falcons

3. Pittsburgh Steelers

4. Chicago Bears

5. Baltimore Ravens

6. Green Bay Packers

7. New York Jets

8. Seattle Seahawks


New England Patriots vs. New York Jets

ANALYSIS: No Moss? No problem! Tom Brady still put up great numbers while throwing to a diminutive group of receivers and two rookie tight ends. The fact that Brady only has four interceptions and has not thrown a pick in nearly three months is even more eye-popping. On the other side of the ball, the Patriots recorded 38 takeaways and led the league with 25 interceptions. With a turnover differential of +28, it is easy to see why the Patriots are considered favorites in this year's playoffs.

As Rex Ryan stated, it's personal. Well, after a 45-3 beatdown on Monday Night Football on Dec. 6, I would sure hope so. The good thing for Ryan and the Jets is that they won their last "it's personal" game, a 17-16 thriller against the Colts. Mark Sanchez must continue to practice ball control and limit New England's possessions, much like he did against the Colts.

PREDICTION: Patriots 24, Jets 14

KEY MATCHUP: Tom Brady vs. Mark Sanchez (Let's put aside The Hoodie, Rex, and Revis Island for a minute. Brady is going to get his, so it is imperative that Sanchez keeps the Patriot offense on the sideline. If he does that, he will be the first quarterback to beat Brady and Peyton Manning in the same postseason.)

Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens

ANALYSIS: For the people that thought Ben Roethlisberger's suspension would make the Pittsburgh Steelers struggle early, well they were wrong. At 12-4, the Steelers held off the Ravens and won the AFC North. They did it in the typical Pittsburgh way: the best scoring defense, the best run defense, and a commitment to ball-control offense. Roethlisberger only threw five interceptions in 12 games while the Steelers allowed teams to reach the 100-yard plateau twice.

The Baltimore Ravens started slow against Kansas City in the Wild Card Round, but their defense unnerved the young Chiefs squad late en route to a 30-7 win. Ed Reed overcame the disappearance of his brother to deliver one of the best hits of the 2010 season on Dexter McCluster. The Ravens will need more of those hits and then some, because it is a heavyweight fight when these two teams collide.

PREDICTION: Steelers 14, Ravens 10

KEY MATCHUP: The Steelers' defense vs. The Ravens' defense (As always, defense is key here. Whichever defense can limit the big plays of the other team's offense will win this game. Simple.)


Atlanta Falcons vs. Green Bay Packers

ANALYSIS: When at home, Matt Ryan is as close to unbeatable as you can get. So it is only fitting that the Atlanta Falcons would have home-field advantage through the NFC portion of the playoffs. Ryan does not fold under pressure either, he engineered five fourth-quarter comebacks and six game game-winning drives this season. Also having weapons such as Michael Turner, Roddy White, and Tony Gonzalez do not hurt either.

The Green Bay Packers are not your typical No. 6 seed, just ask Michael Vick. The Packers hit him often and hit him hard. Aaron Rodgers and the Packers were in control throughout most of the the game, relying on little used rookie James Starks. Green Bay must do a better job on containing the pass against Ryan though. Giving up 292 yards like they did against Philadelphia will not cut it.

PREDICTION: Falcons 27, Packers 24

KEY MATCHUP: Matt Ryan vs. Aaron Rodgers (Both quarterbacks are the future of the NFL, so which one performs better will win this game.)

Chicago Bears vs. Seattle Seahawks

ANALYSIS: The Bears are finally back in the playoffs, and you have to thank their defense for putting them there. Chicago's defense ranks ninth overall and second against the run, and big free agent acquisition Julius Peppers showed why the Bears got him. Peppers recorded eight sacks, tying him for the team lead. If Jay Cutler can limit the mistakes, we could see the Bears in the NFC Championship Game.

One down, three to go. The Seattle Seahawks delivered the shot heard around the world (and a tremor felt away from Seattle) when they upset the the New Orleans Saints on Wildcard Weekend. Marshawn Lynch broke nine tackles on his way to clinching the game, but doing so on the Bears' run defense will be even tougher. Seattle has two things going for them: 1) they beat Chicago in Soldier Field on Oct. 17 and 2) Jay Cutler's inconsistency -- and that may be just enough.

PREDICTION: Seattle 17, Chicago 16

KEY MATCHUP: Good Jay Cutler vs. Bad Jay Cutler (Ok, not really a matchup, but hear me out. If Cutler performs well, the Bears will avoid the upset. However, if he does not, all bets are off and we could see a 7-9 team hosting the NFC Championship Game.)

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