I won't spout off too much about my performance last week, but it was pretty good: three out of four correct, and I really wanted to pick the Seahawks. Let's get to this week's matchups.
#6 Green Bay Packers at #1 Atlanta Falcons
I love this game. I'm a big fan of Aaron Rodgers, and you may remember that I've been supportive of Matt Ryan since day one. In addition to those elite quarterbacks, you've got maybe the best wide receiver in football on one side (Roddy White), and maybe the best linebacker in football on the other (Clay Matthews). At 8:00 Saturday night, all hell is going to break loose.
So who'll win? That's a tough call. The Packers lost 20-17 in Atlanta over Thanksgiving weekend on a Matt Bryant field goal with 9 seconds left. I expect this game to be just as hard fought as the first, and it'll likely come down to last-minute heroics by one side or the other. I think I'll go with the Packers, though. The defense showed what it could do against the Eagles last week, and I expect them to be up to the task again.
Prediction: Packers 28, Falcons 25
#4 Seattle Seahawks at #2 Chicago Bears
Leave it to the NFL to create a situation where the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks could make it to the Super Bowl. Last week's game put them up against a team without two starting RBs. This week finds them facing a quarterback whose up and down year has found him on the wrong side of a TD/INT ratio five times this season. Furthermore, the Seahawks actually beat Chicago in week 6.
That said, the Bears won seven of their last nine games to finish the season, and Jay Cutler seemed to hit a bit of a stride, posting QB ratings above 100 four times in weeks 12-17. The hope in Chicago is that Matt Forte's lightened load this year (thanks to free agent acquisition Chester Taylor) will leave him with fresh legs for these playoffs. I like the Bears to end the dream for Seattle.
Prediction: Bears 27, Seahawks 13
#5 Baltimore Ravens at #2 Pittsburgh Steelers
I'd like to give you a long explanation about this game. I'd like to feel justified telling you that it's a bitter divisional rivalry that will likely only get nastier. But the reality is, I made my pick a while ago on this one, based on a simple rule:
Unless it's the Patriots, the Steelers don't lose games with a healthy Troy Polamalu. There are some other great safeties in the league; hell, there's another in this game. But no defensive player has a greater impact on the outcome of games than Polamalu. He's playing (he's listed as questionable, but come on, he's playing), so I'm taking Pittsburgh. Should be a mean game, though, if you're into that sort of thing.
Prediction: Steelers 30, Ravens 20
#6 New York Jets at #1 New England Patriots
So, this is kind of the other matchup that everyone was hoping to see in these playoffs. The Jets and Patriots clearly do not like each other, from the top of the organizations all the way down. Those kinds of sentiments often make for entertaining pregame drama, but once the ball gets kicked off, it's all about football.
Lucky for us viewers, both of these teams play interesting football. There's plenty of talent on both sides of the ball for both teams, on and off the field. I'm going to go with the Patriots, though, for two reasons. First, the Patriots' most talented player is at quarterback, the best possible position to have an advantage. Second, the Jets seem to be really concerned with the Patriots right now. I understand that it's a rivalry, and that you have strong feelings, but I feel like it's better to channel that aggression into your game-planning and execution. It feels like the Patriots are doing that a lot better than New York.
Prediction: Patriots 20, Jets 9
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