Monday, January 10, 2011

NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round

AFC


Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers- Saturday 4:30PM on NBC
Line - Pitt by 3

Week 4 - Baltimore 17 Pittsburgh 14
Week 13 - Pittsburgh 13 Baltimore 10

How the Ravens can win: Get after Big Ben.  The Ravens defense always bring the pressure on Ben Roethlisberger especially with a weak Steelers offensive line.  If they get after Big Ben causing pressure and forcing him to scramble, it will take away the deep ball to Mike Wallace and will force him to throw before guys like Hines Ward finish their routes.  The Ravens shut down Jamaal Charles after his 40 yard TD run, and I don't expect Mendenhall to beat them on the ground because in two games he only has 124 rushing yards on 44 carries.  If the Ravens can completely shut down the Steelers game plan and run the ball effectively they will win this game.

How the Steelers can win: Force turnovers.  The Steelers aggressive defense loves to hit hard and force turnovers.  They forced 3 in the two games against the Ravens this year, and if they can force Flacco to throw a pick or sack him and jar the ball loose and help set up field position they'll be in good shape to win this game.  Ray Rice hasn't been a factor in the two games running the ball or in the screen game (17 carries for 52 yards, 3 catches for 27 yards and no TDs, and yes that's combined for two games) and if they eliminate him again from this one the Ravens lose a huge offense threat.  The Steelers need to get Mendenhall going early to help set up play action pass and the deep ball to Wallace for a possible quick score.  Defense is the key in this game and I think the Steelers have the edge.

LiLbRo's Prediction: We all know how games between the Ravens and Steelers turn out.  Hard hitting, physical defensive battles.  Their last 6 regular season games have been decided by 4 points or less.  The game Baltimore won this year Big Ben did not play and I think he will be the difference maker in this game.  Steelers win another close low scoring game 20-16.

KeithyP's Prediction: It is very difficult to win at Heinz Field if you are the road team, and those struggles will continue.  The Steelers are just a little bit better on the defensive side of the ball, but that is all they need as they slip past the Ravens 17-14.


New York Jets @ New England Patriots - Sunday 4:30PM on NBC
Line - Pats by 9

Week 2 - Jets 28 Patriots 14
Week 13 - Patriots 45 Jets 3

How the Jets can win: Keep pounding the run.  The Jets figured out how to beat Peyton Manning in the Wild Card round, and that was simply play smash mouth football and keep the ball on the ground and let the clock keep ticking down, as Peyton sits on the bench.  If the Jets can continue to run the ball with LT and Shonn Greene against the Patriots who should be prepared to stop the run, and keep Brady off the field for as long as possible then the Jets have a shot.

How the Patriots can win: Make the Jets throw.  How do you make the Jets throw? Score some points.  With Brady under center that should not be hard.  Brady has to spread the ball around to Welker, Branch, Gronkowski and Hernandez so the Jets have to use their linebacker to guard on the pass which will open the run game up for Green-Ellis and Woodhead.  If the Jets blitz Brady with linebackers then he will find his TE's or look to Woodhead for a dump off.  The Pats will put up points and that means Sanchez will have to look to throw more then he would like, and as long as the Pats play tight on Edwards and Holmes, Sanchez will be extremely uncomfortable all day long.

LiLbRo's Prediction: Tom Brady has seen and studied the Jets defense enough times this year to figure out Rex Ryan's blitz schemes.  When Brady knows what is coming and can audible to beat it, the defense is in for a long day.  Patriots offense is too good right now.  Patriots roll to a 34-17 win.

KeithyP's Prediction: This will not be like the MNF game, but the Patriots should not have a problem beating the Jets.  The young aggressive defensive backs of the Pats should pick off Sanchez 1 or 2 times as the offense keeps rolling and scoring points off turnovers.  Patriots continue to win at home, beating the Jets 31 - 24.


NFC

Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons - Saturday 8:00PM on Fox
Line - Falcons by 2

Week 12 - Falcons 20 Packers 17

How the Packers can win: Get the run game going and keep an aggressive approach on defense.  If the Packers can get rookie James Starks going like they did against the Eagles (23 carries for 123 yards) then it will be a defensive nightmare for the Falcons.  The Falcons will have a hard enough time focusing on stopping Rodgers that Starks could interfere with their game plan.  With the effective run game Rodgers threw for 3 TDs and was 18/27.  The Packers attacked Mike Vick all game and really held him in check.  Yea he threw for 292 yards but they did force him to throw an INT to finish the game, and they held him to only 33 rushing yards.  They might have a little trouble containing Michael Turner but they'll bring the pressure when Ryan drops back to pass and they don't have to worry about him scrambling away as he only had 122 rushing yards all year.

How the Falcons can win: Stop Aaron Rodgers.  The Falcons won the only meeting between the two teams back in week 12 but Aaron Rodgers absolutely torched them through the air and on the ground.  Rodgers completed 74% of passes going 26/35 for 344 yards with a TD, and rushed 12 times for 51 yards with a TD.  Brandon Jackson was extremely ineffective rushing 10 times for 26 yards.  Nobody seems to really know how to stop Rodgers, but I know the Falcons are working on how to do that as we speak.  Can't really blitz the guy because he'll run all over you but the Falcons need to find a way to slow him down.  I guess they can use the Jets offensive approach and run the ball and keep Rodgers on the sidelines

LiLbRo's Prediction: Matty Ice doesn't lose at home and the Georgia Dome will be loud.  Should be an exciting game with a lot of young talent (Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan, Michael Turner, Greg Jennings, Roddy White), but the Falcons will find a way to win a tight one 31-27.

KeithyP's Prediction: The road to the Superbowl goes through Atlanta, and Atlanta is putting up road blocks.  The Falcons are just to well rounded on offense and the Packers lack of a run game hurts them.  The Falcons win with a great balanced offensive attack and beat the Packers 28-24.


Seattle Seahawks @ Chicago Bears - Sunday 1:00PM on Fox
Line - Bears by 10

Week 6 - Seahawks 23 Bears 20

How the Seahawks can win: Play smart clean football.  In the Seahawks week 6 win over the Bears, they ran and passed the ball effectively while not turning the ball over.  Hasselbeck was 25/40 for 242 yards with a TD.  Mike Williams helped moved the chains as he caught 10 balls for 123 yards and Marshawn Lynch and Justin Forsett combined for 27 carries for a combined 111 rushing yards and each scored.  On defense they were very aggressive, getting after Cutler combing for 6 sacks from 6 different guys, and they totally shut down Matt Forte (8 carries for 11 yards, TD) and the Bears run game.  If they can repeat this game and play effectively, and possibly force Jay Cutler ( 17/39 for 290 yards) to throw a pick of two, they might be able to pull off another shocker.

How the Bears can win: Matt Forte and defense.  If Forte can get into a rhythm on the ground as well as getting involved in the pass game, he can be a handful for the Seahawks defense.  The Seahawks nearly gave up 500 yards against the Saints but luckily the Saints defense played even worse.  The Bears defense will not allow the Seahawks to put up 40 points so if the Seahawks defense doesn't show up this could be an embarrassment.  Julius Peppers and Brian Urlacher will be aggressive and they will get plenty of pressure on Hasselbeck, and look to continue to completely shut down opponents run game.

LiLbRo's Prediction:  Julius Peppers and the Bears defense lead Chicago to a Conference Championship, beating the Seahawks 26-13.


KeithyP's Prediction: The Seahawks got EXTREMELY lucky that the Saints did not come to play.  The Bears are a completely different defensive team and Julius Peppers might have 5 sacks this game, and force the Seahawks into 4+ turnovers.  Jay Cutler and the Bears are set to face off against the Falcons in the NFC Championship, as the Bears win 27 - 17.
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