Hello everybody! This is my first article since October 3, so I may be a bit rusty. Please wish me luck and enjoy the article.
The AFC has two spectacular matchups on hand for the Divisional Round, and I'll be taking a look at how the Ravens match up with the Steelers, as well as how the Patriots can handle the Jets.
I also would like to mention that I will be making the picture the x-factor for every section, in case you are wondering why I picked certain unusual players.
The Ravens offense relies on Anquan Boldin. If he can get open like he did in the last matchup, it will be a very tough, close game.
If Anquan can get separation from the Pittsburgh corners, then he will have another excellent game against the Steelers, and in turn Flacco will as well.
The problem resides in the Ravens' inability to win against the Steelers. Flacco never really plays overly well against them and his last game was the only playoff game where he did very well at all.
Perhaps having Boldin on the team this year will be the big difference, but the fact is that the Ravens offense is not that good with Ray Rice having an off year and the offensive line looking unspectacular.
I don't expect much from the running game, considering it is going against the Steelers who have had one of the greatest rush defenses of ALL TIME.
Also, people do not give enough credit to Ike Taylor for shutting down receivers.
Ed Reed is the unquestionable most valuable player on the defense. He is the face of the defense and I would argue him as being one of the greatest players, much less safeties, of all time.
While he is an amazing player, I doubt he will be at full greatness with the disappearance of his brother looming on his mind.
My and I am sure all of the nation's heart go out to the Reed family, and I send my condolences to all affected. I despise the Ravens, but I wish with all my heart that they find his brother safe and sound.
But, to return to the article:
Ray Lewis has been and always will be the vocal leader of the team, but his age is beginning to catch up with him. He seems ageless, but he is not quite what he was even six years ago.
I say that this defense has a great matchup since T-Sizzle (Terrell Suggs for those with a lack of knowledge for nicknames) has been lighting it up. The offensive line of the Steelers is without a shadow of a doubt within the bottom four in the NFL.
Two huge injuries to the tackles has left a rookie center to lead the team and become the catalyst for the line. But, sadly for the Steelers, Pouncey is NOT a left tackle. That means that Suggs will spend more time in the backfield than Rashard Mendenhall, much like the last game.
People do not realize that the only reason Mendenhall averaged 3.9 yards per carry was because the line is truly atrocious.
Porous line plus the Ravens D means that Rashard has little to no chance at having a good game at all. I predict probably 16 carries for 39 yards or something like that.
But the big thing is Ben Roethlisberger and Mike Wallace. Most did not see Wallace leading the team in receiving yards, touchdowns, targets, catches, a shade under the league lead in yards per reception, etc. He even led the league in catches for 20-plus yards.
If Wallace and Roethlisberger have good games, I believe a win is imminent for the Steelers.
Also, if by some miracle Starks and Colon could return to the offensive line, that would be wonderful.
Ward has always been good, but I suppose his age caught up to him this year.
The extra players who go unnoticed to those outside of the Steelers community are Antonio Brown, Emmanuel Sanders, Mewelde Moore and Isaac Redman. Moore is an excellent third down running back who averaged some six or more yards per carry this season.
Redman runs like a man possessed and is definitely not afraid to get hit. Sanders and Brown are both very speedy guys who have good hands and decent routes. Brown is a bit better when he has the ball in his hands, and Sanders is a bit better as a receiver. That is why Sanders is the third receiver and Brown is returning kicks and punts.
Lawrence Timmons has become a bit more of a catalyst for the defense with Polamalu.
People have not seen as much of Timmons this year, despite him being one of the league leaders in tackles. He went quiet for a few weeks, but has returned in the last couple. When he plays at the top of his level, which is 12 or so tackles a game, maybe even a sack or forced fumbled, he is one of the top five at his position. That is definitely saying something.
Also, people have not realized that the Steelers have been using him in Polamalu's normal "do whatever the hell you want" style. He has shown great success and done an excellent job making plays and knowing just what's about to happen at all times.
And that isn't even getting to LaMarr Woodley, James Harrison or Polamalu himself.Taylor is a good cornerback who goes unnoticed and does not have great hands, but people underestimate how well he sticks to his man. On the opposite of him is Bryant McFadden, who is a good player, not great, but definitely better than William Gay, who has allowed a solid five or so huge touchdowns including the game-loser against the Ravens in Week 4.
Another couple of players who go unmentioned are the 3-4 is Ziggy Hood, Brett Keisel and Casey Hampton. All of them are the unsung heroes who give the linebackers the opportunities that they receive.
I don't think the Ravens will score a whole ton of points, but I think a kick return touchdown does them well.
Perhaps it is slight bias, but I have the Steelers winning—27-23, to be exact.
The Steelers secondary is not spectacular, but it is not terrible. They're among the better half of the league in yards per reception allowed, QB rating, yards, touchdowns, etc. And I believe the defense as a whole is 14th in pass defense.
And of course the rushing offense will be shut down.
The only reason the Ravens will make a game of it is because of a kick/punt return touchdown and bad play calling on behalf of Bruce Arians.
Ben Roethlisberger will be player of the game with 284 yards, three touchdowns and maybe an interception. Doubtful, since he has been playing very efficiently, but I suppose I just feel it. He does always break tackles and make big plays and with one of his favorite receivers, tight end Heath Miller, coming into his own at the right time, it helps.
It all relies on how well they run the ball. If LT can not light it up, or Shonn Greene plays like in last year's playoffs, the Jets have little chance.
The only times the Patriots have lost this year were against good rushing teams, and the teams that came close also ran well and took up a lot of clock time. I mean, if Flynn can almost beat the Patriots, it is either a great sign for the Packers or a bad one for the Patriots.
Sanchez's inconsistency problems are also troubling. If he could pick up his game a bit much like in last year's playoffs, I would not be surprised to see the Jets win the game.
Also, Holmes was not on the team when the Jets beat the Pats the first time around, so perhaps his being on the team now makes a bit more of a difference.
And yes, I know it clearly didn't last time, but I am just sayin'!
With Revis not playing as well as last year, but still being top three at the position, I believe this game is heavy for Cromartie.
The Jets are not a defense that scares you anymore. They have no legit pass rusher, no great players in the front seven and a number of huge injuries including their secondary play caller and best defensive lineman.
Also, you have to factor in them having a less than stellar year overall in the linebacking corps, and their defense just does not put a scare into teams. The only good part is the secondary, who is playing a backup at SS.
Their two best defensive players are Cromartie and Revis, but that really does not matter since most of what the Patriots have done is pass to the tight ends, which is obvious since Welker has had a less amazing year than usual.
I don't think the Jets have much to stop the Pats from doing what they want.
Sorry, but I hate the Patriots and Tom Brady, so when I saw this in Getty, I just had no choice.
But that is only because the Patriots offense will be near-unstoppable as usual. I do think that Brady will throw one pick, but three touchdowns and around 280 yards make up for it.
Benjarvus Green-Ellis will be used in the late game, and he could pile up 100 yards. I mean, really, the Pats have not shown they can be stopped at all.
The Jets couldn't do it. The Bears, Steelers and Packers could not do it. Why would you expect them to suddenly stop now? I am hoping the Jets can manage the upset and shut down Brady, but you know...it's just not likely at all.
This feels like 2007 against the Giants. The Pats could not be stopped at all and it seemed ludicrous that the Giants could win against such a team. Not saying this kind of thing is THAT big, but I am getting the same vibe.
The Patriots defense is what many like to call a "bend but don't break defense" where they allow a fairly large amount of yards, but not quite so many points.
They are very opportunistic, which is why they led the league in turnovers forced, turnover ratio and were second in interceptions.
Much of it was because of Devin McCourty, a rookie cornerback, who I thought would be good but nowhere near as much of a ball hawk as he has turned out to be.
It is a young defense with a lot of rookies, anchored by Jerod Mayo who led the league in tackles with 174 or something ridiculous like that. He has shown he is a very good player, but I doubt anyone was expecting him to lead the league over players such as Patrick Willis and Jon Beason.
The point is, the defense is good and while they allow a lot of yards, it's most because teams are losing 21-3 in the first quarter and have to pass 50 times in a game. That has to add up.
I hate to say it, but it is true.
Brady will play far too well and Sanchez will most likely throw a couple of picks. The Pats defense has come together and sadly (for Steelers fans, such as myself) the Patriots will continue to roll the competition, and the Jets won't be the team to stop them.
I fear this matchup, but I feel it is inevitable. Steelers-Patriots, a rematch of the 2004 AFC Championship if I am not mistaken. The Steelers were 15-1 in the regular season and were expected to win, but the Patriots won the game despite the predictions.
But, much like these games I predicted, that's why you play the games. If the teams that were expected to win always won, then the Chargers would be around and the Saints would not have lost to the Seahawks.
Well, for the NFC, I am picking the Packers and the Bears.
The Seahawks play VERY well at home and they won that last game mostly because the Saints were not prepared, and Marshawn Lynch went into beast mode.
I did pick the Seahawks to win purely based on their sheer will to win and how they play at home. And of course that no one would expect them to put up a fight, so the Saints would be caught off guard.
The Packers will win because the Falcons are the most overrated team in the league, and undeserving of being thought so highly of. When they can't run, Ryan has a hard time. Matty Ice is not what people make him out to be, and while he is good in the clutch, he is nothing but a game manager at the moment.
It also doesn't hurt that he has a top-four receiver in the NFL on his team, who has single-handedly saved at least two games, especially the 49ers game.
But, anyway, thank you guys for reading the article, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please leave your thoughts in the comment section below! Don't be afraid to "Like" the article, either.