In this week’s Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs, redemption has become an underlying theme to each of the games slated to take place on Jan. 15 and 16.
By the grace of the football gods, on tap are four specific matchups in which each of the teams are already quite familiar with their opponent. During the regular season, the eight remaining teams left to vie for the Lombardi Trophy have faced next week’s opponents a combined six times.
On Jan. 15, the Baltimore Ravens head to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in what will be the most critical of the AFC North archrivals’ three matchups this season. Of course, divisional foes square off twice each regular season in a home-and-away, but when the two teams each win a game, rarely do they get an opportunity to settle their differences with a rubber match in the postseason.
In 2011, a threematch will not only occur in Pittsburgh on Saturday, but also New England on Jan. 16.
The rivalry between the New York Jets and the Patriots is just as bitter and intense as the Steelers-Ravens, and will pit two teams with a history of poaching personnel and practice tape against each other.
The two other Divisional Round games may not feature matchups of division rivals, but these two contests will also be opportunities for redemption for both the Green Bay Packers and Chicago Bears.
The Packers lost to the Falcons 20-17 in the Georgia Dome earlier in the season, and will return to the scene of their heartbreaking loss on Jan. 15.
The Seahawks pulled off one of the season’s more unlikely upsets Week 6 when they traveled to the Windy City to stun the Bears at Soldier Field 23-20. Given Seattle’s 7-9 regular season record along with just two road victories, the Bears have to be grateful to the New Orleans Saints for succumbing to the earth-shaking elements of Qwest Field on Jan. 8.
This loss by the heavily-favored, defending Super Bowl champs gave the Bears a chance to advance to the NFC Championship by defeating a team they’ll be the first to admit they should have beaten back in October.
Let’s take a closer look at each of the four aforementioned clashes...