With the unpredictable Wild Card weekend in the rear view mirror, the second weekend of NFL Playoffs is about to start.
The Baltimore Ravens, New York Jets, Green Bay Packers and Seattle Seahawks are all still alive, and their next task will be to win against one of the four best teams from the regular season who are coming off a bye week.
If anything, last weekend’s results were a warning that history is in the past and that the point spreads can now be deemed practically inconsequential in trying to predict outcomes.
In all honesty, predicting the NFL Playoff games based on logic and stats is pointless because anything can happen. This was the theme of the 2010 regular season as no team could stay undefeated after week four and teams played like Jekyll and Hyde.
Last weekend, I went one of four in my picks. My formula was pick winner, score and give a preview that explained how I came to that choice.
So, for the Divisional Games I will still give short summary of the match up, but I am going to flip a coin to pick the winners/losers.
HEADS: hosting teams, coming off a bye week.... Patriots, Steelers, Falcons and Bears.
TAILS: Wild Card Game winners, also known ‘the visitors’.... Jets, Ravens, Seahawks and Packers.
Now, let’s look at the four match ups:
Saturday Jan. 15, 2011 (ET)
Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers (4:30pm CBS)
What a perfect way to kick off a playoff weekend, but with a ferocious rivalry between the Ravens and Steelers.
Right off the bat, physical is what comes to mind at the thought of each team individually.
Both teams’ defenses, Ravens lead by Old Spice’s Ray Lewis and Steelers by Head & Shoulders Troy Polamalu, hit hard, and are dominant against the running game. The Ravens will shutdown Steelers RB Rashard Mendenhall, but Ravens RB Ray Rice was the last RB to run 100 years against the Steelers defense.
Knowing each other so well, there are not many unknowns between them.
For the Ravens, the offense needs to have another good throwing week. Rice needs to distract the defense by earning some yardage to get the Steelers d-line’s respect, along with another good performance by Flacco who will look to TE Todd Head.
The Steelers need their offensive line to protect QB Ben Roethlisberger better because they won’t get away with not against the Ravens d-line lead by Terrell Suggs. Roethlisberger has not been going deep as much and has been solid throwing short passes this season. The Ravens dominate in stopping the short game, so look for Big Ben to go yard more this game.
For these two teams, the result in seven of their last eight match-ups was decided by a touchdown or less; the last four rendezvous have been decided by only a field goal and two of those four went to overtime.
This game is between two brutal bullies going at each other for blood, and it will be close. The victory will come within the last few minutes in the fourth quarter, either by Special Teams or by a fumble, would be my guess.
And the COIN says: Heads... Steelers will win. I might disagree with the coin on this one, as the Ravens looked really good last week once they got their composure before the half.
Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons (8pm FOX)
This season’s only undefeated team at home, the 9-0 Falcons will host the biggest underdog in the NFL playoff history, as the 7-9 Seahawks are coming to town.
The Hot-lanta Falcons have unassumingly been a force all season long and finished right behind the Pats with an 11-5 record.
The Falcons are all-around a better team, with a lot less injuries. The Packers have had a slew of injuries this season, including a blow to the head of QB Aaron Rogers who was sidelined because of the concussion for a few weeks. Since Rogers' return, he hasn’t lost a step and literally has lead the Packers into the playoffs.
QB Matt Ryan is good, but he is not Rogers great. The Falcons o-line gives him solid protection, which he will need against Green Bay’s two sacking machines, Woodsen and Matthews. The Falcons have their own sack architect in John Abraham who should have an easier time getting to Rogers on Saturday night. Green Bays o-line has not kept Rogers as safe, ie. the concussion.
The Falcons defense will have to watch newly emerged Packers RB James Starks, who Rogers seemed very comfortable handing the ball too. Packers are known as passers, relying heavily on Rogers arm so Starks could put a big dent in the Falcons attack. That is if Starks can be a pain in the ass for a second week in a row.
Even thought Ryan is the weaker QB, the Falcons have better special teams and a stronger o-line, so look for them to play big factors in the outcome. Another tough call, but the Packers seem to be the popular pick, regardless of the point spread favoring the Falcons by three.
Atlanta’s success has flown way under the radar this season, and I picked them to win the Superbowl a month ago. Guess that means I think the Falcons will win, but it’s up to the coin.
And the COIN says: Tails.... Packers win. After this outcome this coin could be on a role, or not because this is a ballsy pick by the coin. The game is in Atlanta’s Georgia Dome and the Falcons protect their home like no other, so it will be tough.