NFL Divisional Round Preview: Can Ravens, Packers, Jets Avenge Losses?

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NFL Divisional Round Preview: Can Ravens, Packers, Jets Avenge Losses?
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In Week 13, the Patriots demolished the Jets 45-3 on Monday Night Football. Expect about the same this Sunday.

Each Divisional Round matchup this weekend will serve as a rematch of at least one regular season game.

The two AFC matchups are rubber matches, as each team beat the other once. However, the Steelers and Patriots, both of whom will host the matchups, won the last regular season matchups in games that will stick in the minds moreso than the first one.

As I said in a previous post, I expect the Chicago Bears to avenge their Week 6 loss to the Seattle Seahawks. But what about the Ravens, Packers and Jets?

Can they overcome teams that already beat them? Can they do it on the road?


Ravens at Steelers

Baltimore's victory over the Steelers was in Pittsburgh, but came while Ben Roethlisberger was serving his four-game suspension.

Big Ben has come back in a big way for the Steelers. Although the Steeler offense wasn't exactly potent in a 13-10 win over the Ravens in Week 13, Roethlisberger completed 22-of-38 passes for 253 yards and a touchdown.

Troy Polamalu came up with the play of the game that Sunday night in Baltimore, forcing a Joe Flacco that Pittsburgh recovered and set up the game-winning touchdown. Polamalu currently is listed day-to-day with an Achilles injury, so it remains to be seen if the Steeler defense can rely on any big plays this time around.

Ed Reed is also questionable for this game, as he is visiting his family in the wake of his brother's disappearance last weekend.

Even if both of these players are held out of this game, expect this battle to he a hard-hitting, head-bruising one. If you thought Roethlisberger's nose injury looked serious, that's nothing compared to the aches and pains you'll feel from just watching this game.

Pittsburgh, however, has a slight upper hand in pretty much every category in this game, including playoff history. The Steelers won both playoff matches between these two teams since the Ravens moved from Cleveland in 1996; they beat Baltimore 27-10 in the 2001 playoffs and 23-14 in January 2009.

Expect more of the same this time around.

Steelers 21, Ravens 17


Packers at Falcons

The last time these two teams faced each other, Aaron Rodgers tried to carry the entire offense by himself to lift the Packers to victory in the Georgia Dome.

Rodgers completed 26-of-35 passes for 344 yards and a touchdown. He was also Green Bay's leading rusher, with 51 yards and another touchdown.

But it was not enough, as the Falcons, behind Michael Turner's 110 yards on 23 carries, beat the Packers 20-17.

This time around, however, Green Bay will be packing (pun intended) their running game onto their plane to Hotlanta. Last week, James Starks burst through the Eagles defense for 123 yards.

The question is will they be able to keep the Falcons offense on the sidelines with their running game. The Packers couldn't do it in the end of their game against the Eagles, and they needed a Tramon Williams interception to escape Philadelphia with a playoff victory.

My brain tells me not to expect that to happen again with Matty Ice under center for the Falcons. But my gut is telling me to bet on the Packers.

With help from their newly-found running game, they look like one of those teams that catch fire once the playoffs begin, ala the 2008 Baltimore Ravens, Philadelphia Eagles and Arizona Cardinals or 2005 Pittsburgh Steelers.

Packers 24, Falcons 20


Jets at Patriots


Contrary to what Rex Ryan has been saying these past few days, he won't be lining up against Bill Belichick on the gridiron.

As Bill Belichick said in response, it's probably a good thing that Belichick is staying on the sidelines. Otherwise, I would have thought the Jets had a shot at winning this game.

Let's face it: New York's defense got exposed on that fateful Monday night. Without Jim Leonhard protecting Darrelle Revis and Antonio Cromartie in the secondary, Tom Brady had a field day, passing for 326 yards and four touchdowns.

The Jets offense, as a result, was forced to play catch-up, a mode in which Mark Sanchez is usually anything but comfortable. He showed that by throwing for only 164 yards and three interceptions.

This time around, I don't expect an annihilation as bad as that 45-3 debacle. However, I cannot see any possible way that the Jets escape Foxboro with an upset victory.

Even if Rex Ryan's fat gut lines up at nosetackle.

Patriots 42, Jets 14

 

This article, and previews of the other three Divisional Round matchups, can also be seen on Drew Rosten's Sports Thread at http://drewrosten.blogspot.com.

Check out the Sports Thread later to see how I did with my predictions and for the scheduled times of the NFC and AFC Championship Games.

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