NFL Playoffs: Expect No Major Upsets in Divisional Round
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The biggest upset in the NFL Playoffs since the Jaguars 1996 Divisional win over the No. 1 seed, the John Elway-led Denver Broncos, happened last week when the 7-9 Seattle Seahawks upset the defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints, 41-36 in the NFC Wild Card Game.
Last week, however, was probably the last major upset of the 2010 NFL season. No more upsets, no more shockers; from here out, the playoffs should go according to plan with the best team winning out the rest of the way—that team being the New England Patriots, who look like they've taken out the last three seasons of postseason frustration and bundled it all up into one amazing run.
Tom Brady is the league MVP. There is no second place, and if any sportswriter or fan votes for anybody but Tom Brady, they need get their computers taken away.
With that said, a quick and common sense rundown of the Divisional Round games with predictions:
AFC Divisional Playoffs
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
During the regular season, the Ravens and Steelers split the season series with each team winning on the road, and both by three points each. In their first matchup, the Ravens beat the Steelers on a last-minute touchdown pass from Joe Flacco with 32 seconds left to play. Ben Roethlisberger didn't play in the first game as he was serving his suspension due to off-field issues.
The rematch, played before a prime time audience, saw an absolute war that brought back memories of Raiders-Steelers from the 1970s. This game included concussions, broken noses, blood and a key turnover involving Troy Polamalu's sack and forced fumble to help the Steelers defeat the Ravens, 13-10.
The playoff game is being played in Pittsburgh, where the Ravens have lost nine of the last 11 games, including the AFC title game back in 2009. Steelers have the overall advantage. Defenses cancel each other out, and the result is which offense is better. Big Ben's got two rings, looks like John Elway in the pocket, has the big game experience and above all, he's got Baltimore's number.
Orly's pick: Steelers, 20-17.
Jets vs Patriots
Like the Ravens and Steelers, the Jets and Patriots split the season series at one each. This rivalry, however, was nowhere near as close as the Ravens and Steelers. In the first matchup at New York, Tom Brady lost for the second straight season to Mark Sanchez on the road. but in New England, Brady and the Patriots have beaten Sanchez 31-14 and 45-3.
New England is rock solid. They've got the defense, the intangibles and they've got Tom Brady, and he looks like a man on a mission. Think Joe Montana during the 1989 season that ended in a 55-10 thumping of the Denver Broncos and Montana's third Super Bowl MVP.
Orly's Pick: Patriots, 37-24
NFC Divisional Playoffs
Seahawks vs Bears
Last week's win was huge for Seattle, and going into Sunday's Divisional Round against Chicago, Seattle has another ace up their sleeve. They already beat the Bears in Chicago during the regular season, a 23-20 loss that seems closer than it really was, thanks in part to a Devin Hester punt return for a touchdown with under two minutes left in the game. Cutler finished the game 17-of-39 without throwing any touchdown passes.
Chicago is healthy, they've got the defense, they've got Devin Hester and above all, they've got a better team. Chicago was 5-3 at home while Seattle was only 2-6 on the road, with one win coming against Chicago.
The key to this entire game is, has, and will always be Jay Cutler. As Cutler goes, so goes the Bears.
Orly's Pick: Bears, 27-20
Packers vs Falcons
After last week's win over Philadelphia, critics, writers and NFL experts can longer give Packers QB Aaron Rodgers any more grief about not winning a big game. He has been criticized for falsely being considered an elite quarterback in the league when he hadn't yet done anything real special, but last week's win over Philadelphia finally got him some notice.
Rodgers, however, owes a huge thanks to former sixth round pick James Starks, who lit up the Eagles defense for over 123 yards rushing.
This game isn't at all about Green Bay, but rather about Atlanta. Yes, Matt Ryan is awesome. In just his third season in the NFL, Ryan tied Dan Marino's record for most wins by a starting quarterback in their first three seasons. Ryan has only lost two home games during that span, but here's the thing.
This season alone, Atlanta finished 7-1 at home. Of the seven wins, only three were against teams with winning records, Tampa Bay, Baltimore and Green Bay, and that was by a combined 14 points. All three games were decided on last possessions by Atlanta's offense or goal line defense versus Tampa.
Overall, this game will come down to Green Bay and their fifth-ranked passing offense versus Atlanta's 22nd-ranked passing defense. If Rodgers gets loose early and starts shredding the Falcons defense, the running lanes for Starks and Brandon Jackson could open up, and in the end we could see a scoring fest lead by the Packers all the way to the NFC Championship game next weekend.
Orly's pick: Packers, 38-28
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