AFC Playoff Weekend: Let the Rubber Matches Begin!

Ray TannockSenior Analyst IJanuary 14, 2011

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Mark Sanchez #6 of the New York Jets attempts to escape the pass rush of Jermaine Cunningham #96 of the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 6, 2010 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Elsa/Getty Images

As we saw in the NFC breakdown, the rematch events prove to be intriguing, but as the AFC will show, the rubber match between heated rivals show a different side of football altogether.

Let's now take a look at what's to come from the AFC side of things.

New York @ New England

Probably the most intriguing matchup of the weekend, the rubber match between the Pats and Jets is one that many expected from the get-go.

The Patriots quietly built a 14-2 team that won the division by beating these Jets at just the right time with a collection of players that were widely thought to be average at best, but the Jets (a silently exceptional team in their own right) are not going to go away quietly.

In order for the Jets to overcome New England, they must do two things: Get to Tom Brady and disrupt his rhythm from the get-go, and make sure Mark Sanchez hits his targets more accurately than he did against Indianapolis.

For the Patriots to win and advance, it is simply business as usual.

The Jets have a very legitimate chance of winning this game on the road, and there isn’t much reason in my mind to think the Patriots can out-match New York’s weapon arsenal so long as the Jets are on the level, which I think they will be.

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Prediction: New York 24, New England 21 OT


Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

Another rubber match has the Steelers facing off against the one team that always seems to give them trouble: the Baltimore Ravens.

Here’s the thing: Each team won one game (both on the road) by no more than three points. Baltimore has won five straight since their last defeat at the hands of this Steelers team.

But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The Ravens have had trouble all year opening up good holes for Ray Rice and face one of the stingiest run defenses in the league, but in order for the Ravens to entertain the notion of a win, they must establish a potent ground assault.

The Steelers face a Ravens team that can dump the ball deep in the blink of an eye deep, and they do it as one of the worst teams in deep pass coverage.

The Ravens have better weapons collectively on defense, while the Steelers have better weapons collectively offensively.

In the end, the Ravens should show themselves to be slightly weaker than the second seeded Steelers, especially on the road despite what they did accomplish the first time in Steeltown.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 13

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