Ravens @ Steelers (Saturday 4:30pm)
Here’s a real rivalry game. As I said earlier in a regular season preview, these two teams hate each other, and both regular season matchups were also very close. In the first game, Anquan Boldin caught the game winning touchdown late, and in the second game Troy Polamalu made the game changing sack/fumble on Flacco that lead to the game winning touchdown for Pittsburgh. Because this is a rivalry game, expect the unexpected to happen. The key matchup will be how the Pittsburgh running game faces the Baltimore defense. If the Steelers can get decent yardage from Rashard Mendenhall, it will make Big Ben’s job much easier. The winner of this game though will be the team that wins the turnover battle. Both teams love to force turnovers and this will be an ugly game, very similar to the 2008 AFC Championship game between these two teams, but the outcome will be different. Baltimore has more talent on offense with Boldin, Rice, and Flacco who has been playing great of late. Roethlisberger will keep it close but ultimately the Ravens show why they were picked to win the Super Bowl before the season started. 20-14 Ravens.
Packers @ Falcons (Saturday 8:00pm)
This should be a fun matchup with two young and very good quarterbacks, but honestly, I don’t see Atlanta winning this game. Their offense hasn’t been all that spectacular and their defense is pretty much unknown. They also took advantage of a very easy schedule where their only good wins were against this same Packers team on a last second field goal and against the Ravens on a play that should have been offensive pass interference. Otherwise they have just been beating up on bad teams. This Falcons team does play well though or else they wouldn’t be 13-3. One thing they do well is taking care of the football. They had a +13 turnover differential during the regular season; That’s tops in the league. Wideout Roddy White has had a Pro-Bowl type season and he helped Ryan a lot by catching some difficult passes. For the Packers, their defense had played really well throughout the season but the main guy on this team is Aaron Rodgers. Despite what he had to go through with teammates going down to injury and even his own concussion, he played better football than any other quarterback in the NFL. I expect him to get it done Saturday night. Matt Ryan has played well but Aaron Rodgers has been playing at another level and the defense will give the Falcons offense problems. 31-20 Packers.
Seahawks @ Bears (Sunday 1:00pm)
How about that game up at Quest Field last Saturday? Nobody gave Seattle any chance to win but they pulled it off. Now the burning question is can they do it again? I think it is possible due to the given matchup. The Seahawks won’t have the luxury of playing in Quest Field but they can still do well and I will go with the upset. Chicago’s defense has played well and has been the calling card for them all season but the offense has been inconsistent. With Jay Cutler will show up? Will it be the one who throws 4 TD passes or will it be the one who throws 4 interceptions? They outcome of this game will hinge on Cutler’s play. Also the offensive line for the bears has been one of the worst in all of football. Teams lost to them because they were either bad or they screwed themselves over with penalties and turnovers. Seattle can shock the country again if they are able to do these things. The first is to get pressure on Jay Cutler. Next, Matt Hasselbeck needs to manage the game well. Finally, Seattle’s punter, Jon Ryan, must avoid punting to Devin Hester who is still, even today, the best returner in all of football. It will be very cold for the game but that won’t affect the Seahawks too much. 27-23 Seahawks.
Jets @ Patriots (Sunday 4:30pm)
Another rivalry game. The Jets players and coaches have been talking smack all week to the Patriots and the Pats are acting professionally about it as they don’t respond to any of it. I actually like what Rex Ryan is doing though. As I said last week, coaches have different ways of preparing for games and when Rex opens his mouth, I believe it helps his team because it helps take some of the media pressure off his players. Now I don’t think it was smart that Antonio Cromartie ran his mouth about Tom Brady. The last time a player challenged the Patriots, (cough Anthony Smith) that player got burned by Tom Brady all day. Now coming back to the actual game, LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene need to have big games if the Jets want to win. Vince Wilfork is a strong DT that stops the run but either than him, the Pat’s defense struggles. Mark Sanchez also will have to step it up. The Patriots pass defense is one of the worst in the NFL so that is a huge plus if Sanchez is able to exploit that. At the end though, the Patriots have Tom Brady who even though I’m not a fan of, he is the best QB in the NFL and he usually thrives at this time. This game will certainly not be like the last meeting but the Jets needs to have an almost perfect game plan to take down New England. 31-24 Patriots.