There are two sure things when the Steelers face the Ravens; one it will be a physical battle with many hard hits and two it will be decided by a field goal. In the last four meetings, and six of the last seven meetings dating back to 2008 the final margin has been either three or four points, with no team scoring more than 23 points in any game.
This intense rivalry has seen its share of memorable hits this year alone, as Ben Roethlisberger played with a broken nose, in a game won by the Steelers 13-10 with Troy Polamalu’s strip sack of Joe Flacco on December 5th. That game was the difference between this game being in Heinz Field, as both teams finished 12-4, with each team winning in the other’s stadium. The Ravens earned a 17-14 win in Pittsburgh on October 3rd, before Roethlisberger returned from his suspension.
I expect to see much of the same as the Ravens are coming off a solid win in Kansas City where they forced five turnovers, and are quite comfortable winning on the road in the postseason, as their 4-2 record over the last three years would testify. Of course one of those losses came at the hands of the Steelers in the 2008 AFC Championship Game.
However, this Ravens team is more seasoned and capable of winning amongst the terrible towels, as this is about as evenly matched game you can find. Ultimately the difference is the Ravens defense ability to create turnovers that will be the difference as the game again comes down to a field goal.
When these two teams met on November 28th it was one of the best games of the season, as the Packers tied the game with 56 seconds left only to see Matt Ryan quickly get the Falcons in field goal range where Matt Bryant nailed the game winner from 47 yards out. Not much has changed since, as the game will once again be in the Georgia Dome.
The Packers are playing at a high level and could be peaking at the right time, and the Falcons have a ton of pressure playing at home with fan’s expectations through the roof with home field throughout the playoffs. The Packers defense is also excelling with Clay Matthews Jr. establishing himself as one of the premiere pass rusher’s in the league, while wily old Charles Woodson is still one of the league’s best corners.
That being said the Falcons defense is nothing to overlook as they have allowed their opponent to score 20 or more in just one of their last seven games. The Falcons also have the better RB in Michael Turner, and the better receivers with Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. However, the biggest weapon for the Falcons is the ice water in Quarterback Matt Ryan’s veins as he has shown he is unshakable in pressure situations. If the game is close late, there may be no better Quarterback to lead the Falcons on a game winning drive as he has owned the two minute offense. I won’t be shocked if this game is a carbon copy of that earlier match up with Matty Ice once again leading the Falcons down the field to set up a game winning field goal.
Last week everyone wrote that the Seahawks who won their division despite a 7-9 record had no chance in hell to beat the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints. That is why it is a good thing the game was played in Seattle, as Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck turned the Saints defense into Swiss cheese, while Marshawn Lynch made nearly caused Seattle to slide into Puget Sound with his thunderous run that measured on the Richter scale.
This game is in Chicago and the Seahawks can’t take the 12th man with them they could never win in the windy city. Except on October 17th, the Seahawks did win in Soldier Field. The Seahawks may have some of that magic and momentum left as Hasselbeck, their aging QB is trying to show Coach Pete Carroll he still has something left as he looks to sign a new contract to stay in the Pacific Northwest. So if the Bears think the Seahawks will roll over they are making a mistake.
When the Bears lost that game earlier in the season, they were playing their worst football of the season, as they went through a stretch where they lost three of four games. They have only lost twice since, including the final game of the season. The Bears at that time were struggling on offense as Quarterback Jay Cutler spent most of the time on his back as he may have still been a bit cloudy after suffering a concussion the previous week against the Giants. Since than the Bears have protected their QB much better and Cutler has played well. However, this is his first playoff game, and Cutler has had a tendency to get tight and make mistakes in pressure situations.
In the end the game will be close, but the Bears defense will make the difference as the Seahawks hopes of becoming the first team with a losing record to play in the Super Bowl comes to an end.
When will the Jets learn? When will anyone learn? You do not talk smack when you play the Patriots. One it does not work, Coach Bill Belichick is too good to let his team fall victim to a psych out, and Quarterback Tom Brady can’t be psyched out. The last time the Jets flapped their gums before going into Foxborough they went home with a 45-3 loss and had to burry the game ball along with their heads in the sand.
The only way to beat the Patriots is to hit QB Tom Brady early and often. However, the one thing the Jets defense lacks is a strong pass rush so that goes out the window. The Jets have a great corner in Darrelle Revis who can take any start receiver out of the game. However, who does he take out of the game? The Pats no longer have Randy Moss, and if Reavis can not cover the collection of targets Brady likes throwing to.
The Jets could win this game if they get a big day from their running backs LaDainian Tomlinson and Shonn Greene. However, Belichick understands that better than anybody so stopping the Jets running game will be the Pats first priority. This means the game will be on the tender shoulder of Quarterback Mark Sanchez, and when the game is on his shoulder and he is forced to do more, that is when he looks like a green second year quarterback.
The Jets could have had a chance to win this game, but the name calling will only bring out the best effort in everyone in a Patriots uniform, and the best effort means doom for gang green. It will also mean a blow out as Bill Belichick the real life version of Cobra Kai Sensei John Kreese believes firmly that mercy is for the week, as he will have his team throwing deep to pad the score as his goal won’t be to just win the game but to win it by embarrassing the Jets and Rex Ryan.