IF SATURDAY IS known as ‘moving day’ in golf, then the divisional playoff round is the American football equivalent.
This weekend gives the eight remaining teams a chance to show their rivals how good they really are.
Brady stretches the football field with his unerringly accurate passes before the one man law firm of BenJarvis Green-Ellis runs opposition defences into submission. If you stop him, Brady just hands the ball to Danny Woodhead.
For the Jets, it’s very difficult to see how they win this game. Sure, they have the fourth-ranked running team in the league but ideally, coming up against the 30th-ranked pass defence, coach Rex Ryan would be telling Mark Sanchez to throw the football 66% of the time.
The problem with Sanchez is that he has been too inconsistent for Ryan to put that much trust in him.
Result: These two may have shared the spoils during the regular season but the Patriots won by 42 points when they met at Foxboro just six weeks ago.
I can’t see the Jets improving by that much so the Patriots should win by more than 10 points.
Indeed, far from distracting the Ravens, the tragic circumstances surrounding the disappearance of safety Ed Reed’s older brother appears to have galvanised them.
However, the Steelers have Troy Polamalu back in the secondary and, along with James Harrison, will look to put Ravens’ QB Joe Flacco under even more pressure than the Chiefs did last week.
Flacco had two fumbles in that game and was sacked four times. Those numbers could double this week and it’s unlikely that Big Ben Roethlisberger will throw as many interceptions as the Chiefs’ Matt Cassel did.
Result: Everything about this game points to a Steelers win. They have the edge in almost every position, have home field advantage and yet I still think the Ravens will win. Not by more than a field goal though.
The Packers are improving steadily as we delve deeper into the season. If they can run the ball as successfully as they did last week, not only will they control the clock but they will keep the Atlanta offense off the field.
While QB Aaron Rodgers believes that he can win this game, he knows the Packers don’t stand a chance in a shootout.
The Falcons only lost to two NFC teams this year, and both were knocked out of the playoffs last weekend. However, there are many who doubt their status as the number one team in the NFC.
To win this game Matt Ryan must be at his mercurial best as the Packers had the second most interceptions in the league this year. He must not, however, forget to establish the run through Michael Turner first.
Result: The Packers are the form team in the NFL right now but the Falcons – in Michael Turner, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez – have some of the most potent weapons. To be the best you have to beat the best. Expect the Packers to do just that this weekend.
Don’t let last week’s win over the Saints fool anyone. You could say the defending Super Bowl champions were, ahem, sleepy in Seattle. The Saints were as terrible as that pun, the Seahawks marginally less so.
Result: If the Bears don’t win this…. I’m not going to make that mistake again. However, despite losing to the Seahawks earlier this season, the Bears are now a much different and, indeed, better team and will win this in second or third gear.
Steven O’Rourke is the offensive coordinator of Tullamore Phoenix American Football Club. When not obsessing with football he can be found at 4fortyfour.