I needed to improve on my 0-4 record from last week, and we see if Chris can continue his hot streak after going 3-1 against the spread last week.
Ravens at Steelers
Chris Biscuiti: Just like every other game the Steelers and Ravens play, this will be an all-out battle in the trenches, and I don’t expect many touchdowns to be scored. The Steelers will be well-rested for this one, but at the same time these teams know each other so well that there’s only so much that preparation will do at this point. Baltimore is more than capable of winning on the road against anyone in the league, but I have a feeling that the Steelers will make one extra defensive play that will win this game late. Steelers win 16-14.
Joesph Violet: I expect this one to be a defensive struggle, with playmakers coming from both sides of the defense. I believe there will be quite a few turnovers, possibly as many as 6. The winners will be the ones who will be able to capitalize on the turnovers, I will be interested to see who the Steelers will use to cover Anquan Boldin, and I think he’ll be the deciding factor for the Ravens. On the other side of the ball, the Steelers have a good running game, but I don’t see them racking up any more than 75 yards on the Ravens. I’m going to go out on a major limb here and call it like this:
Ravens win, 14-10.
Chad Jorgenson: The Ravens looked really good against the Chiefs last week. Granted, the Chiefs aren’t the Steelers, but an impressive win is an impressive win. This is of course a divisional match-up, and during the regular season the two games were decided by 3 points each. Baltimore won in Pittsburgh (no Ben Roethlisberger), and the Steelers won in Baltimore with Roethlisberger. That tells me that we can throw “Home Field Advantage” out the window between these two teams because obviously, Baltimore is not afraid of walking onto Heinz Field. The both games this year were low scoring and there is no reason to expect anything more than that this week, and in a low scoring game, I tend to go with Roethlisberger. Steelers 13-10.
Jeremy Heneghan: I like the Ravens in this one. If not for trying to throw the ball instead of running the clock down more, Baltimore would be undefeated against the Steelers during the regular season. I just like the Ravens defense to dominate the Steelers’ offensive line and prevent them from making too much noise. Ravens 20 Steelers 16
Packers at Falcons
Chris: The Packers and Falcons are as evenly matched as a 6 seed and a 1 seed can be in the Playoffs. All year long, I’ve said that I just can’t bet against Matt Ryan at home in any situation, and while I am very tempted to lean Green Bay’s way, I actually think we are going to see the first double overtime game in NFL history when all is said and done. With the new Playoff OT rules, the game does not automatically end on a first-possession field goal, and the other team has a chance to match the field goal to move to sudden death or score a touchdown and win outright. I think the Falcons and Packers allow us to see how all of these rules will work on the field, and Matt Ryan will do his part to lead the Falcons once the sudden death portion takes effect. Falcons win 29-26 in two rounds of OT.
Joe: This game is dead even. Period. Both teams have young, talented quarterbacks, respectable rushing games, and good receiving cores, along with very good defenses. However, I feel as if Atlanta has been put under the radar for far too long this season, being buried underneath all the hype of other teams and other news. Surprising to hear for a 1-seed. but that’s how I feel about it. That X-factor will give them some motivation fo beat the Packers, who dodged a bullet in the form of the Eagles last week. I can very easily foresee a late drive by the Falcons in the 4th quarter with a tied game…only to lead to a Tony Gonzalez touchdown in the endzone…it’s the last thing anyone would expect, especially the Packers.
Falcons win, 28-21.
Chad: Matt Ryan does not lose at home. The Packers run game from last week was an illusion. Philadelphia wasn’t expecting to see the run, so they didn’t prepare for the run, Atlanta won’t make the same mistake. The first time these two teams played this year(A Falcons 20-17 win on a last second FG), the Packers rushed for 77 yards…51 of which came on 12 Aaron Rodgers runs. If Aaron Rodgers is the Packers leading rusher again in this game, it will be a blow out. In that first game, Matt Ryan displayed his accuracy, hitting 24 of 28 passes, he only threw for 197 yards, but you know the Packers will remember that and keep the secondary closer to the line this game opening up the possibility of the big play to Rowdy Roddy White. Combine that with the power run game, and I think the Falcons coast in this game. Falcons 28-17.
Jeremy: I see a lot of people picking the Packers in this one and this is the toughest game to pick this weekend for me. I just see the Packers defense being able to stop the Falcons and James Starks/John Kuhn having a good day as well. I like that the Packers are on a streak and the Falcons may have the great home record, but I’ll take the hot team. Packers 31 Falcons 21
Seahawks at Bears
Chris: The 8-9 Seattle Seahawks travel to Chicago on Sunday to take on the second-seeded Bears. But hey, the Seahawks actually beat the Bears 23-20 back in Week Six and they just knocked out the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints last week in the Wild Card Round. While I do think the Bears will ultimately prevail, I think again this will be closer than most prognosticators think. The Bears defense will do the trick though, and Jay Cutler will come up big when it counts most. Bears win 26-22
Joe: No team wants to play at Soldier Field in the playoffs, let alone one who, in all reality, nobody expected to even make the playoffs. This is possibly Matt Hasselbeck’s last hurrah, and he will do whatever he can to carry his team to the conference championship. However, he could try to do too much, which will lead to a mistake, and against the Bears defense, a mistake could become VERY costly, especially when they are playing at home. Jay Cutler, to my surprise, has improved since last year, and has been leading the Bears very well…but I think the real threat lies in Matt Forte, who’s been working hard to prove that last season’s lackluster performance was a fluke. I just don’t see the Seahawks’ defense holding up in the late 4th quarter, and the Bears can pick them apart at that point. I agree with Chris that it will be close, but just not good enough.
Bears win, 31-27.
Chad: The Bears defense is better than the Saints defense. Unlike the Saints, the Bears don’t mind hitting people and actually tackling them. The secondary is a little questionable, but Matt Hasselbeck had a career game last week and is unlikely to repeat that type of passing clinic for two weeks in a row. The Seahawks best chance is the improbable Cinderella story continuing by having Jay Cutler throw the ball to them time after time. Cutler has improved greatly since the week 6 match-up, and should be the difference in the game. Bears 28-10.
Jeremy: Where did Marshawn Lynch come from?! There was a Nova special on PBS about an earthquake that could hit the west coast, but it didn’t mention anything about one that was started by Lynch and the “12 Man.” That’s a nice story, but the Seahawks are on the road this time and I don’t see them being able to run or pass. The Bears defense is much better than the Saints. The Seahawks were able to sneak up on the Saints in Seattle, but on the road and now that they have people’s attention, it won’t be as easy this time around. Bears 17 Seahawks 9
Jets at Patriots
Chris: Here we go again. Just like Ravens-Steelers, the Jets and Patriots know each other extremely well and have had some true battles over the years. However, last I checked, the Patriots walloped the Jets 45-3 the last time these two teams played up north at New England, and while Peyton Manning didn’t have all of his weapons at his disposal, Tom Brady will have everyone healthy on the offensive side of the ball. Let’s face it – these two teams hate each other with a passion, and there will be no letting up on either side of the ball in terms of energy and intensity. However, execution is the key, and Tom Brady will be the final executioner of the Jets in this very tough spot for Rex Ryan’s team. Ultimately, the Patriots will shred the Jets in the middle of the field, and Mark Sanchez will not be able to keep up on the other side of the ball. Patriots win 35-20
Joe: Riddle me this: Who would be the LAST quarterback in the NFL you’d want to see leading a 4th quarter comeback drive at any time during a season? Most would say Tom Brady. How much would this fear intensify…during a playoff game? With just about any other team in the NFL, it would be a terrifying idea, but I don’t think it will be the case with the New York Jets. Rex Ryan knows how to motivate his players, and with all the pressure that has been put on the Jets, with all the press coverage, all the interviews, all the bold predictions…it all comes down to a showdown with a team who dominated them last time they played. I don’t see any one team dominating the other in this game, but a shootout. The Jets will do what they can to stop Brady in the 4th, but I don’t think it’s going to be Brady’s arm that they will need to worry about…
Patriots win, 38-35.
Chad: The Patriots just keep getting better and better. Tom Brady seems to thrive we he’s got unknown players surrounding him, and he’s got those in abundance this year. The Pats offensive line has given Brady all kinds of time all year. And with all the talk of Brady throwing the ball, the Patriots had a better run game this year than passing game. They finished 11th passing and 9th in rushing. Heck, Benjarvus Green-Ellis rushed for over 1000 yards, meanwhile, Welker was the leading receiver with 848 yards. And as Chris pointed out, the Patriots laid a whooping on the Jets early in December, and for all the things Rex Ryan is, cunning enough to hide his hand a month before the playoffs against a team he hates isn’t one of them. Patroits 48-27
Jeremy: This one’s easy. The Pats are just going to go about their business and put an old fashioned beat down on the Jets. Especially with Sanchez’ shoulder injury, I don’t see the Jets being able to keep up. The Patriots’ defense is young, but Belichick will have them ready. Patriots 33 Jets 18
Tags: Atlanta Falcons, Baltimore Ravens, Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers, New England Patriots, New York Jets, NFL, Pittsburgh Steelers, Seattle Seahawks