Ravens vs. Steelers
Let’s start with, probably as good as a rivalry that the NFL has – the Baltimore Ravens are getting 3 ½ @ the Pittsburgh Steelers. Now, both teams won on the each other teams field, so with Pittsburgh being at home – is not a difference maker, the best team is going to win this game. We know that Joe Flacco – unlike Big Ben, Joe Flacco needs help. He needs Willis McGahee and Ray Rice to play well in this game – and that’s important to him. Flacco has not played well against the Steelers defence; he’s got 6 TD’s and 7 picks along with a QB rating in the 60’s in the last 7 games. Meanwhile, Big Ben has won his last 6 against the Ravens – you can’t discount that. But it should be noted, that of the last 7 games these two have played, 5 of them have been decided by 3 points or less, so don’t discount that – this is going to be a gruelling game. Nobody is getting blown out here – even though Baltimore is on the road, they are excellent with ball security; they are not going to be overwhelmed. Generally when it comes to rivalry games…the intimidation stuff just doesn’t work, they play twice a year. The Ravens do have a big special team’s advantage – I don’t think there is any question there. But the one thing I like about Pittsburgh…Pittsburgh puts more pressure on a QB than Baltimore puts on a QB. So in games like this – Flacco in crisis in this series has not shown me the ability to make the play. This is too many points to give up, 3 ½ points in the NFL is a field goal. But in this game, it feels like a touchdown. I’m going to take the points, but I gotta go with Big Ben, @ home, out-duelling Flacco, this is a team with a + 37 in the NFL – the Steelers, they make explosion plays. They just make more plays and give fewer up; Steelers win 17-16, but take the points.
Jets vs. Pats
The world like’s the Jets at the Patriots and I know that the Jets are very good on the road, they are 11-4 against the spread in their past 15 road games – we know that! And we know that defensively, they are ranked 3rd in number of yards given up – in fact, the Jets are top 7 defensively, in every major category. I don’t dispute that, but the playoffs are about decisions and the QB has the hands on the ball more than any player. Mark Sanchez in his last 2 games in New England has 1 TD with 7 picks and a QB rating in the 30’s. It should also be noted that in this series – the home team is winning, 4-0 in the last 4 and the home team looks easily like the best team – this is one of those series where home advantage has meant something. The Patriots are 6-1 against playoff teams this year – and the Jets defence is good, but it’s not a shadow of what it was last year. In their last 4 games, before last weekend, the Jets have given up in 2 of those games 45 and 38 points. Tom Brady is 8-1 at home in the playoffs and here is one of the things that worry’s me about Mark Sanchez – his safety blanket is Dustin Keller, but New England does a very very very good job against tight ends. The Jets though, don’t do well against tight ends and the two rookie tight ends for the Patriots are borderline pro bowl players this year. New England does not allow big explosion plays – I just don’t see the Jets coming to the table with very little pass rush, and when Brady has time and they’re isn’t a big pass rush, he’s incredibly efficient, if not spectacular. I see Brady and Sanchez; I just see a total mismatch here. I like New England to win – pulling away in the 2nd half 35-17, swallow the points.
Bears vs. Seahawks
Chicago is given 10 points here – so I get this Seahawks team, a young team that probably thinks they’re better than they actually are. Now special teams usually – Chicago’s got a big advantage on everybody, ahh, not so in this game. Leon Washington is a game breaker for the Seahawks, Devin Hester is for the Bears. This game, last week, there were some numbers that told you New Orleans could blow out Seattle. Well the numbers tell me this week – yeah I know Seattle is bad on the road, 3-13 in their last 16. I also know that Hasselback doesn’t deal great with pressure and you got brigs with Julius Peppers and Urlacher – I know all of that. But here is what I also know; these are 2 of the least efficient teams when they have the ball in the redzone and when it comes to 3rd down efficiency. Neither one of them is any good! So I can’t give 10 points up to 2 highly inefficient offenses. If Seattle can just keep they’re deep receivers in front of them – don’t let the Bears get behind them. I say it’s an ugly game that will largely be played within the 20 yard line. I’m going to take the points; Bears win ugly 16-13.
Packers vs. Falcons
This is the toughest game for me to call this weekend. Now everybody’s going crazy about James Starks and you know, justifiably so, he comes out – you know, he’s been on their roster, it’s not like they just picked him up on waivers, it wasn’t some sort of late draft, he’s definitely been around, but he’s just exploded against Philadelphia but…let’s not go overboard here. They brought in some specific offensive plays and sets that Philadelphia had not seen and was simply not prepared for. Atlanta has got film on James Starks and these formations. Atlanta has won 83% of its home games under Mike Smith. They are 16-1 in their last 17 home games and you know you’re talking about a Matt Ryan guy that’s got weapons and almost makes no mistakes; he has a 28-9 Touchdown to Turnover ratio. In fact, only 2 teams have turned over the ball less than Atlanta and the Falcons were also the least penalized team in the NFL. Now, some would argue that Atlanta wins by not losing, whereas Green Bay wins by winning, however the case may be, the Falcons do an extraordinary job of protecting the QB, okay? Watch the QB’s and how they are dealing with pressure. Now Sam Baker is the weak spot up front for Atlanta and Clay Matthews comes up against the left tackle, so if Clay Matthews gets early pressure on Matt Ryan…that’s a bad sign for the Falcons. But I’m getting an incredibly efficient team, well rested, Green Bay travelling for the 2nd week in a row…I’m going to swallow the points, Atlanta wins 26-20 over a Green Bay team that is a little tired, a little fatigued and makes the big mistake in the 2nd half.