This is tough. Last week had many 'upsets' and I'm thinking that you'll get more this week. Let's see what we can do.
Baltimore @ Pittsburgh - The Steelers had a week to get ready for this one and I think they secretly wanted the Ravens. This matchup has been one of the best this year as these two teams beat the living tar out of each other trying to win the game. Big Ben will start and I imagine that Wallace and Ward will get heavy rotation this weekend. Oddly enough, the Chiefs were able to run the ball against the Ravens, so that leads me to suspect that Mendenhall is going to have a big day because Tomlin will not shy away from the run like the Chiefs did. On defense, the Steelers will be as good as Polamalu's achilles injury. If for some reason he strains it again and has to leave the game, I'm not sure if they can stop this Ravens offense.
The Ravens are excited about destroying the Chiefs, and if you would have watched the second half of that game, you saw the Ravens defense of old. Where did the Ravens get corners? They were able to stop Bowe and Cassel (mostly from getting to Cassel) from connecting. On offense the Ravens HAVE to be able to pass the ball. Otherwise Polamalu can crowd the line of scrimmage and make plays against the running game. Flacco is going to have to have a big game for the Ravens to win this one. Boldin has got to find a way to get open and get around 8-11 receptions. Heap had a great game against the Chiefs, but the Steelers have LBs and safeties that can run with him. On defense, the Ravens have to cover (Carr, Wilson, and Webb, that means you). The best way to cover is to get to the quarterback and limit the time your corners have to cover. I'm looking to the rookie, Ngata, to make some big plays for the Ravens with some help from T-Sizzle, or whatever he goes by now.
And the winner is....? I've told you before that I don't normally bet against Ray Lewis and,.....I gotta go with that this weekend. Should be a hard fought game, but my pick is......Winner - Ravens.
Green Bay @ Atlanta - The Falcons got a home playoff game in the 2nd round for all of the work they've put in this year, will it help? The Falcons are the most complete team (in my humble opinion). They can attack you in all 3 phases of the game and they'll have the home crowd to help. Matty Ice and Roddy White should hook up, but look for the wiley veteran Gonzalez have a Todd Heap vs. the Chiefs kinda game (somewhere in the 10 catch range). The bowling ball, Michael Turner, should be running all over the Georgia Dome on Saturday and he'll need to in order to keep Aaron Rodgers in a baseball cap. The offensive line MUST protect Ryan against a tough Packers defense. The defense is going to have to pressure Rodgers and stop the Packers running game. If Starks has another 123 yard game, the Falcons might be done.
The Packers are riding high after slimly making the playoffs and then dominating the Eagles last week. Rodgers, even after 2 concussions, is BALLIN!!!! He seems to find a way to make this Packers offense work. If Starks get them that 100 yards, I think the Packers are damn near unbeatable. The trio of Kuhn, Starks, and Jackson have got to give this offense some semblance of a running game. Rodgers will do the rest. Jennings was quiet last week, but I don't think that'll happen again this week. On defense, the Packers are good. They have Clay Matthews looking like a young Kevin Greene (the resemblance is eerie), and possibly the best corner tandem left in the playoffs (Woodson and Williams).
The Falcons have played too well this year and they are at home with some pressure on, but this is why you try to get the best record in the league during the regular season. Winner - Falcons.
Seattle @ Chicago - How much luckier can the Bears get?!?!? They get the Seahawks coming to Soldier's Field in the middle of January in 20 degree weather. Yes, the Seahawks won there earlier in the year, but for some reason these Bears seem ready. The line is Bears by 10 right now, and I think they blow the Seahawks out. Hopefully Lovie decides to run the ball a lot more than the last time these teams met (Lofa Tatupu may be out of this game for the Seahawks) and keep the mad gunner, Cutler on a short leash. On defense, the Bears are going to attack. They can stop Lynch and I know they can get to Hasselbeck. Supposedly Pete Carroll said he's going to kick to Hester. What's not to like? Cutler making turnovers is the only way the Bears lose.
The Seahawks come off of Hasselbeck's best game in how many years, if not ever. He's been hurt all year long and was helped with the nimble feet of Marshawn Lynch. Hasselbeck will have to have another high completion, low volume game to beat the Bears. The Bears corners can be weak at times but going across the middle is dangerous. Mike Williams had a little over 120 yards last time these two teams met and he'll need all of those again. Again, Obamanu will have to show up if the Seahawks are planning on winning. On defense, the Seahawks can stop the run by the Bears and force Cutler to throw the ball. Cutler has been decent of late, but with a week off, you never know what you're going to get. He make get back in the saddle quick and he may not. Cutler is the key.
I'm not a Cutler fan and I think he has some interceptions left in him, but the Bears defense at home is about as good as it gets. Winner - Bears.
New York Jets @ New England - The Patriots come off a bye week with everyone expecting them to turn it back on. Some of the Jets have felt that it's in their best interests to come at Brady and I really don't understand that one. Brady has been the NFL MVP this year and he's just awaiting his trophy. The pieces around him change, but he's been the stick that stirs the pot. They don't beat you with the long ball, but they dink and dunk till you give up. The Law Firm and Danny Woodhead lead the running attack and they have a host of receivers and some good tight ends (look for big games from Hernandez and Gronkowski). Jets, let the sleeping giant lie.
The Jets were able to slow down the Colts and keep Manning on the sideline, which is what they'll have to do against the Patriots. Mark Sanchez has got to get back into the groove that he was in earlier in the season where he wasn't turning the ball over and playing good ball. Look for a lot of LT and some shots deep early. The Patriots scheme better than anyone so I expect some wrinkles for Sanchez to have to figure out. On defense, all the talk has to stop. I don't care if Brady was pointing at your sideline when he threw a TD pass, just stop him from throwing those and you'll be OK. Revis and Cromartie are going to get tested, so they are going to have to get to Brady and hit him often. Since the Patriots like to throw short, the Jets are going to have to be physical at the line of scrimmage and hit the receivers when they do catch the ball.
Should be a good game and I'm sure the microphones are going to be on for NFL films (or someone) because there is going to be a LOT of chatter during this one. In the end, (I hate to do this) look for some scoring, but in the end, someone's defense will make a play. Winner - Jets.
Who you got?!?!?