Unfortunately I started last week slowly, watching the Seahawks upset the Saints, and the Jets last minute drive against the Colts leaving myself at 0-2, but I rebounded nicely with the Ravens and Packers winning on Sunday putting me at a .500 record for the week. This week I’m looking to improve on a subpar performance. Here are my next set of predictions.
Jets (11-5) @ Patriots (14-2)
This is the first of two AFC matchups this season that are division matchups. Both the Jets and Patriots are in the AFC East and have already seen each other twice this season, so there is no love lost here. No matter what anyone else says, this season I believe that Tom Brady deserves the NFL MVP award. He has taken an undersized offence and won 14 games. Last week the Jets were able to fend off Peyton Manning and the Colts, but I think it is too steep of a hill to climb beating the Patriots. The Jets have a better offence on paper, but the Patriots have been working the best all season, so it is hard to bet against them. As well, the Patriots defence, although young and inexperienced have proven that they are a threat this season. The edge still goes to the Jets on defence. They did a great job stopping Peyton Manning on Saturday and will be hard for Tom Brady to beat. Over that past decade the Patriots have been the model of excellence and I think there is still more to come.
Ravens (12-4) @ Steelers (12-4)
This AFC North matchup is going to be a hardnosed, tough, grind-it-out, hard hitting game. These two defences have arguably been the two toughest in the past decade. It is hard to argue against either Troy Polamalu and James Harrison or Ed Reed and Ray Lewis, so I’ll call this a push. The quarterback situation barely favours Big Ben Roethlisberger solely based on experience, but his weapons of Ward and Wallace are worse than Flacco’s arsenal of Boldin, Mason, and the rest of the supporting cast. Finally the running game, both of these teams have superb running backs in Rashard Mendenhall and Ray Rice. These guys both totalled over 1,000 yards on the ground in both of the past two seasons. This is going to be an amazing game for players, coaches, and fans. Big Ben and the Steelers have been more successful in the post season winning several super bowls in recent memory. Both teams have a wealth of experience on either side of the ball, but I’m going with the team that has won more recently.
Packers (10-6) @ Falcons (13-3)
The Falcons had an amazing season, led by their quarterback Matt Ryan, who was consistently able to have game winning drives in the fourth quarter and overtime earning the nickname Matty Ice. The Packer’s QB is no slouch either, Aaron Rodgers was projected to be the best quarterback in the NFL this season and he has not disappointed anyone with his superb play. He led the Packers to a win over the Eagles and has played very well with a banged up team. Both the Falcons and Packers have great receivers including their own 1,000 yard receiver in White and Jennings and they each have strong supporting casts.
The Falcons have the stronger running back by far with Turner over the running back combo in Green Bay. The Green Bay backs did have a strong game Sunday in the win though, so it is possible to repeat that performance. The defence of both teams are excellent, starting with the pass rush. Abraham and Matthews have both had unbelievable seasons with over 10 sacks each. After watching the Packers play this week they looked like a team that could go all the way in the NFC.
Seahawks (7-9) @ Bears (11-5)
After the display that the Seahawks showed against the Saints it is hard for me to bet against them again, especially watching the Seahawks shred apart the Saints defence. At running back Lynch of the Seahawks had a monster run for 67 yards and about 8 broken tackles, in one of the most ridiculous runs ever. That being said, I would still have to take Matt Forte in that category even with Justin Forsett as Lynch’s co-running back. The quarterback situation is very difficult to assess, one week ago I would have said that Jay Cutler is way better than Matt Hasselbeck. Last game Hasselbeck threw 4 TDs and had an amazing game and I fear that for the Bears, Cutler could get nervous and start throwing interceptions again in his first playoff experience. I have to give the edge to the Seahawks. The wide receiver groups are very similar with Knox of the Bears being the clear best receiver in this game, but past that it’s close. On defence the Bears have the advantage especially with Brian Urlacher healthy and ready for the playoffs. This game could be decided by special teams. Leon Washington and Devin Hester have been two of the best kick returners recently and either of them could go off and score two touchdowns on special teams. This week I will not be so judgemental of the Seahawks and write them off as fast as last week, but I still think they are the worse team in this matchup.