How lucky is the NFL with this group of games? Steelers and Ravens? Patriots and Jets? Packers and Falcons? Bears and Seahawks….well maybe not so much there. All of the teams have played each other before (the AFC teams have played twice), so each of these games will be that much better.
The Steelers and Ravens split 17-14 and 13-0, the Pats and Jets split 28-14 and 45-3, the Falcons won 20-17, and the Seahawks won 23-20. It’s pretty safe to say that each of the teams are different since they last played, so we’ll see how many they really have improved. Home teams in CAPS.
STEELERS (-3) over Ravens
What a matchup. This will be their eighth bone-crushing, bell-ringing, throat-ripping Goliath showdown in just three years. During that time, the Steelers have won five of the seven games, but the collective score is just 126-110. In the last two years, the teams are in a dead heat, both are 2-2, scoring 67 points apiece.
These teams hate each other, and it’s no surprise why. They’re division rivals less that 250 miles apart. They play the same smash-mouth, beat-’em-down style of play. And they both love to talk smack.
Reed. Polamalu. Lewis. Harrison. Rice. Mendenall. These teams are so very similar at almost every position. They’ll pound the ball down your throat and stop you from gaining any major yardage on the ground. Neither has great corner backs, but don’t you dare throw it towards their safeties. These teams are so similar, in fact, that the only major difference between the two is the quarterbacks.
If I had to pick one QB to lead me to win one game, Big Ben is either number two or three for me. After Brady and maybe Brees, there’s no one I’d rather have. Twice he’s led Super Bowl teams and he won’t cower in big situations. He’s tough. His a player. And he wins games.
Joe Flacco isn’t so bad himself. In his playoff career, he is 4-2. Certainly no Brady, but he’s no Manning either (zing!). He wins games, but they’ll be ugly. His completion percentage is just over 53.2% and he’s thrown 3 TDs to 6 picks. Is that what you really want in a big game quarterback? Sure, as long as he wins games.
In the end, I give no edge to either defense. With the emergence of Mike Wallace as a more-than-viable deep threat, both sets of skill position players are about equal. But there is one major difference: Big Ben will be in Black and Gold.
The quarterback is the most important position in the NFL, and the Steelers have an edge in this game. With home field advantage on their side, I’m willing to swallow three points in this closely contested match.
FALCONS (-1.5) over Packers
This line is a shocker to me. Matt Ryan is 20-2 in his career at home. He’s coming off a bye, and the last two years coming off a bye he’s won his games by a combined score of 72-31. The Falcons are the class of the NFC! Yet even with home field advantage, they’re not even given two points.
Sure, the Packers are the hottest team in the NFC, but how great are they? Rookie sixth-round pick James Starks torched an average Eagles’ run D for 123 yards on 23 carries. Aaron Rodgers won his first playoff game on a 180 yard, three touch down, no interception game. But they won largely thanks to David Akers uncharacteristically missing two short field goals.
The Falcons are a well prepared team. They have a fantastic coach in Mike Smith, and teams with great coaches generally don’t blow games with an extra week to prepare and rest. Matt Ryan is a gamer, he comes prepared and comes to play. In a way, he’s like a miniature version of Tom Brady. He wins games, he doesn’t lose at home, and he has (Matty) Ice cold blood running through his veins in the fourth quarter.
We know both teams can rack up the points, so the team who’s defense shows up bigger will likely come out on top. Mike Vick torched the Packers’ secondary for nearly 300 yards, and we all know Ryan is a better passer. But at the same time, to call the Falcons pass defense average would be a stretch. Each quarterbacks needs to limit turnovers as much as possible while still carry the team on their backs.
When the public starts trending in one direction in betting a game, you know it is time to pounce. In that situation, it’s time to go the other direction and win some money. Everyone loves Green Bay and seems to be forgetting how great Atlanta has been all year. The Georgia Dome will be rocking tonight. And Matty Ice will get that 21st home win.
BEARS (-10) over Seahawks
Oh, God. The Seahawks are awful. They really are. Any team can win two straight at home, but that doesn’t make them even average. However, the Bears aren’t too great either. Their warm-and-cold offense is led by a egocentric, un-personable gunslinger who’s pass is just as likely to end up in the other team’s hands as in yours (not really). So who do you trust more: the consistently average (Matt Hasselbeck) or the inconsistently great (Jay Cutler).
How amazing was last week’s win for Seattle? Yes, they were at home with a no-one-believes-in-us mentality, but they were taking on Drew Brees and the defending Super Bowl Champions! Thanks to Marshawn Lynch’s historically fantastic run and Hasselbeck’s four touchdown performance, the Seahawks came out on top.
But let’s take a look closer into what really happened in that game. Drew Brees absolutely tore up Seattle for 404 yards, and he did all of that without any semblance of a running game. Pierre Thomas and Chris Ivory were placed on the IR days before gameday, and Julius Jones and Reggie Bush are not what you are looking for in every down backs. Yet nine players caught passes and the Saints put up 36 points.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that Seattle is a bad, bad, bad team. Even after this past win, they’re still under .500. They’ve lost nine games by an average of 21 points! Three touch downs! Marshawn Lynch barely found playing time on the Bills, and none of their other offensive weapons are much more inspiring. This team isn’t flushed with talent. In fact, they’re actually un-flushed with talent. They aren’t even a top-16 team!
The Seahawks are bad, but the Bears still aren’t great. The defense has stepped up this season, and Devin Hester is always dangerous taking back punts. Matt Forte is better than any running back Seattle saw last week, so it will be up to Mike Martz to see how many carries he will actually get. Chicago can’t turn the ball over like they have all year, so the more they can pound the ball in to Seattle’s deficient defense.
No, Chicago isn’t really ten points better than Seattle, but they’re at home, and they need all the momentum they can get. I’m not going to get suckered into Seattle because they are truly a bad team. Jay Cutler will do what needs to be done and prove that he really is a winner. If he blows this game, he’s in danger of becoming engulfed in the Loser Gene.
PATRIOTS (-9) over Jets
J-E-T-S Fourty-five to three! Yes, Rex Ryan and Antonio Cromartie, you chose the wrong team to mess with. As if New England didn’t need any other reasons to tear apart the Jets, New York cannot stop running its mouth.
Do you know what time it is? I do believe it’s story time.
Let’s go back to December 6th, 2007. The Pittsburgh Steelers were preparing to take on the then-12-0 New England Patriots when safety Anthony Smith decided to open his mouth. Mr. Smith made the grave mistake of saying, “People keep asking me if we’re ready for the Patriots. They should be asking if they’re ready for us. We’re going to win. Yeah, I can guarantee a win.” Well guess what happened 15 minutes into the game? Brady threw a 63 yard bomb to Randy Moss and went out of his way to point out and yell at Anthony Smith.
Well, good luck Antonio Cromartie! The Jets won’t be able to stick Darrelle Revis on any one receiver the whole game because the Patriots don’t have a number one receiver! Wes Welker is just as likely to catch a pass as Deion Branch as is Danny Woodhead, as is Aaron Hernandez, The Gronk, or Brandon Tate! No matter how you cover this team, Brady will slice and dice your defense with a surgeon’s accuracy.
The Patriots don’t just win games, they take over games. They’ve won their last six games by nearly 27 points and their last eight games by nearly 22. Belichick and Brady won’t stop going full out just because you are down by four or five scores, especially when they don’t like you. And I don’t believe the Pats like the Jets.
The best coaches in the league will kill you if you give them an extra week. In his last 20 games with more than one week to prepare, he is 19-1. The only loss? That was a game his team lost because of the luckiest catch in NFL history and his lock-down corner dropped a sure-fire pick on the other team’s final drive. His teams win by an average score of 27-16. His teams come prepared. The best prepared team usually wins.
The Patriots don’t lose at home and Tom Brady doesn’t lose in the playoffs. This game won’t be that close. And if you really think revenge will lead the Jets to victory, don’t you think the Cavaliers wanted revenge on the Heat? I thought so. Yup, this is your Bojangles’ Lock o’ the Week.
Last Week: 1-3
Bojangles’ Lock o’ the Week: 13-5