It’s Friday and that means it’s time for playoff predictions – this time for the Divisional Round. Last week Ryan, CJ and I picked the Wild Card games and Ryan came out on top with a 3-1 record. His reward was an open forum on Monday morning in which he talked about the performance of young QBs in the Wild Card round and the state of the Vikings QB position.
So we’ll have the same deal this weekend. The 3 of us will pick the games and the winner will have an open forum on Monday morning to discuss a topic of their choice.
Let’s get to the games!
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers – Saturday, 3:30 p.m. CT on CBS
Mike: The Ravens playoff victory over the Kansas City Chiefs last week went just as I anticipated – I predicted a 24-point victory and they won by 23 points. This week, though, I’m not seeing the Ravens-Steelers game as clearly. These are division rivals playing for the 3rd time this year – they split in the regular season – and this could very well be the best game of the weekend. I’m picking the Steelers for the following reasons: 1) Ravens playing on a short week, 2) Steelers playing at home, 3) Troy Polamalu is healthy and playing and 4) Ben Roethlisberger will play better than Matt Cassel did last week.
Prediction: Steelers 21, Ravens 17
Ryan: In what is almost assuredly going to be the most physical matchup of the upcoming weekend, the Ravens travel to Pittsburgh to take on the Steelers in the 3rd meeting of the year between the two teams. The Steelers dropped the first meeting of the season at home to the Ravens by a 17-14 score back in Week 4, but avenged that loss with a 13-10 win at Baltimore in Week 13. Like the two prior meetings, this one figures to come down to the wire as the two teams are very similar: young but proven QBs, powerful ground games, some explosiveness at the WR position and sound defenses. The key to the game could be the Steelers ability to protect Ben Roethlisberger. Pittsburgh’s offensive line has been banged up all year, and you know the Ravens are going to present a strong pass-rush to try to rattle Big Ben.
Prediction: Ravens 17, Steelers 16
C.J.: Hide your kids, hide your wife, this game has all the makings of a brutal slug fest that may come down to which team’s defense can make bigger plays. The Ravens got off to a shaky start against the Kansas City Chiefs last week in the Wild Card Round, but settled down and forced 5 turnovers in the convincing 30-7 road victory. Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger hasn’t lost to the Ravens since 2006 (he didn’t play in the Steelers loss to Baltimore this year), had an extra week to heal and is playing in front of a home crowd, but I feel that Ray Lewis and the Baltimore defense will ride their momentum from last week in a hard-fought and closely-contested matchup.
Prediction: Ravens 20 Steelers 17
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons – Saturday, 7:00 p.m. CT on FOX
Mike: This game actually reminds me of last year’s Divisional Round playoff game between the Dallas Cowboys and the Vikings. In that contest, the Cowboys were the trendy pick to knock off the Vikings, despite playing on the road, because they were coming off a Wild Card Round win and had momentum. The Vikings had a week off because of a 1st-round bye and many wondered if the offense would come out rusty. In this contest, the Packers are the trendy pick because they have momentum coming off their road Wild Card Round win over Philadelphia last weekend. But I think Atlanta will play the part of the Vikings; they are a sleeping Giant in the NFC and will awake on Saturday night. The Vikings blew away the Cowboys last year by a 34-4 count, but I don’t think Atlanta will have as easy a time. Look for a moderately-high scoring game that will see the Falcons get the last score.
Prediction: Falcons 24, Packers 20
Ryan: The Packers were 1 of 3 road teams to claim a victory on Wild Card Weekend, and they’ll look to do so again this weekend in Atlanta, where they are 0-1 this season thanks to a 20-17 loss in Week 12. Falcons QB Matt Ryan is 20-2 in his career at the Georgia Dome and the #1 seeds in the NFC (which the Falcons are) have lost just twice in the Divisional Round of the playoffs since 1990. Atlanta has just 1 loss in their last 10 games as well. Green Bay was able to take advantage of a beat-up and slumping Eagles team last week and barely won, but their run will come to an end this week as the Falcons will move on to host the NFC Championship game a week from Sunday.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Packers 20
C.J.: It seems to me that everyone is jumping on the Packer bandwagon after their road-victory over the Philadelphia Eagles last week, but I’m not buying in. Sure, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers threw 3 TDs and no picks against the Eagles, but Green Bay has relied too heavily on the big defensive play to pull out wins – last week it was the game-ending INT by CB Tramon Williams. Also, counting on “fill-ins” RB James Starks and TE Tom Crabtree to create offensive production can only last so long in the playoffs. Falcons QB Matt Ryan has an amazing track record playing at home and the bye week will prepare him and the rest of the team for an exciting shoot-out.
Prediction: Falcons 27 Packers 24
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