Friday, January 14, 2011

NFL 2010: Divisional Playoffs -- Some Really Fun Matchup's

As if the wild card contests didn't live up to their billing, wait until the next round concludes. The AFC has a rivalry that has rapidly installed itself on par with the greatest face offs in sports history: Red Sox/Yankees, Michigan/Ohio State, UNC/Duke. When Baltimore plays Pittsburgh, it is war!!!!

Who knows, though it won't be easy when the top team has earned dynasty status, New England versus the New York Jets could be warming up to provide an extensions of the Red Sox/Yankees into the NFL -- though in the Big Apple, the Jets have always been the ugly little toady step brother to the Giants even though the Jets have been far more interesting recently.

The NFC match ups don't have the instant story lines the AFC ones do, but clearly the Green Bay visit to Atlanta will be the hotter contest. The Falcons have been the NFC's most consistent team in 2009, but the Packers when healthy are explosive.  It's hard to warm up for the Seattle trip to Chicago. Seattle is a team entering the post season with a losing record, but they sure looked like they belong in the fight given the ass-whoopin' they laid on New Orleans in Seattle last weekend. Nobody saw that coming.

Stock up on beer and munchies, fire up the grill, get that big pot of chili cooking, invite some friends over to show off that new HDTV and get ready to watch some football. Let's look at the games.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3 1/2), 4:30 pm, CBS
The commentators talk about this as "old fashioned" football or football the way it's supposed to be played. Translation, don't look for a lot of fancy trendy offensive strategies. No this will be grind it out in the trenches hard hitting football where each team's defense will do everything possible to rip its opponent to pieces. The match up seems to be as much Palomalo versus Reed as it would be Roethlisberger against Flacco. These games have a habit of playing close with which team pulls off the big play toward game's end winning. Pittsburgh might have a couple more intangibles on their side, but that does not suggest the Ravens can't win. They can and win very ugly. There will be nothing pretty about this game besides the cheerleaders.

Green Bay @ Atlanta (-2), 8:15 pm, FOX
Here's another game almost too close to call. Aaron Rodgers is more the big play, dramatic QB where Matt Ryan is more the mechanic. Our snapshot would call the Falcons superior on defense but give the edge on offense to Green Bay. We'll give Atlanta the slight edge.

Seattle @ Chicago (-10), 1:00 pm, FOX
Here's the one game if one team were to prevail, the results would be seen as a true upset. Look at it this way, it's unthinkable that a team with a 7-9 record could even make it to the playoffs, but not only did they make it, they obliterated the defending champions convincingly. The Seahawks with their Pom-Pom Prince, Pete Carroll,as head coach have nothing to lose. They're there to have fun and anything they accomplish is a plus. But fans should never forget, Carroll understands big games and the pressures that come with such distinctions given his winning tenure, championships, and huge success at USC.

"Da Bears" must approach the game with workman like precision, stick  to their strengths, and execute their plan without mistakes. They have a strong defense with Julius Peppers and Brain Uhrlacher leading the way. Jay Cutler must prove he can play a must win game without mistakes. No question, if this were all based on past performance and stats, the Bears win, but add the human element where anything Seattle accomplishes is gravy and the Bears could have a coach fighting to preserve his job, all things are possible, but it would be foolhardy to actually pick Seattle unless one hedges  --why not?

New York Jets @ New England (-8),4:30 pm, CBS
For those getting a glimpse of this contest through the lenses of the New York media or sports stations, with all the showmanship Jets coach, Rex Ryan, has been feeding them, the game itself might seem anti-climatic regardless of outcome. Make no mistake, Ryan has brought life to the Big Apple's other team making it to the playoffs for the second consecutive year. Ryan's humor and boastfulness certainly adds a little fun to a game which often is taken way too seriously. However, making comments like "it's personal" between him and Tom Brady or Bill Bellichick and the constant prattle for every open microphone,Ryan is getting to seem a lot like a professional wrestler working up the crowd before hopping in the ring. On the other hand, pretty boy Tommy and Yoda, the New England QB and coach are going at it quietly with such secrecy you'd almost think they're working on some clandestine black magic as if the talent and organization of the New England Patriots alone doesn't equal championship expectations.

It looks like New England will put its collective foot down and the Rex Ryan travelling freak show will be done. If New England breaks Jets QB Mark Sanchez early, this game could be a blowout. While a Jets win is not impossible by any stretch, New England can dispirit another team like no other.

The Baltimore byline....
It's so hard not to crave a Ravens and Jets win leading to a AFC Championship played in Baltimore. Keep dreamin' baby. It's not impossible, just improbable!!!!

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