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Divisional Playoff Predictions

I did so well in the Wildcard round (3-1), I thought I’d give it another go for the Divisional round.  We’ll start with Saturday’s games.

Ravens (+3.5) @ Steelers (Saturday 2:30 CBS)- If someone came to the United States from another country or planet and wanted to know what this NFL was all about and why it is so wildly popular I’d show them tapes from the last five years of this rivalry.  Ravens/Steelers is blue-collar, hard-hitting, throwback football.  Oh yeah, and these guys don’t fraternize with each other off the field either.  As tempted as I am to pick the Steelers at home after a week off, the Ravens were my preseason pick to go to the Super Bowl and like a good captian I go down with my ship.  Joe Flacco’s tendency to go m.i.a. in big games still scares me, but I feel the Ravens defense will galvanize around Ed Reed and lead Baltimore to a hard fought 17-14 victory.

Packers (+2.5) @ Falcons (Saturday 6:00 FOX)- Ahhhhhhh, this could be the most entertaining of the four playoff games.  Both teams have it all.  Exciting young quarterbacks, explosive offenses, and underrated defenses.  The Packers were an Aaron Rodgers goal-line fumble away from escaping the Georgia Dome with a victory in week 12.  Matt Ryan has been almost unbeatable in his young career at home, but he has no playoff wins (to be fair he played one playoff game his rookie season).  The Packers seem to have found a running game with James Starks, and the defense is playing inspired so I will take the Pack in a close 30-27 win.  Have I mentioned the Packers were my preseason pick to go to the Super Bowl?

On to the Sunday slate of games.

Seahawks (+10) @ Bears (Sunday 11:00 FOX)- The Seahawks stunned everyone but people in the Pacific Northwest with their 41-36 win over the Saints.  Everyone will remember Marshawn Lynch’s Earth shaking (literally) 67 yard touchdown run, but Matt Hasselbeck was the reason Seattle won that game.  Gregg Williams and the Saints were committed to stopping the run and blitzing Hasselbeck.  Hasselbeck responded with a vintage four touchdown performance.  As much as I’d like to buy into Seattle for a second win, I think the run will end in the windy city.  Seattle did beat Chicago at Soldier Field 23-20 wayyyyyyyy back in week 6, but a lot has changed since then.  Mostly, Jay Cutler has better protection and Matt Forte has come back from the dead.  Cutler will be the mystery variable in this game.  If he is hot, Seattle has no chance.  If he pressed and turns the ball over three or more times, anything can happen!  All things considered I like the Bears by a touchdown.

Jets (+8.5) @ Patriots (Sunday 2:30 CBS)- As much as I’d like to say the NFL saved the best for last, I think Saturday’s games will be much more entertaining and close.  The Jets have been yapping off all week in typical Jets style, and the Patriots responded with Wes Welker’s gem off a press conference in which he referenced ‘feet’ 11 times in 10 minutes.  Sheer brilliance.  The Jets are Andrew Dice Clay and New England is Steven Wright in this war of words.  However, on Sunday the war will be waged on the gridiron.  There is no way New England crushes New York 45-3 like they did on Monday Night Football, but I just can’t see the Patriots losing this one.  I think Brady will make one or two more plays than Sanchez, and the Patriots will escape with a 27-21 victory!

Enjoy the games!!

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