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Joint Base Andrews Features

NEWS | Jan. 13, 2011

An NFL Divisional round playoffs weekend filled with rematches

By Staff Sgt. Christopher Marasky 11th Wing Public Affairs

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh

This may be the one game of the weekend that most people will expect to be an absolute slobberknocker, as is common place when these two teams meet. There might not be another matchup that epitomizes NFL defensive toughness more than the Ravens-Steelers.

These AFC North teams split during the regular season, each team winning on the others home field. They come in hot, as each team finished the regular season 12-4, with the Ravens having won five straight and have not lost a game by more than a touchdown all year. The Steelers lost only one game at home all year, and all four of their losses came against playoff teams, and they have the extra week of rest coming into the game.

Statistically speaking, these teams looked almost identical in the regular season, with Baltimore scoring 22.3 points a game and Pittsburgh 23.4, while the Ravens allowed 16.9 and the Steelers 14.5. The slight edge would go to the Steelers, who won their last game against the Ravens on a late Troy Polamalu strip of Joe Flacco that led to a Ben Roethlisberger touchdown to win 13-10.

This game is going to come down to which team executes the best on Sunday, as these may be the two most evenly matched teams playing this weekend. The Steelers are favored by a field goal heading into the game, and that sounds about right. Expect a close, defensive game that could likely turn on one or two big plays.

Steelers 20
Ravens 17

Green Bay @ Atlanta

Atlanta has won this matchup already once this year, beating the visiting Packers in Atlanta in November, a win that helped the Falcons move to 13-3 on the year and secure home-field throughout the NFC playoffs. That's good news for the Falcons, who wouldn't want to travel to a very cold Wisconsin at this time of year.

These teams match up well on paper, as Green Bay scored an average 24.3 points per game this year, and the Falcons 25.9, while the birds gave up 18 and the Packers only 15 per game. Both quarterbacks looked very similar in yards, touchdowns, interceptions and even completions. The biggest statistical difference between the two is in the running game, in which Michael Turner rushed for nearly twice as much on the ground as Brandon Jackson.

With the Atlanta running game being that effective, look for the Falcons to try and continue to dominate the game on the ground with the legs of Turner, offset by the passing game of Matt Ryan, who set career highs in yards and touchdowns this year.

On the other side, Green Bay will have to try and stop that running game, while relying more heavily upon their quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who is looking to build upon his first playoff win last week against the Philadelphia Eagles. But the Falcons are 6-2 at home this year, and the Packers are only 3-5 on the road. Atlanta is favored by a field goal, but I suspect home field and a solid running game will provide a larger margin.

Falcons 20
Packers 13

Seattle @ Chicago

The Seahawks come off what might be one of the greatest upsets in NFL playoff history, as the worst team to ever make the playoffs at 7-9 upset the defending Super Bowl Champion Saints. Once again they will have to defy critics against a superior Bears team that finished the season 11-5 and the second seed in the NFC.

While both offenses look very similar on paper, with the Seahawks scoring 19.4 points a game and the Bears 20.9, the difference here is in the defenses. The Seahawks allowed 25.4 points a game, having gotten into the playoffs while being outscored an average 6 points per game. The Bears defense only gave up 17.9 points per game, which puts them at a positive 3 points per game, but is 7.5 points better on defense than the Seahawks.

The problems for Seattle don't end there, as they enjoyed a home game last week against the Saints, and home-field advantage proved to be just that, they go into a blistery, freezing Chicago this week with a record of 2-6 on the road for the year.

The Seahawks are going to have to rely heavily upon Marshawn Lynch, whose amazing 67-yard touchdown last week got them here, as Matt Hasselbeck has struggled over the course of the year, throwing more interceptions than touchdowns. The Bears on the other hand will rely upon a mix of Jay Cutler, who had a solid year, and Matt Forte, who led the Bears with nearly 1100 yards rushing this year. The Seahawks beat the Bears earlier this year in a game where they held Chicago to 0 for 12 on third down, and the Bears only ran the ball 14 times, including 2 scrambles by their quarterback. The bears will have more balance this week, and come in double digit favorites this week. The Seahawks showed last week that the point spread doesn't matter, but it's not likely their amazing post season success continues this week.

Bears 24
Seahawks 10

New York Jets @ New England

Based entirely on the hype leading up to it, this is likely the most interesting game of the week. These two divisional rivals hate each other and have openly admitted it all week and year. Having met twice this year, the Jets won in Week 2 by two touchdowns, but the Patriots had their revenge in Foxborough in December, crushing the Jets by a score of 45-3.

Defensively the teams match up well, as each team has allowed 19 points per game, but the Jets will have to find more offense to keep competitive in this one. The Jets have scored 22.9 points per game this year, which is almost ten points less than the 32.4 points per game the Patriots have scored.

New York did an excellent job of keeping Peyton Manning in check last week, forcing him to check down to the running game. But the Colts were banged up and missing a number of players heading into last week's game, and that's not the case with the Patriots. The Jets are going to have their hands full this week trying to keep Tom Brady in check the same way.

Through the air, the Patriots have a clear advantage, as Brady has thrown for almost 4,000 yards and has 36 touchdowns to only 4 interceptions. That's a great deal better than Mark Sanchez's decent numbers of 3200 yards and 17 touchdowns to 13 interceptions. The patriots hold the edge on the ground as well, as BenJarvus Green-Ellis has rushed for twice as many touchdowns as the Jets leading rusher, LaDainian Tomlinson.

The nine points the Patriots are favored by over the Jets sounds right, as the younger coach and quarterback are going to have a very tough game against the playoff experienced Patriots, who incidentally are 8-0 at home this year.

Patriots 27
Jets 13