Mattie T’s Divisional Playoff Predictions…
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh:
If you’re a fan of physical hard-hitting defense, then this is the game you need to be watching on Saturday afternoon.
The regular season series between the Ravens & Steelers was split, with each the road team winning each time by 3 points. What shall we expect in Round 3 of this AFC North showdown?
Anquan Boldin could turn into a big factor, as he’s caught 12 receptions for 186 yards & 1 touchdown against Pittsburgh during the regular season.
The Steelers’ special teams unit will be much different, as Jeff Reed missed a pair of field goals during their 17-14 loss to the Ravens in Week 3.
Shaun Suisham has been very good since taking over in midseason, as he’s connected on 14 of 15 field goals in his 7 games as a Steeler, with the team going 6-1 over that same timeframe.
Billy Cundiff has turned in a good season himself for Baltimore, as he’s 26-for-29 this season not counting the 3 successful field goals he made during Wild Card Weekend.
Offensively, i think Pittsburgh has the edge as they’ll get good performances out of Rashard Mendenhall & Mike Wallace, who are both having career seasons.
Very close game that might require overtime, but i can’t see the Steelers letting this one slip away.
Mattie T’s Prediction: Pittsburgh 19, Baltimore 16.
Green Bay vs. Atlanta:
The Packers know that they will have to execute much better if they want to hand the Falcons just their 2nd home loss of the season on Saturday evening.
In their Week 12 meeting at the Georgia Dome, Aaron Rodgers’ game-tying touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson with 56 seconds left was ruined by Eric Weems’ 40-yard kickoff return, which received extra yardage thanks to a Green Bay facemask penalty.
Matt Ryan then went 4-for-5 on Atlanta’s final drive, which ended in a game-winning 47-yard field goal from Matt Bryant.
For the day, Ryan completed 24 of 28 passes for a sizzling 85.7% completion rate despite throwing for just 184 yards.
The Packers had little to no hope running the ball in that meeting, as Rodgers led the team with 51 rushing yards.
They hope that James Starks will be the answer after rushing for a career-high 123 yards against Philadelphia, as he’ll go up against Atlanta’s 10th ranked run defense.
I think Michael Turner will be the difference in a very close game, as his 1,371 rushing yards is more than the combined total of Green Bay’s top THREE rushers (Brandon Jackson, Aaron Rodgers & John Kuhn combined for 1,340 yards).
Mattie T’s Prediction: Atlanta 24, Green Bay 20.
Seattle vs. Chicago:
After the Bears’ 17-14 loss to the Seahawks back in Week 6, a lot of people thought that Chicago’s season was in jeopardy.
Improved offensive line play and more attention to the run game led the Bears to a 7-2 finish since then, as they will not take Seattle lightly on Sunday afternoon following their stunning Wild Card win over the Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints.
In that game, Matt Forte only received 8 carries for the entire game with three of them coming in Chicago’s opening drive, as they took advantage of a Seattle pass interference call to strike first with an early 7-0 lead.
Not counting the meaningless Week 17 loss to Green Bay, Forte received just 39 carries for 103 yards (2.6 ypc) against the Giants, Redskins, Seahawks & Patriots. That will not cut it if the Bears plan on making a deep playoff run.
Strangely enough, that Bears’ loss (along with the following game against Washington) were the only two games that All-Pro linebacker Lance Briggs was hurt due to injury (ankle).
Out of the NFC’s four remaining playoff teams, Seattle is the worst defensively at both stopping the pass and the run. Look for Chicago to have a big bounceback performance and get revenge for their regular-season loss on Sunday.
Mattie T’s Prediction: Bears 38, Seahawks 14.
N.Y. Jets vs. New England:
The Jets are wasting no time running their mouths prior to Sunday’s game, even 6 weeks after suffering their worst loss of the season by 42 points at the hands of the Patriots.
It’s a big game personally for Tom Brady, especially since what happened to him the last time New England took the field for a postseason game.
Brady threw for just 154 yards & was picked off 3 times, as he also got sacked 3 times as the Patriots were routed 33-14 at home to Baltimore last season during the Wild Card round.
Since that loss to the Jets back in Week 2, Brady has combined to throw 31 touchdowns, and just TWO interceptions.
So, how can the Patriots be beat? Well in their two regular-season losses, the Jets and Browns combined for 336 rushing yards.
If LaDainian Tomlinson & Shonn Grenne (152 combined yards vs. Colts) run with the same success they had against Indianapolis, then the Jets will have a chance. The best way to limit New England’s high-powered offense is by running the ball, which controls time of possession and keeps Brady off the field as much as possible.
Dustin Keller will also have to be a factor, as he caught 7 receptions for 115 yards in that Week 2 win. He hasn’t had an 100-yard receiving game since, and has not caught a touchdown reception since Week 4.
That will have to change if the Jets want to keep their season alive. I think they’ll give the Patriots a challenge, but will fall short in the end.
Mattie T’s Prediction: Patriots 30, Jets 23.