As all sportswriters tend to be doing these days, let’s prophesize and analyze the weekend slate of National Football League playoff games.
Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers, Saturday, 3:30 p.m.
This will be the third meeting of the season between the two powers. They split the first two games—each of which were won by the visiting team, and by three points. Unsurprisingly, the Steelers are favored by three. We’re taking the Ravens though, due in large part to their pass rush and to the Steelers’ horrendous offensive line. Quarterback Ben Roethlisberger needs to have a flawless game to keep his body in one piece, let alone lead Pittsburgh to yet another AFC Championship appearance. TKS pick: Ravens 21 Steelers 16
Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons, Saturday, 7 p.m.
Perhaps deservedly, most experts love the Packers in this matchup. In the first meeting the Packers handed the game to the Falcons thanks to a goal-line fumble by quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But the Falcons have had the benefit of two weeks worth of rest (no one of importance strained themselves against the Panthers), and their special team’s advantage is monumental in this one. Expect a loud crowd and a solid short passing game to propel the Falcons. TKS pick: Falcons 28 Packers 20
Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears, Sunday, 12 p.m.
Even though the Bears are a fairly weak two seed, they are the overwhelming favorite in this one (Vegas has the line at 10 at press time). Because of the Seahawks’ strengths (passing against the blitz) and the Bears’ defense (a more relaxed cover -two), Seattle has virtually no chance in this one. Quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is old, running back Marshawn Lynch is mediocre (one run aside), and the Seahawks’ defensive backs are slow; expect Bears wide receiver Johnny Knox to have a huge day. As long as Jay Cutler remains the pedestrian quarterback he’s proven himself to be the Bears should win—and cover. TKS pick: Bears 31 Seahawks 14
New York Jets at New England Patriots, Sunday, 3:30 p.m.
This could be the most lopsided game of the weekend—or the most exciting. Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez is no longer inconsistent; he’s just downright bad. But if the Jets can manage a decent game plan against the consensus best team in football they might be able to stay in the game. But much of that depends on the Patriots’ ability to hang on to the ball. New England boasts a prolific advantage in takeaways, and there’s really no reason to expect either Tom Brady or sure-handed running back, Benjarvus Green-Ellis, to falter. TKS pick: Patriots 38 Jets 21