So far the ladies have done a fantastic job of ranking, analyzing and picking winners for our weekly “Power Rankings” blitz. Let’s see if they can keep the pace as the playoffs roll on. Let us know what you think…your own rankings, picks…looking forward to hearing and reading your feedback. – BULLDOG
8. Seattle Seahawks—Despite Seattle’s unexpected victory over the reigning Super Bowl champs on Saturday, at this point where else would they be ranked? Over teams who have proved themselves this season beyond one game at home? Granted this victory was well deserved, taking nothing away from the Seahawks but playing at home in the NFL is an edge and I’m not sure the Seahawks deserved it. Okay, now that I’ve beat that dead horse again, Matt Hasselbeck and Marshawn Lynch were basically resurrected from the NFC dead on Saturday. Hasselbeck threw for 4 TDs and Lynch scored a TD and a spot in NFL history on a mind-boggling 67 yard run. Oh, and the Saints defense didn’t bother showing up. I’ve got ‘em last in the power ranking still. Remember folks, any given Sunday…or Saturday.
7. Green Bay Packers—I don’t have Green Bay at #7 because I think they’re definitely going to lose to Atlanta at the Georgia Dome this weekend, I have them at #7 because, honestly there’s only 8 teams left in the NFL and I think the Falcons have the edge being rested and playing at home. The Packers’ defense is intense, fast, and dynamic. Aaron Rodgers won his first playoff game and I think they’re definitely hitting their stride. They lost to the Falcons in their last meeting 20-17—they’ve gotten better since.
6. New York Jets—Mark Sanchez finally got it together in the 4th quarter and put together a decent drive (frankly, I thought his pass to Braylon Edwards was underthrown and was basically lucky) setting them up for a game-winning field goal. The fact is that Indy was beat up all season long and the Jets were able to capitalize with a little luck with just enough time left on the clock to take the “W”. This was not a match that Sanchez won against Manning, Manning clearly is the better quarterback, this was a game that came down to the last seconds and the Jets’ offense was better than Indy’s defense in the second half. Bottom line.
5. Chicago Bears—The Bears may be seemingly injury free, but this is Cutler he’s a virgin to the NFL postseason, so it should be interesting, to say the least, to see how he reacts to the atmosphere and the pressure. The good news is that Seattle is 2-6 away from home and Hasselbeck has never won a playoff game on the road. But honestly, stats like that can be contradicted and Seattle could still show up and play very well against a questionable Bears team. Chicago has weapons in the running game and that dynamo Devin Hester, I think this game rests on the shoulders of Cutler and his ability or inability to react to an unpredictable and some say underrated Seattle team.
4. Pittsburgh Steelers—Yes, that’s right, I’m putting them at #4. I know they’re at home and rested, I know they’re the 2nd seed in the AFC, I know that they beat Baltimore the last time they played them, but my gut tells me that maybe momentum is stronger than a little R&R. Or maybe I’m just a homer. Whatever. At this point analysts are flipping coins to decide on their pick in the Baltimore-Pittsburgh game this weekend. These teams are uncannily, evenly matched.
3. Baltimore Ravens—Finally, the Ravens are playing up to their potential and not down to someone else’s (anyone remember the Buffalo game?) Baltimore showed up at Arrowhead on Sunday and schooled the asses off a young and later desperate Kansas City team. Flacco did more than just manage the game, he spread the ball out throwing not only to Rice, and Mason, but also finding Boldin, Houshmandzadeh, and the horribly matched Todd Heap. Seriously, what was KC thinking? They tried to readjust, but Heap owned the middle of the field. Cundiff was flawless, and despite a slow start, an emotional Ravens team took the victory. Although I must admit I want to see the O-line continue to improve…Polamalu is looming.
2. Atlanta Falcons—As long as the Falcons don’t decide on taking up extreme sports or riding motorcycles without helmets…a la Ben Roethlisberger, I’d say they’ll be pretty healthy and rested for their bout against the Packers this weekend. One can also probably assume that they’re preparing for a much better and tougher Green Bay team than they saw earlier this season.
1. New England Patriots—Not that I think that Belichick or his Patriots take any team in the NFL lightly, especially a divisional rival in the second week of the playoffs, but you have to think that the Pats are a little thankful and smiling on the inside just a tiny bit because they’re playing the Jets this weekend. The fact remains that they’ve faced this team numerous times before, yes, teams evolve and improve, blah blah blah, but the Jets are going into Foxboro, Brady is in his element, and that little evil genius Belichick has had an extra week to prepare.
Sandy’s : NFL Playoff Predictions
New York Jets @ New England Patriots—New England definitely has the edge in this game. I take New England, probably by 10 or more. Ryan and his Jets might be scrappy enough to win, but New England is a collectively more cohesive and better team.
Baltimore Ravens @ Pittsburgh Steelers—I like the Ravens in this one. Call me a homer, I don’t mind. I think the Ravens have the momentum and the confidence to get it done. Do I think it will be close? Umm, yeah. Do I think the Ravens have the talent? Yes, I do. Can they put it together to beat a team they should have beat for the second time earlier this season at home? That remains to be seen.
Green Bay Packers @ Atlanta Falcons—This is another close one. I must admit, I really like how this playoff weekend has turned out. There are going to be some crazy-close, well-matched games. Although I think Atlanta pulls this one out in the final seconds…they’re pretty good at comebacks.
Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears—For as much as I think is left to be desired with the Bears, there is even more left to be desired with the Seahawks. Lightning doesn’t strike twice and the Cinderella story most likely comes to an end at Soldier Field.
1. New England Patriots- Coming off a first round bye and having home field advantage through the postseason, the Pats are ready for their first hosting of the New York Jets this weekend. Their second half of the regular season was nothing short of immaculate; they head into the playoffs on an 8 game winning streak and Touchdown Tom having not thrown a pick since week 6. He’s the guy you don’t really wanna cheer for, but at the same time, you can’t help but wonder how a QB can remain so polished for so long.
2. Atlanta Falcons- With the Saints out of the picture now, the Falcons solely represent the NFC South and are hosting the Green Bay Packers this week for a battle to get to the NFC Championship. This team is definitely a fan favorite; they’re young, talented and motivated. They ended their season winning 8 of their last 9; in those 9 games, Matty Ice has thrown 16 touchdowns and only 4 interceptions. If he can keep away from Clay Matthews this weekend, this offense will remain just as lethal.
3. Pittsburgh Steelers- They got a week off to rest; and now they’re preparing for what is set to be a bitter fight to the finish against their arch rivals- the Baltimore Ravens. Big Ben’s may get sacked a lot, but he’s overall playing well, with only one pick in his last 7 games. He’s gonna need to keep that stat in tact against Ed Reed this week, who happens to lead the league in interceptions despite missing 6 games. The Steelers D is something fierce too though; and Troy Polamalu will certainly give Flacco a run for his money.
4. Baltimore Ravens- I was absolutely blown away at the performance of the purple birds on Sunday. Though they took a bit to warm up, they dominated the Chiefs at Arrowhead stadium and won the game 30-7. I know, I hated on their offense big time. But Todd Heap was more visible than he had been all season and that defense held the #1 running game of the league to under 100 yards. Now they head into the Terrible Towel town of Yinsburgh, where hopefully they can continue productivity on both sides of the ball.
5. Green Bay Packers- Aaron Rodgers. Greg Jennings. Donald Driver. And James Starks? The Pack finally got some momentum on the ground, and this makes for a very fluid offense (as if it wasn’t before that anyways). They played a tough game that came down to the last play against the Eagles on Sunday, and they earned the W thanks to a Vick pick in the end zone by Tramon Williams. These guys have the ball rollin; and though they’re heading to the Atl this weekend to play the Falcons, watch for sack-happy Clay Matthews to be all over Matt Ryan like white on rice.
6. Chicago Bears- There’s absolutely no denying the efficiency of this defense; however, it’s Jay Cutler and their flip floppy offense than makes me skeptical as to their fate for the playoffs. They host the Seahawks this week, who are coming off a HUGE win against the Saints. Matt Hasselbeck threw for 4 touchdowns for goodness sake! If the Seahawks keep playing with that fire under their asses like they did last week, Daaaa Bears are gonna have their work cut out. Julius Peppers, Brian Urlacher and company are more than capable; they’d better come to play.
7. New York Jets- My deepest apologies go out to the Jets fans out there. I’ve done nothing but belittle this team since the beginning of the season. They pulled it off Saturday night; they sent the Sheriff home after only one touchdown. They maintained the Colts running game and allowed less than 100 yards on the ground. And despite my sour thoughts on Mark Sanchez, LT held down the offense, scoring both of the teams touchdowns.
8. Seattle Seahawks- Welp, they gave a big FU to just about every analyst (except Keyshawn), knowledgeable football fan and the WHO DAT nation on Saturday, with a huge win at home to advance to round 2 of the 2011 playoffs. And it’s kind of hard to believe, but if they win in Chicago this week and Atlanta loses, the 7-9 regular season team will be hosting ANOTHER home game?! REALLY? As much as I may be opposed to that, one things for certain- that run by Marshawn Lynch was one of the best I’ve seen. The nickname BEAST MODE never seemed more appropriate.
Predictions for the Divisional Round of the 2011 Playoffs:
Baltimore over Pittsburgh- I know, I’ve been a pretty avid hater of the purple birds this season. Their D has always been solid; but FINALLY, after the performance I saw Sunday against the Chiefs, their offense looked to have that edge I’d been waiting for them to exhibit. These two teams have had an intense rivalry since day one; and everybody knows, a division game is always a toss up as to who wants the win more. I foresee Ed Reed with another emotional game; and the team surrounding him as a supportive cast as they pull out the W at Heinz Field.
Green Bay over Atlanta- As mentioned above, the Packers look to have the whole package right about now (no pun intended hehe). Although Atlanta has been a powerhouse all season, I just think that the Pack has persevered through some tough times this season, injuries and all; and that they’re finally back to full strength and ready to show they’re the team that everyone projected them to be before the season even started. If Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams can maintain Roddy White and Michael Jenkins, then this pick is a lock.
New England over New York- Well the Pats destroyed the Jets last time they visited Foxborough. As much as I have apologized for the hatred I’ve spewed about the Jets this season, I don’t exactly see anything different happening this weekend. Simply put, the Patriots are unstoppable right now. Please see above. The closest they’ve come to losing was to the Packers in week 15, and THAT my friends, would be the rematch I am hoping to see for the big shebang in Dallas on February 6th.
Chicago over Seattle- Yes, the Seahawks pulled off the win against the Saints on Saturday. But as I mentioned last week, Seattle is the loudest outdoor stadium in the league; it’s incredibly tough for away teams to come in and play there, in the cold with all that ruckus. Take it from me, a Redskins fan, who’s team has lost their last two playoff appearances in that very stadium! Question is… will the Seahawks be able to pull the golden horseshoe out of their behinds again this week? I just don’t see it in the cards, kiddos. It would certainly make for quite the Cinderella story, but the facts remain- to end the season, Seattle had lost 5 of their last 7. And to that end, you can’t catch lightening in a bottle; and you certainly can’t twice.