January 13, 2011

AFC Divisional Round Analysis

Filed under: Game Analysis — Tags: , — patbutler87 @ 3:24 am

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers (Saturday, 4:30 ET)

The first of two spectacular divisional matchups in the AFC showcases the Ravens and the Steelers, two teams who play a similar brand of football according to statistics and the casual fan’s eye. While looking at the offensive numbers, Pittsburgh seems to have the slight edge in the offensive and defensive categories, but they are all too close to form any conclusions. Pittsburgh has definitely evolved as the season went along, as they started off as a conservative ball control team with great defense yet has transformed into an efficient and balanced offensive attack with an incredible defense as long as Polamalu is in the lineup. Roethlisberger has really cut down on the interceptions and has played incredible football this season, but he’s been known to struggle versus some top defenses. With the Baltimore defense seemingly hitting their stride, thanks in large part to improved secondary play led by Ed Reed, I wouldn’t expect a high scoring matchup.

When Baltimore has the ball, they will have to move it through the air with their newfound savior Joe Flacco. He proved a lot of doubters wrong by having a great game at Kansas City and even though the defense was putting him in favorable positions, he made plays and did a lot with his opportunities. They moved Anquan Boldin around a lot to avoid double coverage and took advantage of him and Todd Heap, who was injured on the opening snap of their previous matchup. Pittsburgh doesn’t really have a shutdown cover guy for either of these two so I think yards can be had through the air if the protection holds up. Ray Rice should get some carries to keep the defense honest, but like I said before, this game comes down to Flacco’s arm and his decision making.

This game is nearly impossible to predict, but right now I would have to go with the homefield advantage and playoff experience of the Pittsburgh Steelers. Even if Roethlisberger gets off to a slow start, I can see him hitting his stride in the second half and they may need a big play from the defense to seal the win. Final score- Pittsburgh 20, Baltimore 17.

New York Jets at New England Patriots (Sunday, 4:00 ET)

This is the matchup Coach Rex Ryan has been waiting for, taking down the hated New England Patriots, but it may be a near impossible task this Sunday. After the Patriots lost to Cleveland in week 9, the rest of the league felt their wrath as they put up no less than 31 points per game with Brady playing literally perfect football. The defense has also done it’s part, as they’ve generated a ton of turnovers and grown up on the fly, though the playoffs can be a whole different beast.  No one man has led the offense, it’s been a group effort with guys like Branch, Welker, Woodhead, and their two talented rookie tight ends, Gronkowski and Hernandez. While the Jets boast the league’s best cover man in Darrelle Revis, he can only cover one player and the Pats have too many weapons.

On New York’s side, they really have a ton to play for and Mark Sanchez can immortalize himself with a great game in Foxboro. He has good enough weapons in Holmes, Edwards, Keller, Tomlinson, and Greene but you have to believe the Patriots will throw everything they have at him and more to try and confuse him. I see him having an okay game, but it won’t be enough as Brady should have an excellent game and lead New England to victory. Final score- New England 31, New York 20.


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