The NFL’s divisional round playoffs start on Saturday, but the term ‘divisional’ especially applies to the AFC, where two of the NFL’s best current rivalries will square off. However, for people like myself who don’t care for non-stop coverage of the Patriots and Jets, most of the fun lies in the NFC, especially now that Seattle has become America’s underdog.
Believe it or not, if the 7-9 Seahawks are victorious in Chicago this weekend, and the Packers take down the Falcons, the NFC Championship will be held in Seattle. I was one of the many people who gave the Seahawks absolutely no shot in New Orleans, and my mindset has obviously changed in the league where anything can happen. This matchup is even more interesting when you consider Seattle has already beat the Bears in Chicago once this season, a 23-20 victory in which Matt Hasselbeck played one of his better games of the year. Of course, the Bears also played out the rest of the season as one of the better teams in the league, losing only two more games the rest of the way. The Bears defense remains a force, while they have also been more productive and balanced offensively, with Jay Cutler posting a career high 7.6 yards per attempt. Cutler is still prone to turnovers, as he tends to throw interceptions in bunches, meaning if Seattle can get to him early, they certainly have a great shot.
Before the much anticipated Seahawks-Bears game, the playoffs will kick off in Pittsburgh, with arguably one of the NFL’s top rivalries. These two teams have combined for three Super Bowl titles in the past ten years, and while Pittsburgh has held the upper hand recently in games between the two teams, they have always been incredibly close. The Steelers put up a 12-4 record despite missing team leader and lady lover Ben Roethlisberger for the first four games, while the Ravens put up the same 12-4 record and turned it on late in the season, including crushing Kansas City at Arrowhead last week (never easy to do). Baltimore beat the Steelers in Week four 17-14, and the Steelers returned the favour in Baltimore later in the season with a 13-10 win. Of course, Roethlisberger was absent in the Steelers first game. All I can say is, expect a low scoring affair.
As a football fan, the Saturday night game between the Falcons and Packers is the game I am anticipating the most. Aaron Rodgers and Matt Ryan are certainly two of the finest young QB’s in the game, and I’m expecting the winner of this one to represent the NFC in the Super Bowl. Aaron Rodgers picked up his first postseason win last week, as Green Bay handled the Eagles in Philadelphia despite a 3-5 record on the road this season. Matt Ryan has yet to win a post season game but he has to be comfortable playing in Atlanta, as the Falcons finished the season 7-1 at home.
And of course, the divisional round will wrap up in Foxboro, where the Jets will try and avenge a 45-3 loss against the Patriots several weeks ago. On a personal note, I really can’t stand both of these franchises for different reasons. The Pats have bothered me in the past because of their smugness, while the Jets are the opposite — completely obnoxious. Nevertheless, the Pats have been classier (and better) franchise most recently, as the Jets continuosly embarrass themselves in the media everyday. Most recently, Antonio Cromartie ripped into Tom Brady, calling him an ***hole, and followed up with a little “**** him”. I don’t expect another 45-3 affair here, but Mark Sanchez has been horrendous in cold weather games, especially in New England, so I wouldn’t expect the Jets to pull off an upset.