Mark Sanchez and the New York Jets were absolutely abysmal Sunday night in Baltimore. The Jets scored 3 of their 17 points on offense while the 2 touchdowns came from a Joe McKnight kickoff return and a David Harris pick six. The Ravens stifled Sanchez, holding him to 112 yards passing while completing only 11 passes. Shonn Greene didn’t fare any better as he rushed for a measly 23 yards on 10 carries. The Ravens weren’t much better on offense either, but 4 forced turnovers and 3 defensive touchdowns helped the Birds cruise to a 34-17 shellacking. Read more…
Jets @ Steelers
The Jets have changed their tone in the week leading up to the AFC Championship Game, swapping their hate for Brady and the Patriots with love for Big Ben and the Steelers. But don’t let their lack of trash talk fool you, the Jets still have a tremendous amount of confidence going into hostile Pittsburgh as they have already defeated the Steelers in Heinz Field during the regular season, albeit without arguably the most valuable player to their specific team in Troy Polamalu. Sanchez and the Jets have become road warriors throughout their last two playoff appearances, but I just have a feeling that it’s all going to catch up with them in Pittsburgh. Roethlisberger is 4-1 against Rex Ryan coached defenses in his career and all signs point to a healthy Troy Polamalu playing in this week’s game. The Jets rushed for 89 yards against the Steelers in their regular season matchup, but the Steelers only allow 63 yards per game to opposing running backs. The Jets HAVE TO run the ball effectively in order to win games and I don’t see them having success against the best run stoppers in the game, especially without Damien Woody. I think Big Ben will out play Sanchez and the Steelers will be making yet another Super Bowl appearance.
Steelers win 23 – 16
#5 Ravens @ #2 Steelers
One word can sum up this game: WAR. This is an old-fashioned brawl between two hated rivals. I think both teams will try to establish the run and both Reshard Mendenhall and Ray Rice will find that it’s going to be easier said then done as the Steelers and Ravens are very strong up front. This game is going to be decided by the quarterbacks, Roethlisberger and Flacco. So, with that in mind, I have to go with Roethlisberger as he’s undefeated in the AFC Divisional Round when the Steelers have a bye, plus he’s at home. I think this will be a low scoring, dirty, hard-fought, bitter battle between not only two of the best defensive units in football but two of the best teams in the NFL. Can’t wait for this game, like I said previously: it’s going to be an all out WAR.
Steelers win 16 – 13
#6 Jets @ #1 Patriots
If you thought Rex Ryan’s comments on Tom Brady and the New England Patriots straddled the line separating confidence and utter stupidity then Antonio Cromartie’s latest choice words on the “Golden Boy” definitely pushed over into the stupidity category. All this talk is just more unnecessary fuel for the fire for Belichick and the Pats. Ryan, Cromartie, and the rest of the Jets have dug their own grave and come this Sunday their coffin will be nailed and the dirt thrown on top. I think Brady and Belichick will put yet another beat down on the cocky Jets and win by double-digits in their business-as-usual demeanor. I look for the game to be close at first, but Brady will torch the Jets secondary for 3 tds en route to another AFC Championship Game.
Patriots win 31 – 16
Coming into the season the Patriots and Steelers were seen as hands down legitimate Super Bowl contenders, but after week 13 they are both in a battle just to get into the playoffs. Have the Steelers’ and Patriots’ dynasties ended? Can we no longer call them “elite?”
At 7-5 overall and 1-5 on the road this season, the Patriots do not look to have their usual swagger and aura surrounding them as in years past. Tom Brady and the offense look to have things looking pretty much normal, but the defense is what has let them down time and time again this season. The once bend but don’t break, get the stops when you need them defense of old has lost some key veterans like Teddy Bruschi, Richard Seymour, Asante Samuel, Rodney Harrison, Mike Vrabel, and others that had a nack for key plays in big moments. The Patriots defense is ranked 11th in total yards per game allowing 322 yards. They also rank 14th in pass defense allowing 214 yards per game and 15th in rush defense allowing 108 yards per game and 4.3 yards per carry. The most surprising stat is that the usually opportunistic Patriot defense is only towards the middle of the pack in the NFL in terms of takeaways with 22. If the Patriots can’t find a way to develop their young defense and have them playing in true form on a consistent basis then we might be witnessing the end of Bill Belichick’s and the Patriots’ dynasty and thus their “elite” stature.
The defending Super Bowl champion Steelers have dropped 4 straight, the latest loss coming courtesy of the now 4-8 Raiders and a touchdown pass from Bruce Gradkowski to Louis Murphy with 9 seconds remaining in the game. The Steelers seemed to have lost their killer instinct and have had a huge amount of trouble putting teams away and holding onto the lead, especially in the 4th quarter. The 6-6 Steelers are in danger of missing the playoffs after winning 2 Super Bowls in the last 4 seasons. The Steelers have struggled within their own division, compiling a 1-4 record against division foes with their only win coming against the horrendous Browns. The Steelers offense hasn’t been the problem as they rank in the top half in every major offensive statistical category, rather it has been the struggles in the defensive secondary. The Steelers pass defense ranks 17th in the NFL allowing 220 passing yards per game. They have also allowed 15 passing touchdowns already this season and have only 8 interceptions. This comes in contrary to last years Super Bowl winning team that was ranked 1st in passing defense, gave up only 12 touchdowns through the air the entire season, and had 20 interceptions. The Steelers have to win their last 4 games in order to potentially put themselves in the playoff picture, but the first thing they have to attend to is finding a way to get that nasty, confident attitude back. If they can find their swagger then they have a chance, but for now they look to be just another average team, and their “intimidation factor” is rapidly dwindling week after week.