There's only 8 teams left. Only the teams that deserve to be here are here now. There ought to be some bone-crushing, entertaining action. Without further adieu, here are my predictions for the Divisional Round of the 2011 NFL Playoffs.
Baltimore vs. Pittsburgh
The Ravens travel to the Steel City to take on the Steelers. This game is going to be real physical. QB Ben Roethlisberger has to make plays this game. Last time they play, Ben made plays to win the game. This week he will have to make plays, but he will need to get some help from RB Rashaad Mendenhall. He is the type of back that can hurt the Ravens. He must at least keep the Ravens defense honest so that Ben will have more time in the pocket. If Mendenhall isn't effective, Ben may be running for his life from OLB Terrell Suggs. And in this case, Ben is more prone for mistakes and S Ed Reed has been known to capitalize on them. RB Ray Rice has been pretty quiet the last few games. He will continue to be quiet in the running game versus the physical Steelers offense. But where he will be effective is when the Ravens bring in WR TJ Housmanzadeh and go to their 3 WR look. The Steelers don't have the DBs to cover all 3 Ravens WRs, so they will have to shift some coverage to help the strong side of the defense. And when that happens, Rice will bring issues to their defense. The difference in this game will be the passing game of the Ravens. They are stronger in the passing game than the Steelers are in the secondary, despite having S Troy Polomalu.
Prediction: Baltimore 23, Pittsburgh 17
Green Bay vs. Atlanta
Green Bay returns to Atlanta to take on the Dirty Birds in the Georgia Dome. QB Aaron Rodgers had a great game in his return to the playoffs against the Eagles but he will not be the key to this game. RB James Starks will need to run the ball well this game. If he is able to gash the Falcons, then more lanes will be created for Rodgers to hit his bevy of weapons in the passing game. QB Matt Ryan has been special in close games this year. He also isn't the key to his teams success. In games where the Falcons have lost, RB Michael Turner hasn't produced. In this game, if he doesn't produce, the Falcons will not win. Ryan cannot escape OLB Clay Matthews especially if Matthews knows where Ryan is going to be all the time. In a battle of the running games, I feel the Packers will be able to run the ball and stop the run better.
Prediction: Green Bay 26, Atlanta 23
Seattle vs. Chicago
The Seahawks travel to the 2nd City take on the Bears. The Seahawks were unstoppable last week against the Saints. This week the defense should be stiffer. RB Marshawn Lynch must be active in the running game for the Seahawks. If he isn't, then DE Julius Peppers will make QB Matt Hasselbeck's life a nightmare on Sunday. QB Jay Cutler has never won a playoff game in his career. In order for him to win his first, he must be smart with the football and not take a whole bunch of big risks. His decision making along with the running game should be the difference in the game.
Prediction: Chicago 27, Seattle 17
NY Jets vs. New England
The Jets return to the scene of the crime to face the New England Patriots. QB Mark Sanchez will need to play like he did in the 2nd half against the Colts. He must be decisive with the football and he must have LT and Shonn Green be effective on the ground. If Green and LT are effective, they can limit the possessions of the Patriots and Tom Brady. If not, this game could be a shootout because QB Tom Brady is going to take his shots at CB Antonio Cromartie. He fired up Brady and now he will be targeted. The game may be close at the beginning, but in the end the Patriots will handle business.
Prediction: New England 31, NY Jets 13
These are my predictions for the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs. Let the games begin.