Doc’s Pick: Not even the finest trash talking and distractions from Rex Ryan will be able to save the Jets in this one. This won’t be a repeat of the 45-3 drubbing week 13, but the Pats are undefeated at home this year, playing stellar ball, and extremely focused. New York’s defense looked good against Indy and should be able to keep New England in check somewhat, but they won’t be able to keep up with the Pats who have scored at least 31 points in each of their past eight games. Patriots 27 Jets 20
Del’s Pick: I have no idea what the Jets think they have to gain by insulting Tom Brady all week, but we’ll see on Sunday. If Brady has normal human emotions, he has to feel disrespected. That might spell trouble for the Jets. Like the Doc, I don’t see this being another blowout. The Jets will try to keep Brady off the field and control the clock by establishing the run early. That will also help them keep Mark Sanchez away from trouble. On the flip side, New England will look to speed up the tempo and jump out to an early lead, forcing Mark Sanchez to beat them. It would be tough to imagine New York beating a pissed off Tom Brady in Foxboro. Patriots 28 Jets 14
Doc’s Pick: Another rematch, the Falcons got the better end of things in the week 12 meeting in Atlanta, winning 20-17. I know the Falcons are the top seed and that Matt Ryan has only lost twice at home in his career, but that doesn’t matter to me. Did you see this team Monday night against the Saints? Despite all their big names on offense, this team has not been moving the ball with ease. They’ve gotten turnovers on defense, as well as special teams and defensive scores in order to win games and blow opponents out, but their offense has been quite ordinary. They’ll struggle against Green Bay’s excellent defense. Contarily, the Packers’ offense looked great against Philadelphia. Mix in Green Bay’s newly found rushing attack, and they’ve become the team to beat. I picked Green Bay the first time these teams met and I think they’ll get it done this time. Packers 23 Falcons 17
Del’s Pick: Del picked the Packers as his NFC Champion before the season began, and at the moment there isn’t any need to go back on that prediction. That being said, this will be the toughest test for Green Bay on their road to Dallas. A few unfortunate plays resulted in the Packers losing 20-17 at the Georgia Dome week 12, but Green Bay could have easily won that game. These two teams are matched pretty evenly on offense, but the Packers have the edge on defense with their stingy secondary. If James Starks can run the ball the way he did against Philadelphia and off-set Michael “The Burner” Turner, Green Bay will be at a huge advantage. A big play by Charles Woodson and the Packers secondary will be the difference in this one.
Packers 24 Falcons 21
Doc’s Pick: Is there a more fierce rivalry in the NFL than the one between these teams? And better yet, is there one where the winner generally has a gateway to the Super Bowl? Maybe not this season with the Patriots as the top seed, but the Steelers and Ravens are guaranteed to leave players black and blue like usual. Terrell Suggs has expressed the animosity between the fans perfectly, and after splitting the regular season, you know Baltimore wants the edge badly. Both teams are carried by their outstanding defenses and the Ravens seem to be slightly healthier. Their offense looked great against the Chiefs last weekend while the Steelers rested. Baltimore pulled off a late win in week four when Charlie Batch was starting for Pittsburgh. The Steelers somehow pulled off a miracle comeback in Baltimore in the second meeting. Pittsburgh usually gets it done in the playoffs, playing the Lucy role in pulling the football away from the Ravens each year. This season, I think Baltimore is just the better team.
Ravens 16 Steelers 13
Del’s Pick: The Steelers and Ravens have two of the more evenly matched defenses you’ll find this postseason. Both sides are filled with play-makers and guys who have a nose for the football. However, the Ravens offense is better when they aren’t asleep — and they weren’t against Kansas City. Joe Flacco will be the key to victory for Baltimore. He has weapons to throw to in Todd Heap, Anquan Boldin, and T.J. Houshmandzadeh. He just needs to get them the ball. Ray Rice won’t find much running room against the Steelers tremendous front seven, so the passing game will be important. Pittsburgh’s offense has never scared me, and if the Ravens can prevent the weekly 60-yard touchdown bomb to Mike Wallace they should be in good position to advance to the AFC Championship. Ravens 20 Steelers 14
Doc’s Pick: How the heck are the Seahawks still around? How the heck did they beat the Bears earlier in the year? Whatever offensive issued the Bears had early in the season — and they were really bad — have been fixed. Seattle pulled off a miracle win over the Saints last weekend but Chicago’s defense won’t be as forgiving to Matt Hasselbeck. I’m saying blowout city, which is what should have happened to Seattle last weekend. Bears 30 Seahawks 17
Del’s Pick: The scariest part about the Seahawks still hanging around is that they have a winnable match-up. After finishing the regular season 7-9, Seattle knocked off the defending Super Bowl champions in the first round of the playoffs. If that didn’t give them enough confidence, they’re playing a team that they already beat this season. Granted, that was a Chicago team that couldn’t solve its turnover issues, but the Seahawks are a team with nothing to lose. If they get killed, everyone expected it. If the Bears lose, their season was a major disappointment. No, I’m not picking Seattle, but I expect it to be a lot closer than the Doc.
Bears 20 Seahawks 17