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NFL Divisional Playoffs Preview & Predictions – Inside The Wheelhouse

Did Matt Hasselbeck ruin trade possibilities for Donovan McNabb in 2011Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers

The NFL could not be happier with the way the AFC Divisional Round panned out as the AFC side of the playoffs is filled with rivalries of teams that hate one another. That sentiment can be felt when it comes to the Baltimore Ravens vs. Pittsburgh Steelers. While their rivalry is strong, it’s going to be even stronger with a berth of the AFC Championship Game on the line.

This is a game that is going to be extremely close as they two teams are easily top selections for favorites to be the AFC representation in this year’s Super Bowl. But when you break down the two teams you can get an idea of where they don’t match up and who can be a winner this Saturday.

The defenses of both squad are phenomenal. They are historically great defenses and continue to be great defenses for the better part of this decade. These two defenses are evenly matched and there is difficulty in picking an exact winner when you look at the better defense. While the Ravens appear to have an older defense they continue to hang with the “big boys”and the younger defenses like the Steelers.

But when it comes to these two teams offenses that is where there is a slighter edge between these two great evenly matched football teams. Looking specifically at the quarterback position you have to give the edge to the Pittsburgh Steelers. Whether you like it or not, Ben Roethlisberger is a Super Bowl winning quarterback. A multi-time Super Bowl winning quarterback I might add.

Joe Flacco, while an amazing young quarterback, has appeared to struggle when it matters most in the playoffs. Up until this past weekend of games in Kansas City, Flacco had failed to throw a Postseason touchdown pass in over 100+ possessions. That is not a good statistic for a Quarterback in the playoffs despite their team’s success. You will need offensive bright spots in a game like this since neither team is going to really budge and Baltimore needs their offensive leader Flacco to show up on Saturday.

This game will be low scoring and will be a showcase of great Defenses. The little amount of offense that is performed on Saturday will lead one team to victory. It will be the stronger of the two offenses that will win against two evenly match defenses and that is why I believe the Pittsburgh Steelers will win in a close game.

Prediction: Steelers 10 Ravens 7

[adinserter block=”2″]Green Bay Packers vs. Atlanta Falcons

This is a game that is going to be very interesting to watch this Saturday as one of the hottest teams in Football, the Green Bay Packers, head to the Georgia Dome to face a team that very rarely loses it at home. Two combustibles will ignite in the Georgia Dome leaving one team to explode into the NFC Championship Game, while the other implodes itself onto a long off-season vacation without a chance at a Championship.

It wasn’t that long ago that these two teams met in a regular season matchup in the Georgia Dome that saw the Falcons get taken to the limit and the Green Bay Packers coming up short. The game would prove to lead these two teams down two different roads. The Falcons would coast into the #1 seed in the NFC while the Green Bay Packers would struggle towards the end of the season, only to get hot down the stretch when it mattered most.

The Atlanta Falcons are the best team in the NFC while the Green Bay Packers are one of the hottest teams in Football. One has to wonder if the lay away of the week off will effect the Atlanta Falcons as they play a tough #6 seed in the Green Bay Packers late Saturday night.

This, like many games on the docket for the NFL this weekend will be very close. You have the high powered offense of the Atlanta Falcons meeting the aggressive defense of the Green Bay Packers. You have limited Playoff experience from these two quarterbacks that you expect in a couple years will be veteran playoff quarterbacks.

Green Bay is coming into this one on fire, while the week off for the Atlanta Falcons very well could hurt their momentum. While all players enjoy a week of rest I’m sure most would want to keep the ball rolling this time of the year and let the momentum carry them into the Super Bowl. The Falcons are a tough team and will get tougher as the years go on, I just don’t feel like this season is their year and this matchup just doesn’t favor them.

The Packers defense may be the best in the NFC right now as they were extremely aggressive against on of the top players in Football this year in Michael Vick. The Packers Defense, along with the offense, have defeated three good NFC teams the last three weeks in the New York Giants, Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles. Every game the Packers have played have had playoff-like intensity involved which clearly helped them this past Sunday in Philly.

Atlanta coasting into the playoff will effect them in a game against a red hot team. If they were playing Seattle they would be the clear odds on favorites. But they are playing one of the best well oiled machines in the NFL in Green Bay and will have a tough time stopping this machine even in their home dome. I like the Packers in this game and advancing to the NFC Championship Game

Prediction: Packers 23 Falcons 20

Seattle Seahawks vs. Chicago Bears

Out of all the games scheduled this weekend in the playoffs, this is the game I’m least likely excited for. I’ve said it all season long, I feel like the Bears are a team that is on borrowed time. I don’t feel like Chicago is all that good yet they get some amazing breaks that help them appear to be better then they truly are. It has happened yet again as they are fortunate in playing the Seattle Seahawks in the Divisional Round.

Now I might have been a little rough on the Seahawks last week in my blog and they did win against the defending Super Bowl Champion New Orleans Saints. But even counting playoff wins, they are still not a team above .500 (8-9 in ’10 – ’11). That is a horrible statistic, one that doesn’t showcase a playoff caliber team.

Despite all that the Seahawks are playing with house money right now and they know it. They know people like me don’t think they deserve to be there. The Chicago Bears may even think the Seahawks don’t deserve to be there. That attitude can create a very dangerous team, one that can continue to shock the world this Sunday in Chicago.

Even though I have bashed Chicago all season long because I don’t feel like they are that strong of a team, I still believe Chicago will win the Sunday at home. Their defense is one of the best premier defenses in Football and will be showcased in front of the home town crowd. Jay Cutler is not that great of a quarterback still, but the lack of a Seattle defense will make him look good this Sunday.

I don’t expect this one to be close (I know you’ve heard that before) and I fully expect for the Bears to make Matt Hasselbeck’s day very tough. I wouldn’t be shocked if Charlie Whitehurst gets brought in the game at some point. The Bears continue to run their luck this season and will advance to the NFC Championship Game convincingly.

Prediction: Bears 24 Seahawks 7

[adinserter block=”1″]New York Jets vs. New England Patriots

This is the game I am most looking forward to this Sunday thanks to the all the hype these two teams have done through the media all week long. This game has the chance of being a playoff classic and I hope it lives up to the potential these two teams have made it sound like on the back page of the newspapers. No matter what the outcome maybe, look for this game to have some extremely high ratings.

The New England Patriots are the best team in Football led by the best player in Football, Tom Brady. I believe it is this teams ultimate destiny this season to be crowned the 2011 Super Bowl XLV Champions. Despite all that praise and destiny talk, I believe the New York Jets poise the biggest threat of any NFL team to preventing that destiny from happening.

The thing the Jets have going for them is they believe in themselves while no one else does. That is a great attitude to have when you are entering a beast of a stadium like they will be this Sunday. The Patriots and mostly Tom Brady, are dangerous at home. But we know even Superman can fall at home, just ask the Baltimore Ravens.

Despite the confidence being something that helps the Jets, it can also be their downfall because they are not playing just another NFL team. They are playing the New England Patriots and Tom Brady in the Playoffs. While the Pats have been pretty quiet in the media this week, they tend to let their biggest words play out on the field and I expect that to be the case this Sunday evening.

You do not challenge Tm Brady and the Patriots, you just don’t. Whether you like him or not, you got to respect that when it comes to game time, he lets his play do all the talking and not the back page of the newspaper. There has never been more of a year where he has led a Patriots team like this season. He understands they are young & are a bunch of misfits, and he loves it, he thrives in it. He has become one of the best leaders in Football.

The often quiet Tom Brady has stepped his game up that much more. A 3-time Super Bowl winning quarterback got better this season. So good that he has been the leader on and off the field in New England. The Pats are the best team in Football and despite this being a close one in my opinion, I expect the Pats to roll to the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Patriots 35 Jets 21

As always for more NFL coverage check out my sports podcast “The Wheelhouse”over at!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday – Thursday @ 8pm ET/5pm PT at and at @ 2am ET/11pm PT

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site..”

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