This weekend’s Divisional Playoffs features some noted rivalries and interesting matchups. Previews are linked and color provided by The Sporting News.
Ravens (+3) at Steelers:
The Ravens secondary “had a good game against the Chiefs, but the Chiefs aren’t considered a good passing team.” The Ravens overall have not been effective against the pass even though they have “Ed Reed (who) is a gamer. But they don’t have a shutdown guy.” Bottom line, “If they can’t put pressure on the quarterback, their secondary will get exposed.”
The Steelers have had a questionable offensive line dating back to their last Super Bowl triumph. Their tackles are weak with “Flozell Adams playing out of position on the right side” who is also “slower, not as athletic, and he’s getting beat more.” On the other side is “journeyman” Jonathan Scott and “that’s where teams — especially the Ravens — are going to attack them.”
Packers (2.5) at Falcons:
The Falcons secondary is “not very good outside of Dunta Robinson.” This will be trouble for them as “the Packers have four wide receivers, and the Falcons don’t have enough good corners.” In addition, “the Falcons aren’t very big, they don’t have the height, the speed, (and) the size” to matchup with Green Bay. Sounds like they have to execute flawlessly as “they play the ball OK when they’re in position, but they have to do everything right and hope that their pass rush is on.”
We mentioned earlier in the week about Green Bay’s running attack. The scouts on the Sporting News appear to agree. Overall, “James Starks had a big game last week against Philadelphia, but you can’t say that because something happened once that now it’s fixed. The reality is they haven’t run the ball well all year.”
Jets (+9) at Patriots:
The obvious concern with the Jets is their quarterback. Last week “Mark Sanchez struggled vs. Indy, although he put together a good two drives.” They need to lean on their running game because if they don’t “the pressure is on him” and he will not “get it done.” Furthermore, “how is he going to respond if he has to put it up 40 times?” The fact that “he got hurt in the Pittsburgh game (Dec. 19), and his shoulder doesn’t look as strong” exasperates the issue.
The Patriots' defense has “a lot of good players, but they’re very young.” The guys who stand out are “nose tackle Vince Wilfork (who) is obviously a stud, safety Brandon Meriweather (who) is a good player, and so is the rookie corner (Devin McCourty). But there aren’t a lot of big names on that defense.” They have been exposed this year like “Green Bay (did) late in the year (as well as) Cleveland.” Bottom line, “you can score some points on them. They can be attacked, and they will give up some plays.” But do the Jets have enough arsenals to get it done?
The Giants exposed the Bears offensive line but overall they have “been inconsistent all year.” Although they have “definitely been better over the second half of the season, but it’s still an issue, as the six sacks the Bears gave up against Green Bay in their last game showed.” You cannot pinpoint one or two guys as “it has kind of been an overall breakdown.” The “shuffling that has gone on (over the course of the season) has created a lot of problems.”
Finally, quite possibly the worst playoff team in NFL history, the Seahawks. Hasselbeck as been battling injuries all season which attributes to his lack of “consistency.” It appears that the scouts don’t have much to say and are being congenial when they go on to add:
They’ve also had changes at receiver and on the offensive line, but the biggest thing has been the inconsistency at quarterback. Playing in Chicago weather and in front of a Chicago crowd, they’re going to have to have good quarterback play.
Betting lines provided by Sports Interaction.