AFC Wild Card – The Road to the Superbowl

Baltimore at Kansas City

Good: This is a fun match-up because you have Jamaal Charles, who averaged 6.38 yards per carry this season and the Ravens’ physical defense. It’ll be a battle at the line of scrimmage with both teams eager to impose their will.

CHARLOTTE, NC - OCTOBER 05:   Running back Jam...
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Back to Charles and the significance of his 6.38 average. He was just 0.02 yards off of Jim Brown’s record of 6.40. What makes this an even more impressive feat is that Charles rarely broke out for long highlight reel runs. Majority of his yards came from just taking the hand-off and just battling for those 6.38 yards. Charles earned those yards efficiently. He was handed the ball only 230 times. Compare that to Arian Foster, who was handed the football 327 times and averaged a solid 4.9 yards per carry.

This will be a physical game because of the Chiefs offensive line and the Ravens linebackers. This will be old fashioned grind it out football.

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Bad: The Chiefs passing game can be the factor in this game. If Matt Cassel gets into rhythm early, it’ll open up the lane for Charles and the Ravens could be in big trouble. Kansas City is a balanced team that can give a lot of team’s problems in the playoffs.

Ugly: Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome went out and brought T. J. Houshmandzadeh, Donte’ Stallworth and Anquan Boldin to Baltimore. It has done little though to upgrade their passing game. All that blame should be placed on QB Joe Flacco. The Ravens receivers have expressed displeasure, at times, with the lack of passes thrown their way.

Key for the Chiefs: Their offensive attack needs to be balanced. Get Matt Cassel going early.

Key for the Ravens: Take advantage of Kansas City’s run defense. The Raiders busted them open for 209 rush yards. The Ravens are more than capable of doing the same.

Who wins: The Ravens because of Ray Rice. The Chiefs aren’t great against the run, allowing 110 rush yards a game.

NFC Wild Card

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Green Bay at Philadelphia

Good: The Packers defense is athletic and can keep Michael Vick in the pocket. They are great at rushing the passer. Opposing quarterbacks have not done well against the Packers’ D. Green Bay is among the league leaders in sacks. Vick will be chased around the field, but with the Packers’ athletic front, he’ll not get very far.

DeSean Jackson forms an explosive tandem with Vick, especially with yards after catch. Jackson can get out and just plain run. Green Bay will have trouble handling him in the open field.

Bad: Michael Vick should have the Packers to thank for his reinstatement to football’s elite. Green Bay knocked out then starter Kevin Kolb in week 1 of their match-up. Vick couldn’t lead the Eagles to the victory against the Packers in week 1, but he was his usual dynamic self.

PHILADELPHIA, PA - JANUARY 02:  Kevin Kolb #4 ...
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Philadelphia’s chances of beating the Packers rely on their young roster just as much as on Vick.

Ugly: The Eagles have trouble against the pass and are just an average defensive team overall. They’re allowing close to 24 points and 217 pass yards a game.

Aaron Rodgers put up very solid numbers against a tenacious Bears defense. Against Philadelphia’s D? He could throw for 300 yards.

Key for the Packers: Limit the Eagles yards after catch. And of course Mike Vick’s impact on the game.

Key for the Eagles: Andy Reid better whip his defense into playoff shape because if the game against the Vikings was any indication of things to come this week then Philadelphia can say good-bye to their Super Bowl hopes.

Who wins: The Packers. Not even a superhuman performance from Vick can make up for the Eagles’ defense.

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Final NFL Power Rankings

#1 New England Patriots (14-2)

No matter how many people doubt this team year in and year out about their ability to stay amongst the elite in the NFL, head coach Bill Belichick and his golden boy quarterback Tom Brady continue to prove that they have no intention of laying down for anyone in the AFC Conference.

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 06:  Tom Brady #12 of t...
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Coming into this NFL regular season, the New England Patriots had a lot of doubts about how well their young defense would hold up against some of the most potent offenses in the league, but even though it was rough in the first couple weeks of the season, the Patriots secondary were able to hold their own.

Not only has the defense been able to hold their own, but Tom Brady is having another MVP caliber season with big numbers that could ultimately lead this team to another appearance in the Super Bowl.

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#2 Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

All season long it has seemed like people have waited for the Atlanta Falcons to show signs of weakness or flaws in their game, but it just hasn’t happen as Matt Ryan, Michael Turner and Roddy White have quickly become amongst the league’s elite at their positions.

Along with the offense being near unstoppable throughout this NFL regular season, the defense has been able to hold opponents and help this team maintain leads every single week.

Whether or not this team can keep playing at this level in the playoffs remains to be seen, but with a first-round bye they are sitting pretty right now with a good chance of going the distance.

#3 Pittsburgh Steelers (12-4)

The Pittsburgh Steelers have been able to redeem themselves from their extremely disappointing title defense last season, but this is still a team that depends on their defense to run the show and when faced against an equally good defense (Baltimore Ravens and New York Jets) they might really struggle in the playoffs.

No matter what their fate in the postseason, the Steelers have played much better than anticipated after everything that happen off the field before the season began.

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#4 Baltimore Ravens (12-4)

Much like the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Baltimore Ravens have depended on their defense over the years to lead them into the playoffs, but this season has been different as the offense has started to step up and give this team a new dynamic.

BALTIMORE, MD - DECEMBER 19:  Ray Lewis #52 of...
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The only thing that stopped the Ravens from getting a first-round bye in the playoffs was the Steelers wrapping up the AFC North division, but I believe they can hang with any team in the AFC right now and could make it interesting down the stretch.

#5 New Orleans Saints (11-5)

The defending Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints struggled out of the gate in their title defense this season, but have really started to come into their as of late and started playing like the team that dominated the league last season.

The Saints will almost certainly have their hands full against teams like the Falcons, Bears, Eagles and Packers in order to get back to the Super Bowl, but they are more than capable of pulling off the repeat.

#6-10 Chicago Bears (11-5), Philadelphia Eagles (10-6), New York Jets (11-5), Green Bay Packers (10-6) and Indianapolis Colts (10-6)

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A look at the NFL Playoffs.

1. New England Patriots

Peaking at the right time? Check. No Randy Moss-like distractions? Check. Tom Brady’s brown locks looking good? Check. New England is the heavy favorite to win it this year and with good reason. They can pick apart any team on this list.

2. Pittsburgh Steelers

The Steelers have Troy Polamalu back and that’s enough reason for them to be confident heading into the Playoffs. This has been a different team since Ben Roethlisberger made his way back from suspension.

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3. Atlanta Falcons

Matt Ryan is ice-cold in the clutch but can he replicate that success in the playoffs? With all the hoopla Mike Vick and Roethlisberger’s engagement have received the Falcons are underappreciated. They are 2nd in the NFC in points scored and 3rd in points allowed.

4. Baltimore Ravens

Their defense is still as physical as it was ten years ago. But it’s the Ravens passing game that will determine how deep they go in the playoffs.

Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots duri...
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5. New Orleans Saints

Many are writing off the defending champs this early in the postseason. They aren’t as explosive on offense as last year, but Sean Payton’s play calling is genius. Also, Reggie Bush looked fresh in the Saints season finale against Tampa Bay, which means that they have a solid running game they can rely on.

6. Chicago Bears

Issues like pass protection and Jay Cutler’s penchant for interceptions remain unresolved. They’re the most vulnerable bye team in the playoffs.

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7. New York Jets

Broadway Rex is back to his old talking ways. They have to get by the Colts first before he can start yapping his mouth again.

8. Green Bay Packers

Favorites before the season opened, the Packers are dark horses coming into the playoffs. Aaron Rodgers just needs to get his groove back.

9. Indianapolis Colts

Injuries have decimated the Colts. It’s a good thing they have that Peyton Manning fellow.

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10. Philadelphia Eagles

They rely too heavily on Michael Vick. Andy Reid needs to turn his focus on Philadelphia’s defense and how they’re going to stop Aaron Rodgers.

Aaron Rodgers
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11. Kansas City Chiefs

A well-balanced team that can give any team a headache. Not to mention the headache Charlie Weis gave the Chiefs after he accepted Florida’s offensive coordinator job before the playoffs.

12. Seattle Seahawks

They symbolize everything that’s wrong with the NFL’s current playoff system. It’s not their fault though.

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NFL Wild-card Weekend

AFC Wild-card

New York Jets @ Indianapolis Colts Sat. Jan. 8th 8pm EST

The New York Jets have gone through a lot this season as they have dealt with controversy on and off the field all year long, but despite of their problems they have been able to suck it up and get back into the playoffs.

CORTLAND, NY - AUGUST 01:  Running Back Thomas...
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Fortunately, not only are the New York Jets back in the playoffs, but they will have shot to take down the team that knocked them out of the postseason last year in the Indianapolis Colts.

As usual, Jets head coach Rex Ryan has been very vocal about this playoff rematch against the Colts as he claims this game is personal. Even though New York has one of the best defenses in the league this season, Indianapolis always seems to have this team’s number, but this time things might have changed as Peyton Manning and company have struggled all season long.

This should be an all-out battle from start to finish and even though the Colts are favored with a -3 point spread, I believe the Jets might finally get past the Colts.

Prediction: New York Jets advance

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Baltimore Ravens @ Kansas City Chiefs Sun. Jan. 9th 1pm EST

The Baltimore Ravens have been arguably one of the best teams in the league this season with a solid combination of a potent offense and a lockdown defense, but despite finishing with a 12-4 record, they were unable to win the AFC North division and will have to face the Kansas City Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium.

KANSAS CITY, MO - JANUARY 09:  Defensive tackl...
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Even though the Ravens should come out on top in this matchup as they are clearly the better all around football team, this will be an intriguing matchup due to the best running team (Chiefs) going up against one of the best run defenses (Ravens).

Ultimately, Baltimore will most likely get the win, but Kansas City might make a game of it!

Prediction: Baltimore Ravens advance

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NFC Wild-card

New Orleans Saints @ Seattle Seahawks Sat. Jan. 8th 4:30pm EST

As perhaps the least anticipated matchup of the first week of the playoffs, the defending Super Bowl champions will head to Seattle to take on the lowly Seahawks who barely made it into the postseason with a losing record of 7-9.

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NFL Week 17: Raiders @ Chiefs

The AFC West division has been without a doubt one of the worst divisions in the NFL for quite some time now. No matter what the majority of the teams within the division did during the off-season to improve their football team, they all ultimately ended up bowing down to the San Diego Chargers every single season

With an extremely talented football team on both sides of the ball, the San Diego Chargers usually just cruised to an AFC West division title every year and didn’t get much of a challenge from the Denver Broncos, Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs.

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This season on the other hand has been a change of pace for the teams in the AFC West division as the Oakland Raiders and the Kansas City Chiefs have seemingly turned the corner and become forces to be reckoned with. Not only are the Chiefs and the Raiders dominant defensively this season, but they are also two of the best running teams in the league with Pro Bowl caliber running backs Jamaal Charles and Darren McFadden leading the way.

These two teams still have their problems this season as the quarterbacks still need to prove themselves, but they have deftly turned into the real deal and legitimate playoff teams.

Matt Cassel, a player on the Kansas City Chief...

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Unfortunately for the Raiders, last week was their last shot at clinching a playoff spot as they lost to Peyton Manning and the in the Indianapolis Colts. Even though Oakland put up one hell of a fight, they still were able to get the best of the Colts and ultimately will miss the postseason despite having an impressive season.

The one thing the Oakland Raiders do have going for them coming into this AFC West showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs is that they can make history. With a win over Matt Cassel and company this weekend, the Oakland Raiders will become the first team in NFL history to go undefeated within their division and not make the playoffs.

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Obviously, this is not a distinction that you want or can brag about as you always want to make the playoffs, but everything from here on out seems to be an improvement for this struggling NFL franchise.

Going undefeated in divisional play is impressive to say the least, especially when you’re playing against teams like the San Diego Chargers and the up-and-coming Kansas City Chiefs.

Along with the motivation going undefeated in the AFC West, the Oakland Raiders will almost certainly be playing against the second stringers as the Kansas City Chiefs will probably look to rest their starters for the playoffs.

With that being said, I believe the Raiders should get an easy victory this weekend as the Chiefs probably won’t put up much of a fight.

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