Archive for the ‘Pittsburgh Steelers’ Category

Pittsburgh over Baltimore 31-24
Well, this game certainly went the way I expected. From the get-go you could tell these teams do not like each other. On the first drive of the game Hines Ward went after Ed Reed on a run play trying to block the safety. It was a great block, if only he didn’t block him into the ground viciously after the whistle blew earning him a unsportsmanlike conduct. This truly was a gridiron scuffle on the field, chippy as a game can get without seeing guys ejected. Ike Taylor also decided to head but TJ Housmenzadeh after a play, but there was no call there. It was truly a great game by two hard nosed teams that went down to the final 2 minutes and was won in the trenches with a clutch late sack on Joe Flacco on Baltimore’s final offensive possession. Baltimore is 0-4 in post-season play when their opponent scores 20 or more points, and after today they go to 0-5 as Pittsburgh beat the Ravens 31-24 on a defensive stop. Defense ruled this game, even if the score doesn’t reflect it. The turnover battle was absolutely key to the game. Baltimore dominated in the first half, getting themselves 2 turnovers and scoring a touchdown on both to lead 21-7 at the half. The first turnover was a strip sack on Big Ben by who else but Terrell Suggs of which every player on the field thought it was an incomplete pass except for Cory Redding who picked it up and ran into the endzone. The second turnover was a Mendenhall fumble recovered by Ed Reed to give Baltimore another short field inside the Pittsburgh 30 yard line. At the start of the third quarter it seemed like the teams decided to switch jerseys. Baltimore became completely innate in the 3rd quarter amassing a putrid -4 offensive yards and began to turn it over to the Pittsburgh defense. The Steelers quickly got two turnovers, both courtesy of safety Ryan Clark. Clark forced a rare fumble by Ray Rice, giving Big Ben a short field to get a TD to Heath Miller. Then Clark intercepts Flacco on an over thrown ball to give the Steelers yet another short field, allowing them to tie the game at 21. The game was unfolding just as I expected, both teams were getting turnovers… what I didn’t expect was how efficiently both teams were after the turnover. At these point, all four turnovers in the game amounted to touchdowns. Another indication of how evenly matched these two heavyweights are. Then the Ravens killed themselves. First step to losing to the Steelers, allow them to win the paramount turnover battle with an inexcusable botched snap. This turnover didn’t lead to a turnover, but it still garner 3 points on a field goal try. The Ravens defense remained clutch, forcing a 3 and out and continuing to harass Roethlisberger. It looked like the tides would turn back into the Ravens favor as Ladarius Webb ran back a punt for a touchdown to take the lead. Step two to losing to the Steelers, commit foolish holding penalties to take a touchdown off the board. They were still left with good field position, but could only tie the game at 24 with a field goal. Step three to losing to the Steelers, stop doing what was working on defense. All of a sudden, after very effectively rushing Big Ben (6 sacks), they stop blitzing and bring only three on the rush. What did this equate to? A deep ball to Antonio Brown for 58 yards, setting them up at the Baltimore 4 yard line for a Mendenhall touchdown run. The score was then 31-24, but the Ravens still had a chance. After a unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the touchdown, the Ravens got great field position at the Steeler 48 yard line. Step four on losing to the Steelers, drop passes. It was 4th and 18 after a clutch sack by Ziggy Hood, and TJ Housmanzadeh was wide open and outright dropped the ball past the first down marker. He clinched the game for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and this epic battle of defenses. The defenses set up their offenses for short fields, inflating the scores. Don’t let the final score fool you, this was yet another Ravens Steelers defensive brawl where the turnover battle determined the game.

Packers Dominate Falcons 48-21
The Packers dominated in absolutely every phase of the game. Aaron Rodgers completed 31-of-36 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns before being rested in the fourth quarter. He also ran for 13 yards and a touchdown while eluding nearly every sack attempt by the Atlanta Falcons. Rodgers focused on Chris Owens, the Falcons replacement nickel back, and saw a lot of success. The Falcons played the wrong team, not only are the Packers better at every position save running back, but they are very limited in the secondary which plays right into the Packers’ strength. The game started with a would be huge pass play to Greg Jennings as the Falcons forced a fumble. Atlanta took advantage of the turnover and scored on an intimidating Michael Turner touchdown run. The Packers came back right away with an 8 minute touchdown drive. On the ensuing kick-off, Eric Weems took the ball 102 yards for a NFL post-season record touchdown return to put the home team up 14-7. Rodgers drove his team back down the field again, capped by a Kuhn touchdown run behind lead blocker BJ Raji. From there it was downhill for the Falcons, they began turning the ball over. Ryan threw two picks on two promising drives, one was brought back for six. Ryan then botched a snap and Green Bay recovered, proving that Matt Ryan is still not ready for the big games. As Rodgers kept running up the score, the Falcons were forced to abandon the run and put the game on Ryan’s shoulders. He was not up to the task, throwing two picks on bad decisions, and couldn’t handle the pass rush of the Packers. It is not yet time for the Atlanta Falcons, they need another viable running back to pair with Turner and another receiving weapon to compliment White. Tony Gonzalez lost about 2-3 steps this season, he should retire this off-season without winning a playoff game in his Hall of Fame career. As for my predictions, Ryan again threw for under 200 yards against the Packers and White had another pedestrian receiving total at 57, though he did get a touchdown. I predicted about half the total points scored in this game, but really… who expected 48 points from Green Bay?
Post will be updated as games finish…

Advertisements

The AFC has its best two divisions on display this weekend. The AFC North and East are the only two remaining division in the AFC Championship race, and really it is no surprise. The Patriots, Steelers, and Ravens have been three of the more consistent teams in the entire NFL this past decade, and coming into this one they are all still hot. All three teams have sprinkled young talent here and there to keep their prolonged winning ways intact. The Jets have had a very up and down decade, but Rex Ryan has begun to lift them up to high standards the past two years. We will see both divisions battle it out for the proverbial rubber game in the Jets at the Patriots and the Ravens at the Steelers. The NFC is a far less interesting show. In one corner we have, unfortunately, the Seattle Seahawks going on the road to Soldier field in Chicago and in the other there stands the bout between the #1 seeded Atlanta Falcons hosting the hot Green Bay Packers. Lets get too it.

Baltimore Ravens at Pittsburgh Steelers
The first game of the week is by far the most intriguing in my opinion. The rubber match against arguably the two toughest teams in the league from the two toughest cities in the States. I’ve always loved the war analogy as it pertains to football, and apply it to two teams like this just gets me pumped. James Harrison, poster boy for the ludicrous anti-“hard hitting” platform, against Ray Lewis, the guy who will walk up to and tell you he is going to dominate you to your face… and then do it. Then we have Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu, the two best safeties in the NFL today (and theres no debate about it). These men are both complete stand up guys who dont speak up all that often, but my lord is their play loud. Both missed time this season due to injuries, and yet both players not only made the Pro Bowl roster, they start on it. These are but the most prominent defensive presences in this game, but lets not forget the warriors of Haloti Ngata, Casey Hampton, Dwan Landry, Ike Taylor, Terrell Suggs, James Farrior. The Steelers linebacking core, I mean lets be serious, all four of them could start for the Pro Bowl and you would hear little complaint. If these players don’t scream out war, I don’t know what does. These men are truly out to knock the other team flat on its back. These defenses came to battle for a third time, and this time its more important than ever. It is so exciting because these two teams epitomize the old school football persona. Their defenses hit hard and they are built from the trenches out. Both teams have great guys at the nose in Ngata and Hampton. Both teams have young and up incoming stars on the offensive line in Pouncey and Oher. Honestly, these teams are so similar its hard to say which has the better anything. Joe Flacco vs Ben Roethlisberger, Rashard Mendenhall vs Ray Rice, Anquan Boldin vs Mike Wallace, Todd Heap vs Heath Miller. I honestly don’t know who I would pick and choose from that lot. There are but three things that could give either team the edge in this game and determine the winner. The first is turnovers, who can win that battle? The answer is both, it just comes down to who capitalizes on them and gets them at opportune times. Let’s not forget Reed led the league in interceptions despite playing in only ten games (Polamalu is second by one with 14 games played). Next is the weaknesses of both teams. The Steelers have a leaky offensive line, and a battered one at that. The Ravens have a suspect cornerback corp. Which team is better suited to take advantage of the other’s weakness? Honestly? Both. The Ravens have Suggs, one of the best sack artists, and Ngata, one of the best penetrating nose tackles, to throw at that Steelers offensive line. Yes, Big Ben is known for his mobility and avoiding sacks… but how long can he last against these men? Then the Steelers have deep threat burner Mike Wallace to force the issue with the Ravens secondary that features Josh Wilson and Chris Carr. Let us delve deeper though. While both teams have ways to attack each other’s weakness, it is the Ravens that have the advantage. Yes, the Steeler’s Mike Wallace is a dangerous player against the likes of Josh Wilson, but lets take into account the Steelers O-line getting pushed around by the pass rush of the Ravens. Making Big Ben think on his feet will limit how often he can test the Ravens’ corners and could even be forced into a mistake in the form of the ever opportunistic Ed Reed. So the edge is to the Ravens, right? Yes and no. Logic says the Ravens should be victors Saturday, but lets not forget what happened in the last meeting of the North. Polamalu came up with the huge strip sack late in the game to help the Steelers to a 13-10 win. Troy is a wildcard, and quite frankly he defies logic. I still don’t know how he timed that snap so 100% to just leap over both lines to sack Kerry Collins on a QB sneak. If Troy can come up with the right play at the right time once again, the Steelers will head to the AFC championship bout, otherwise, this is the Ravens game to win. Watch out Joe Flacco.
Prediction: Ravens 17 – Steelers 14

Green Bay Packers at Atlanta Falcons
Is this really the Falcons year? Is Matt Ryan (I hate the nickname Matty Ice by the way) ready to lead this team to a Super Bowl? I can’t imagine he even knows, as much as he might think he can. Thats why eventually, Ryan will have a ring on that throwing hand of his. When is the real issue. The Falcons hit the ground running this year… figuratively. Michael Turner isn’t the big time back he was during Matt Ryan’s rookie campaign. The man is a bruiser, and I will always love backs like that. There is an obvious downside to being the guy that lowers his shoulder. The body wears down, quickly. Turner has been nicked up a lot over the years, and honestly, I think his play has diminished to a degree. He is still an above average back, but not quite the back he once was coming out of Tomlinson’s shadow. That okay though, because Matt Ryan and Roddy White have stepped up, in a big way. Those two put on a show this season, showing amazing chemistry. Atlanta is here now because of the performance of those two men. How will Ryan hold up against Clay Matthews when not even Mike Vick could escape him? How will White do against one of the better secondaries in the league that was able to contain the explosive DeSean Jackson? I’d say about as well as they did last time when Ryan threw for under 200 yards and White accounted for only 49 of them. The Falcons still won that game 20-17, proving they can win in other ways. It was the ineptness of the Packer running game that allowed the Falcons to come away with the win. If James Starks can show just a margin of what he did last week against the Eagles, the Packers will avenge their week 12 loss and remain hot.
Prediction: Packers 24 – Falcons 13

Seattle Seahawks at Chicago Bears
Well, didnt the Seahawks make the world look stupid last week. Can they do it again? Absolutely not. The Bears defense are monsters again and its time for Pete Carroll to go home. Mike Martz will scheme the hell out of anything Carroll will cook up on defense and Cutler will have one of his good days. Hassellbeck will suddenly realize that he is old and still very bald as he fails to get anything going against a motivated Brian Urlacher who realizes that his career needs that Super Bowl win, soon.
Prediction: Bears 27 – Seahawks 3

New York Jets at New England Patriots
Well my lord are the Patriots not the hottest team in all of sports right now? They have beaten every playoff team left save the Seahawks (7-9…). They demolished the Jets 45-3 in their last meeting. Plus they are at home, in the cold, after a bye, with a bulletin board chalk full of Rex motivating them? How could they lose? Well… how did they lose the first time? It is actually quite simple, Rex Ryan built his defense to play against New England’s offense… at the time. Rex knew how to defeat the Patriots offense with Randy Moss. He saw the 2007 Super Bowl, as Strahan, Tuck, and Umenyori used there talents to rattle Brady. So he went out and assembled his pass rushers. He saw Randy Moss go deep, beating his man. So he made Revis into an island and brought over Cromartie from San Diego. This Jets defense is built to beat the Patriots offense… the old one. I honestly believe, though I have no proof, that Bill Belichick traded Randy Moss for this reason. It wasn’t because he was declining, although I am positive that was a factor. The Patriots traded Moss to revolutionize their offense after their defeat to the Jets. Belichick transformed his offense into one that the Jets just arnt built for. The passing game is all about short, efficient passes in AR (After Randy). This eliminates the effectiveness of the patented Rex Ryan blitz. The plethora of receiving options makes Revis taking out just one man (doesnt matter who) irrelevant. Finally, they Jets have no one that can cover the tight end duo of Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. Oh, and did I mention the Patriots have their first 1000 yard rusher since Corey Dillion? This offense is tailor made to beat the Jets defense. Bill Belichick turned the tables on Rex Ryan this season, and the pure domination in the last bout showed by just how much. Ryan can run his mouth all he wants this week, but his team is in over their head.
Prediction: Patriots 31 – Jets 24