SGN Editor Matt Loede’s NFL Picks for the Divisional Round


Regular Season: 156-97

Four games to decide who does battle for the right to go to Super Bowl XLV, and it’s down to some big games between some big rivals. Here’s my picks for the four games this weekend.

Saturday:

Baltimore at Pittsburgh – It’s the third meeting between these two heated rivals, and almost every so called expert in the league states this is the best rivaly in the NFL. Bottom line – it is, and this game will again be a battle of who can be more physical and make more big plays. The Steelers have a big advantages in they are the fresher team, getting last week off while the Ravens did have to play a game in Kansas City.

The Steelers have played very well in home divisional games, and usually come out swinging, like they did against the Ravens in the divisional matchup in 2001 and the AFC Title game in 2008. Ben Roethlisberger has beaten the Ravens the last six times the two teams have played, and while the Ravens promise this time it will be different, the Steelers seemed determined to make sure that it won’t happen. Add in a near 100 percent Troy Polmalu, and the Steelers will be heading to the AFC Title game next Sunday. Pittsburgh 24 Baltimore 13

Green Bay at Atlanta – Last week the Pack finally overcame the stigma of not being able to win a big playoff game, holding Mike Vick in check and winning in Philly. Now they go to Atlanta to play the NFC’s #1 seed, and it seems that everyone is picking the Packers. Green Bay does have a run game that has finally started to show itself with a big game from James Starks last week, and if he and Aaron Rodgers can again pace the offense, there’s no doubt that the Packers have a great shot here.

This game could really come down to the two QB’s and what each defense does to stop them. Matt Ryan is going to be counted on to not make mistakes and keep the Falcons offense on the field. Atlanta has a good mix with Michael Turner and Roddy White, and their defense is vastly underrated. It’s going to be a very close affair, but I will go out on a limb and say what almost all the experts think, Green Bay will have the last big play to pull out a win to move on and send Atlanta to the offseason. Green Bay 31 Atlanta 27

Sunday:

Seattle at Chicago – Earlier this year the Hawks topped the Bears in Chicago, but the Bears are a very different team this time around. Their O-line has done a much better job in protecting Jay Cutler, and you can bet that the Bears will not go 0 for 12 on third downs like last time, and will run a lot more than 14 times for 61 yards. Cutler is playing his first playoff game, and their could be some butterflies, but he has shown down the stretch enough to win 5 in a row and 7 of 8.

The Seahawks played their best game of the year last week in their 41-36 win over the Saints, and will need to do the same to pull off the upset here. Look for Chicago to pressure Matt Hasselbeck and hold Marshawn Lynch in check. The Bears won’t let Hasselbeck much time to throw, and with that he’ll probably be on his back and will turn the ball over at least twice. The Bears are playing too well to overlook the Hawks, and they will move on to host the Packers next Sunday. Chicago 28 Seattle 13

New York Jets at New England – Rex Ryan has talked all week about it being between he and Bill Belichick, but by the time it’s over, the Jets team will be the one run over by a Pats team that is going to do whatever they can to shut up the loud boastful Jets. New York did enough to overcome the Colts last week, but this Pats team is one that has been the best in the league all year, and they showed that with their 42-point win over them a month and a week ago at home.

Ryan thinks that he and his staff have done enough to pull off the upset, but I can’t see it. Tom Brady is not going to suddenly falter, and he and the Pats have sat back and listened all week while the Jets have talked about this time it being different. Look for New England to again force mistakes from Mark Sanchez, and it won’t be so cozy for Braylon Edwards and Santonio Holmes to catch passes. New England has been the most consistent team all season, Belichick is foaming at the mouth to finally get a chance to shut up Ryan for the offseason. New England 34 New York Jets 17

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