Divisional round weekend: CSN's picks


Divisional round weekend: CSN's picks

By Ray Didinger

Breaking down the NFL's Divisional Roundweekend:

4:30 p.m. CBS

If you like old-fashioned, blood-and-guts football, this is the game for you. The Ravens and Steelers have a genuine rivalry, a real dislike for each other, primarily because they are so similar. They play twice every season in the AFC North, so there are no secrets or tricks. It's all about socking the other guy in the mouth for 60 minutes.

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They play close, low-scoring games six of the last seven have been decided by four points or fewer and there is no reason to expect this to be any different. But the Steelers have two big things going for them: they are playing at home and they will have Ben Roethlisberger at quarterback. The Ravens last three victories in the series came when Big Ben did not play.

Baltimores defense, led by middle linebacker Ray Lewis, is very good, but Pittsburghs defense is better. It allowed the fewest points in the NFL this season, led the league in sacks (48) and allowed an average of just 62.8 yards rushing per game, the lowest figure since the 16-game schedule was adopted in 1978.

Didinger's pick: Steelers 17, Ravens 13

GREEN BAY (11-6) at ATLANTA (13-3)
8 p.m. FOX

The Falcons are the No. 1 seed in the NFC and they have a formidable home-field advantage, but the Packers come into this game with momentum and confidence. While the Falcons coasted down the stretch, the Packers played three elimination games to get here. They had to defeat the Giants and Chicago to get into the playoffs then they had to win last Sunday in Philadelphia to advance to the divisional round.

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The Falcons defeated the Packers in the Georgia Dome in Week 12, but it was a close game (20-17) decided on a late field goal by Matt Bryant. The Packers are playing better now than they were then. Linebacker Clay Matthews, their defensive catalyst, played on a bad leg in that game and did not register a sack. He is healthy now. Also, the Packers are better because they found a running game in rookie James Sparks who ripped through the Eagles for 123 yards in the wild card game.

The best way to slow down the Green Bay offense is to put a heavy rush on quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but the Falcons arent a great pass rushing team (31 sacks). A key match up is defensive end John Abraham, Atlantas best pass rusher, working against the rookie tackle Brian Bulaga.

Didinger's pick: Packers 30, Falcons 24


SEATTLE (8-9) at CHICAGO (11-5)
1 p.m. FOX

This is the weekend's "no-respect" matchup. No one believes the Seahawks, a team with a losing record, are still alive in the final eight and few people outside Chicago believe in the Bears despite their No. 2 seed in the conference. But they are going to play anyway so well see what happens.

Checkoutpredictionmachine.com for analysis and forecast of the Seahawks-Bearsgame

The Seahawks defeated the Bears in Chicago in Week 6, 23-20, but that was when Mike Martz, the offensive coordinator, was calling plays like he was on a sugar high. He made Andy Reid look like Woody Hayes. In that game, Martz called 45 passes and just 14 runs and the Seattle defense teed off on quarterback Jay Cutler, sacking him six times. Martz has come to his sense since then and now mixes in enough runs by Matt Forte to keep the offense somewhat in balance and the Bears are a much better team.

Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck is coming off perhaps the best game of his career, throwing four touchdown passes in an unlikely 41-36 upset of New Orleans in the wild card round. Wide receiver Mike Williams had a monster game (10 catches, 123 yards) in the regular season win over the Bears. Can the Seahawks surprise us two weeks in a row? Not likely.

Didinger's pick: Bears 27, Seahawks 17

N.Y. JETS (12-5) at NEW ENGLAND (14-2)
4:30 p.m. CBS

Another matchup of bitter division rivals, this one with the verbal spice added by Jets coach Rex Ryan who this season talked enough trash to turn Staten Island into a landfill. Ryan has been talking Super Bowl for months and on Sunday, he faces his biggest hurdle when he meets the Patriots, the team with the best record in football.

Clickhere to see who predictionmachine.com picks to win the Patriots-Jets game,with complete statisticalbreakdown

The two teams split their regular season meetings. The Jets won at home in Week 2, 28-14, as they intercepted Tom Brady twice (two of just four interceptions Brady threw all season). But since then the Patriots have reinvented themselves, trading away Randy Moss and turning the offense over to some youthful no-names (Danny Woodhead, Rob Gronkowski, Aaron Hernandez) and trusty veterans (Wes Welker and Deion Branch).

This Patriots defense isnt as good as the ones coach Bill Belichick assembled during their earlier Super Bowl runs, it is younger and more prone to breakdowns, but with the way the offense is playing (averaging 32.4 points per game during the regular season) it almost doesnt matter.

The Jets are looking for revenge for the 45-3 embarrassment the Patriots inflicted on them last month on Monday Night Football, but I dont see it happening.

Didinger's pick:Patriots 30, Jets 20

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Ravens’ Suggs submits half-hearted effort at Brady snub

Terrell Suggs keeps doing his best to pump air into his one-sided “feud” with Tom Brady.

Ever since Brady begged for a flag on Suggs after a benign hit back in 2009, Suggs has made it his mission to speak truth to the perceived power of Brady.

“Everyone just seems to worship the guy so much,” he once said. “Not me, though.”

So, Suggs has called basically derided Brady as a crybaby and occasionally called into question the validity of the Patriots championships.

It’s clearly all for show. When Deflategate was at its height in June of 2015, Suggs said of Brady, “The guy is a winner. He’s won with whatever kind of personnel that he’s had. So I don’t think [Deflategate] really tarnished it … Everybody needs something to write about and needs something to talk about. It’s always something. I’m leaving that alone.”

This week, Suggs smirkingly refused to use Brady’s name when discussing the Patriots leading up to Monday night’s game.

Asked about Brady earning his 201st win as an NFL starter, Suggs said, "He's pretty good. Like I said, wins are wins and numbers are numbers. Numbers don't lie. He's pretty good."

Suggs went on, avoiding Brady’s name. It’s something he’s done in the past for whatever reason. But he’s also been complimentary of the Patriots and Brady as well, saying that, when it’s done, there will be three quarterbacks in the conversation for best-ever: Montana, Unitas and Brady. 

The only time Brady’s verbally stepped out against Suggs and the Ravens is in response to their barbs. In 2010, Brady stated that the Ravens, “Talk a lot for beating us once in nine years.”

Brady also chastised Ravens coach John Harbaugh – now there’s a guy who whines! – after the 2014 AFC Divisional Playoff Game when the Patriots snookered the Ravens with intricate formations. That’s about it for return fire.


One-sided feud: Brady praises Suggs for playmaking, instincts

One-sided feud: Brady praises Suggs for playmaking, instincts

FOXBORO -- Terrell Suggs kept up what has been a years-long campaign to mock Tom Brady's public perception by refusing to say Brady's name this week. 

Outside of a quick, "Talk a lot for beating us once in nine years" comment back in 2010, Brady has typically let the feud be one-sided. That continued on this week when Brady said the Ravens edge defender looked as good as ever during a Westwood One radio interview.

He continued his praise of Suggs during a press conference Thursday.

"I think every year, he's had pretty major injuries, and he comes back and looks like he didn't miss a beat," Brady said. "It's his 14th year, he's been a great player for as long as he's been in the league. I think he does a lot of things really well.

"He's got all the rush moves, he actually drops into coverage, he bats down balls, he butchers the tight ends coming off the line of scrimmage. He's really a playmaker for their team. It's not just sacking the quarterback, probably like most defensive ends. He makes plays in a lot of ways. I've seen him intercept slip screens, jumping up and picking [Ben] Roethlisberger off going the other way. 

"I think he has great instincts. He definitely plays with his instincts. If he feels like the ball's going to go inside, he rips inside and tries to take it away even though that's not his assignment. I think 99 percent of the time, the ball goes inside. I think he just has great instincts for what he's doing.

"You can't ever really count on the same thing from him. I think you just try to play him straight up and see what he's going to do because I think he makes a lot of really good decisions out there and he makes a lot of plays."

Brady didn't say Suggs' name during the course of his answer, but he left no doubt that there's a level of respect there for his game. 

I think all these games are kind of the same. I just look at the opp and look at what they do. The only thing that matters is what we do this week of practice and in the game. I think you just try to put everything aside and, whether it was that or whether it was playoff game a couple years ago, whether it was the rs game a couple years ago or C games, none of those really nmatter. It's really going to be about what this team does this week and like I said, coach will try to put a lot of urgerncy on that. We understand that. We know we're facing a team that's 7-5, their at the top of their division. They have a lot of conf in what they do and wso do we. It's going to be a good, tough matchup.