The Pittsburg Steelers may have clinched the AFC North title over their eternal rivals the Baltimore Ravens, and they may have even earned a first playoff-round bye, but with everything added and subtracted, they may still not like where they ended up: facing the Ravens in the second round of the playoffs on Saturday. Nothing really sums up the concerns of the team than the statement by QB Ben Roethlisberger, in which he said he hated playing the Ravens because they were just so damn good. The atmosphere on the other side of the barricade reflects just as much concern though, with LB Terrell Suggs calling the upcoming confrontation Armageddon, the final battle between good and evil. The game itself will look a lot like two heavyweights trading punches but not really managing to get anything spectacular going. The Steelers will have the advantage in this confrontation (sorry Baltimore fans), as their defensive unit is marginally better than the Ravens’ (ranking 1st in the league in rush defense and second in total defense). In addition, the Steelers have a well-rested Roethlisberger, who’s always done well against Baltimore, and Troy Palomalu who is always capable of pulling a big play out of nowhere. History is also on Pittsburgh’s side in this one for a whole bunch of reasons, so if I were to bet on this game I’d go with Pittsburgh and the under.
The other second round game held on Saturday is the Packers vs the Falcons, which is a radically different match-up than the above described one. The Packers are said to have a one-dimensional offense built around QB Aaron Rodgers. Rookie James Starks’ breakout game against the Eagles last week, in which he set a rookie postseason record, came in the nick of time for the Packers. The interesting thing to watch in this game is how the two defenses handle themselves. Atlanta’s 22nd ranked defense will have its hands full with Greg Jennings, while Green Bay’s 18th ranked defense will have to find a way to deal with the threat represented by Michael Turner. Where would a savvy bettor put his money in this one? Probably on the Packers and over.