Jeff Boswell's Blog

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Baltimore @ Pittsburgh (-3??)

It's round three of the 2010 season's Baltimore/Pittsburgh saga, with a trip to the AFC championship on the line. The two teams split in the regular season, with the Ravens taking a 17-14 win in Pittsburgh, and the Steelers evening the score 13-10 in Baltimore. The Ravens won impressively last week in Kansas City 30-7, forcing 5 turnovers while thoroughly dominating the Chiefs.

"That's a hard-hitting performance the Ravens can be proud of," said Ray Lewis. "We earned a 'feather in our cap,' and after some big 'bird' hits on the Chiefs left their mark, some Chiefs got a 'feather on their cap.' The domination was so thorough that we've already claimed ownership of Arrowhead Stadium, and given it back. And I hear they've just legalized gambling in Kansas City.

I can only describe our defensive effort as 'ruthless.' The Steelers know exactly what that's all about, particularly Ben Roethlisberger. 'Ruth-less' is also what he gets when he asks a chick named 'Ruth' on a date. But enough with the nonsense. Saturday's game will be a battle of epic proportions, pitting the 'irresistible force' against the 'immovable object.' Often in Pittsburgh, that 'irresistible force' is the unwanted advances of Big Ben, and the 'immovable object' is a bathroom door.

But we know our defense is a constant. It's not going anywhere. And before last week's game, I could have said the same about our offense. However, Joe Flacco looked comfortable in the pocket, which is understandable since Troy Polamalu doesn't play for the Chiefs. And it helps Joe to have the 'Human Check Down,' Ray Rice, to bail him out when needed.

The Steelers enjoyed a bye week as the AFC's No. 2 seed, and will be at full strength when the Ravens invade. An extra week of rest was most beneficial to Roethlisberger and Troy Polamalu, the anchors of the Steeler offense and defense, respectively.

"We've got playmakers on both sides of the ball," Mike Tomlin said. "Troy is imperative to our defense, as a tackler, blitzer, and field general. But mostly, his ability to force turnovers makes him important to the offense, as well. By that same token, Ben is important, obviously to the offense, but to our defense as well, with his ability to scramble and keep plays alive, thus extending drives and keeping our defense off the field. I wouldn't go so far as to name Ben a 'defendant,' although it's been suggested. But I'd like to congratulate Ben on his engagement. It seems that this time, though, Big Ben's gone a 'court-in' and left his lawyer at home.

The Ravens have never lacked for confidence, and they certainly won't after a convincing win over the Chiefs. But if they think they can come to Heinz Field and expect us to be intimidated, I can only answer them in this way: 'That's 'No,' Raven.'"

Baltimore's Terrell Suggs has suggested that Saturday's Ravens/Steelers clash will be like "Armageddon." As they say, nothing heralds the arrival of hard-hitting January divisional playoff football like a comparison to global annihilation, and a CBS pre-game expos?? on the rivalry, sound-tracked by Def Leppard's "Armageddon It" and narrated by Morgan Freeman. Jim Nantz asks Phil Simms "Are you gettin' it?" To which Simms replies, "Yes, armageddon it." And it's on.

As expected, the NFL's divisional opener is marked by in-your-face physicality, cheap shots, and limited forward progress, much like NFL labor negotiations. James Harrison incurs the league's first in-game fine when he is docked $12,500 for driving Flacco's face into the Heinz Field turf early in the game. Flacco picks the grass out of his teeth, lamenting the "unnecessary roughage" call, but recovers to find Todd Heap for 13-yard score and an early 7-0 Ravens lead. The Ravens lead throughout, but the game turns when Mike Wallace slips behind the Baltimore defense, and Roethlisberger connects for a 48-yard score. Pittsburgh wins, 17-13, and the "Ben-Wa- Ball" joins the "Immaculate Reception" as one of the greatest moments in Steelers history.

Green Bay @ Atlanta (-1)

The Packers completed a successful weekend for No. 6 seeds, toppling the third-seeded Eagles 21-16 in Philadelphia to advance to the divisional round for a Saturday night showdown against the top-seeded Falcons. Aaron Rodgers threw for 180 yards and 3 touchdowns, and a late turnover doomed the Eagles, as well as two missed field goals by David Akers.

"I hear they're calling Akers the 'Philly Erratic,'" said Rodgers. "If he were a ship, they'd call him 'Akers Away.' How badly did he miss? By acres. If he were a New York Met third baseman, they'd call him 'David Right.' Collectively, Akers and 68,000 disappointed Eagles fans are called 'Kicking and Screaming.' If he were a trailer, he'd be a 'double-wide.' Akers was taken to Lincoln Financial Field's in-house court and charged with 'failure to appear.' As it is, Akers may now be the best-known 'hooker' in Philadelphia.

It's great to get my first playoff win. I feel like a heavy burden has been lifted from my shoulders, as though I just had a massage. Finally, I can retire the talk of my inability to win a playoff game. The monkey is off my back, and that's big news. No, I didn't get a congratulatory phone call from Brett Favre. Nevertheless, I still sent him a text message photo of me 'spanking the monkey.' No doubt it was then forwarded to someone affiliated with the Jets organization."

The Falcons may be the NFL's most-offensively balanced team, with equally-potent passing and running games, but their defense may be the deciding factor in a successful playoff run. The Falcon defense will be pressed to contain Rodgers and the Packers dangerous passing game. Rodgers threw for 344 yards and a touchdown in Week 12, a game won 20-17 by the Falcons.

"Matt Ryan is not married to a supermodel; he's not a marketing machine; he's never been accused of sexual misconduct; his text messages are comprised of just that - text. If anything, he's guilty of underexposure. Heck, I don't think anyone's seen his weiner. But he is cool under pressure, which is the only time he's cool. They call him 'Matty Ice,' because 'Vanilla Ice' was already taken.

But enough with the small talk. Sure, the Packers are a dangerous team. Like us, they have the offense to keep up in a shootout, the defense to maintain in a low-scoring affair, and a coach with a sterling reputation, yet nothing to show for it. I'm already 0-1 in the playoffs, and a loss would burden me with the title of the coach who not only can't win the 'big one,' but can't win the 'one.'"

The Falcons will look to establish their ground game with Michael Turner, but to keep pace with the Packers, they'll need an offense that moves in more than three-yard increments. You've heard of the "five-yard chuck;" Turner's squatty build and yards per rush average have earned him the nickname "Three-Yard Chunk." The Packers score early and often, forcing the Falcons into a shootout. Rodgers throws for 312 yards and 3 scores, and the Packers win, 30-27.

Seattle @ Chicago (-9??)

The Seahawks earned a date at Soldier Field, and a measure of respect, with a wild 41-36 win over the Saints last week, sending the defending Super Bowl champs packing. Marshawn Lynch's incredible 67-yard touchdown run, in which he broke several tackles, gave the Seahawks an 11-point lead and effectively clinched the win.

"Who's not repeating as Super Bowl champions?" said Pete Carroll. "I think they pronounce it 'Naw Orleans' down in Louisiana. Call them the 'former' champs, and Lynch surely put an ex-clamation point on their demise. Marshawn is finally getting the recognition he deserves. The kid always runs hard, whether it's going towards the end zone or away from a crime scene. He shows total disregard for his body, as well as would-be tacklers and innocent bystanders.

Now, we're not going to Chicago satisfied with one playoff win. We're looking for more. If there's any talk of the Super Bowl in Chicago, we plan on hushing it. We call that our 'Super Bowl Shhhhhhhhh-uffle.' I hear that Terrell Owens likes our chances. Nice try, T.O. to ingratiate yourself to the Seahawks. I like your chances, not to be a Seahawk next year."

The 11-5 Bears will be well-rested for the Seahawks, with thoughts of avenging a week 6 23-20 loss to Seattle in Chicago. In that game, Jay Cutler was sacked 6 times, and Lynch debuted as a Seahawk with a touchdown run.

"That was a long time ago," Lovie Smith said, "when people were still deciding whether or not the Bears were a good team. Well, they're still deciding. Anyway, we don't fear the Seahawks. I believe they fear us though, because they're the ones 'quaking.' Sure, the Seahawks are coming here with loads of momentum, and the swagger that comes with an 8-9 record. I would say they're playing like a team that has 'nothing to lose.' That's an understatement. As 9 loses would suggest, they're playing like a team that has 'nothing more to lose.'

Six sacks is certainly unacceptable, but that all happened when Cutler was learning a new offense. It's called 'learning on the fly,' and sometimes, that can be painful. In other words, 'That's Martz.' Mike Martz, that is, who is the genius behind our offense when it flourishes, and an easy mark to blame when it sputters.

But this is Chicago. Defense wins championships, and makes cult heroes out of marginal talents. We like to think we have the very same ingredients that made the 1985 Bears great: defense, and marginal talents. Jim McMahon quarterback that great Chicago team to the Super Bowl. Not only was he cool on the field, but he also showed the ability to moon a hovering helicopter. So, Cutler is at least like McMahon in one respect; that being a tendency to 'crack' under pressure."

In their previous meeting, the Bears got no pressure on Hasselbeck. That will change on Sunday, when Julius Peppers, as he often does when a nationwide audience is watching, dominates. Peppers sacks Hasselbeck on Seattle's first possession, then lays a big hit on the Seahawk in the second quarter, causing a fumble and knocking Hasselbeck out of the game. Cutler stymies the Seattle defense with designed rollouts and quick slant patterns.

Chicago wins, 27-10.

NY Jets @ New England (-9)

The Jets won 17-16 in Indianapolis last week, avenging last year's AFC Championship Game loss and setting up a third battle with AFC East rival and top-seeded New England. Nick Folk's 32-yard field goal as time expired won it for New York, trumping Adam Vinatieri's 50-yard kick less than a minute earlier.

"I said earlier it was 'personal' against the Colts," said Rex Ryan. "I was wrong. Actually, it was 'personnel.' Thanks to head coach Jim Caldwell for calling a timeout with 29 seconds left, which helped make Nick Folk's game-winning field goal attempt a 32-yarder instead of a 50-yarder. That was likely the difference in saying 'Oh, Folk!' and something else. I'm amazed that Caldwell 'dropped the ball,' as opposed to Braylon Edwards.

It won't be easy returning to Gillette Stadium, site of our worst defeat this season. If we have any fear, we need to overcome it. All I can do is tell my guys to take a deep breath, relax, and then make sure I tell them to 'exhale,' and not 'blow out.'"

The Patriots begin the quest for their fourth Super Bowl win against a Jets team they whipped 45-3 in early December. A playoff win over New York won't come as easily, so Bill Belichick has the Patriots focused and taking nothing for granted.

"The great thing about preparing for a division opponent," said Belichick, "is that you have lots of film to view. Whether being filmed with their knowledge or not, the Jets always make good subjects. Let me tell you, we've watched more Jets film in the last two weeks than ever before. In fact, we're experiencing information overload, which is, as one would expect, a byproduct of viewing Rex and Mrs. Ryan's infamous 'foot fetish' videos. It's what you would call a 'sur-feet' of information. When the Ryan's really want to get freaky, they call in the 'podiatrix.'

"And speaking of 'foot fetishes,' we won't be sucked into a war of words with Ryan and the Jets. To be fair, 'trash talk' is the lone aspect of the matchup in which everyone can agree the Jets have the edge. They're the best at 'verbal sparring,' just as Santonio Holmes was best at 'herbal sparring' on his street corner in Belle Glade, Florida. Let's be clear: we plan to go 'toe-to-toe' with the Jets only in a figurative sense.

"Ryan's boisterous bravado is just a ploy to take the pressure off of Mark Sanchez, whose passer rating often hovers around the temperature. But I'm on to Rex's game. In reality, Rex has placed all the pressure on Sanchez. Ryan's challenged Sanchez to beat the Patriots. We're taking it one step further. We're going to dare Sanchez to beat us."

Brady comes out firing, targeting his new nemesis Antonio Cromartie on three straight passes, all completions, two to Deion Branch, and one directly to Cromartie's crotch, where the magic happens. Stocks in companies that provide paternity tests plummet the following day. Brady, in fact, has been called worse than "****," mostly by Bridget Moynahan, and it didn't bother him then. As Brady passes Cromartie heading to the bench, he calmly and politely tells the Jet that "ring" is a four-letter word.

Brady hits Aaron Hernandez for an 11-yard touchdown strike, staking the Patriots to a lead they never relinquish. As the clock winds down, the Gillette Stadium pays tribute to a soon-to-be dated NFL rule, and one that made their dynasty possible, when they chant "We Will, We Will, Tuck You!"

New England wins, 27-14.

January 14, 2011  01:23 PM ET

I pretty much agree with your picks this week, although I wonder about the Seattle Chicago game. Seattle surprised the hell out of me last weekend. Guess it depends on which Cutler shows up.

January 14, 2011  08:49 PM ET

I pretty much agree with your picks this week, although I wonder about the Seattle Chicago game. Seattle surprised the hell out of me last weekend. Guess it depends on which Cutler shows up.

Seattle was at home against a beat up Saints team that couldn't run the ball, the Bears @ home are a completly different animal ! I think the Bears win by 2 TD's .......


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