AFC DIVISIONAL ROUND: Patriots vs. Ravens

Man oh man, did the Steelers ever miss the services of Leveon Bell against the dreaded North rival Baltimore Ravens. It wasn’t the clash that it normally seems to be when these two get together, but it wasn’t tennis either. I thought the Steel curtain pedigree would eventually win out, but Joe Flacco’s pedigree (in the post-season) was to rule the day; and rule it did. Say what they want, the one team in this post season (any post-season for that matter) the vaunted Patriots did not want to see is these Ravens. Why?  Because home field advantage can be a disadvantage when facing off against the Ravens.

Ravens @ Patriots:  Brady vs. Dumervil & Suggs is what this matchup will ultimately come down to. Brady has a knack for taking lesser-knowns and making more out of them than the law should allow, and knowing how, and when to use ” The Gronk”  should the situation arise. Ray Lewis is no longer the anchor of a defense that is known for being formidable, but Suggs and Dumervil seems to have picked up the slack quite nicely. Brett Favre may have gotten most of the fanfare, and Desmond Howard the MVP (SB XXXI), but is was the pass-rushing ability of the late Reggie White that set the tone. Because the Ravens have probably the best pass-rushing duo of any team left in this year’s post-season, I pick: Ravens.

AFC Wild Card Round

Now that the pretenders are out of the way, the stage is now set for the remaining six contenders to duke it out for the right to represent the AFC in Super Bowl XLIX (49).  I know most people will tell you the “Braytriots” are the obvious choice, but it’s the AFC North that continues to be the litmus test come playoff time. How else do you explain half of this year’s playoff contestants from the North?  While you chew on that last tidbit, here are the proclamations to endcap another eventful NFL season.

WILD CARD ROUND:

Ravens @ Steelers: This is a real ‘Clash of the Titans’ if there ever was one. When these two square off, a catastrophe is soon to follow. Both have lost games this season (at home) that made you think they were on the way to dismal finishes, and yet here they are in the playoffs; a place where their pedigree is unquestioned. PICK: I CAN’T;  Whoever wins may end up going all the way.

Bengals @ Colts:  Is it time for Dalton to prove he’s playoff ready?  YES!!   It’s also time for the Colts to show that the Trent Richardson deal was not a mistake. PICK: Bengals, cause Colts have Richardson and DQwell Jackson.

NFL 2014 Teams to watch: AFC

With the 2014 NFL season just around the corner, here’s my take on which teams (by conf) to watch this upcoming season. I’ll throw in a “sleeper pick” for fun.  Up first, the AFC:

Patriots: We all know the Pats start and end with Bill, Brady, and Kraft. While the lore surrounding this team is most deserving, for all of who the Patriots are supposed to be, this squad having won 3 out of 7 Super Bowl appearances is paltry according to the ” Patriot way.” With Brady, Pats’ are a sure bet to get back to the playoffs, but I can’t honestly say the Pats’ are the sure bet they once were in winning it all.

Ravens:  Putting the unfortunate Ray Rice situation aside, Ravens are, and will always be a force in the (AFC) North. They don’t rebuild, they reload! A down year for the Ravens would be a season ticket sellout for the Cleveland Browns- unfortunately. The Ravens “infrastructre” is a rarity  shared by only a few teams in the NFL, which is why they seem to always be- without fail- in the post-season conversation. Although I’m still a Browns fan (for entertainment purposes only),  I believe the Ravens will come out of the allways tough AFC North. Even with the much maligned Flacco, Ravens are more than a solid pick to represent the AFC in this year’s Super Bowl.

Broncos: No doubt Peyton deserves the adulation for all his ” statistical accomplishments”, but it’s very alarming that said stats don’t measure up come post-season time. Twice during his tenure has he put up phenominal regular season numbers, only to have it all disappear when it it matters most. His lone Super Bowl victory is undeniable, but his 8-point offensive output against the Seahawks was deplorable! If he truly is as good as advertised. I don’t dislike Peyton, but too often have I seen him make gradeschool mistakes (throwing back across his body) that a palyer of his caliber just should not do. Can the Broncos’ get to another SB?  Yes.  Am I  thoroughly convinced because they have Peyton that they will? Absolutely not; Broncos’ title hopes for this season goes as Peyton goes.

Colts: Luck, Luck, Luck, AND MORE LUCK!  With Andrew, Colts’ have a legit shot if nothing else, on making the playoffs. This cat is a pro’s pro simply because of his work ethic and understanding of what it takes to play quarterback at the NFL level. With some quiet talent at the skill positions (Hakeem Nicks, Ahmad Bradshaw, T.Y. Hilton), and possible return of the ” more often than not” reliable Reggie Wayne, this Colts squad is solid and durable. Besides, one can’t find a villanous reason to root against them. Don’t know har this team will go, but watching them this season will be worth the price of addmission.

Chiefs: It’s now, or never for the Andy Reid express down in the K.C.; There’s enough talent on this squad on both sides of the ball that last year’s playoff exit should’ve not only left a bad taste, but an eagerness to make amends. Time for Alex Smith to take the next step, and Anthony Fasano could end up being one of the top fantasy picks of the season.

Sleepers:

Jets: If Rex and co. can figure out the qb situation, Jets will be a tough out for just about anybody they play.

Dolphins: Now that the Incognito/Martin fiasco is in the rearview, Phins’ can get back to the business of developing the likes of Tannehill, Wallace, and Lamar Miller.

Jags: My favorite of the sleepers, I’m biased when it comes to Bortles; I feel the Browns (my team) should have found a way to get this guy instead.  Nonetheless, if Jags some how manage to come out on the plus side of their early season contests against Eagles, Skins, Colts, and Chargers, fans beware!

 

Those are my teams’ to watch, who are yours?  Let us know at http://www.theshopreport.com

UP NEXT: The NFC