The League

Michael Bean
Steelers Blogger

Michael Bean

Michael is the founder and editor of Behind the Steel Curtain.

Take your pick on a loaded weekend

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What a treat NFL fans are in for this coming weekend. The Divisional Round of the 2010 NFL Playoffs features an outstanding quartet of games, and all four have varied but equally interesting storylines.

Let's start with what I personally consider the least interesting of the four games, Sunday's early-afternoon NFC tilt between the No. 2 seed Chicago Bears and the No. 6 seed upstart Seattle Seahawks. Sure, Seattle's Wild Card win over the defending champion Saints was improbable, impressive, and downright entertaining. It was also a great reminder of why we love the NFL and sports in general. But it's not like we're talking about a No. 16 seed beating a No. 1 seed in March Madness. This is the NFL where the margin between the best and worst is ridiculously small. And Seattle was playing at home. So anyway, it's a nice story, but let's see them win one more - on the road this time - before we consider them a full-fledged and historic Cinderella story. I'll be cheering for them like crazy for no other reason than that I love the underdog as much as the next guy. But I don't see it happening for Pete Carroll & Co. at Soldier Field. In fact, don't be surprised when the Bears crush Seattle and finally start getting some respect from folks heading into the NFC Championship Game.

I'm an AFC guy predominantly, so I personally wouldn't consider the Packers-Falcons game in Atlanta to be in contention as 'most intriguing'. But this is a great game featuring two of the conference's best quarterbacks. Green Bay reminds me a little bit of the 2005 Steelers team that won it all. Not in their style of play, but rather how both sneaked into the playoffs as the No. 6 seed with a late-season wining streak. The Steelers, a plodding methodical rushing team that year, then turned to the passing game in the playoffs and ripped off three straight road wins to advance on to Super Bowl XL. Conversely, the Packers have relied on Aaron Rodgers and the passing game all year. Yet in last Sunday's win over the Eagles, they mixed things up and turned to the run. Rookie James Starks had 23 carries on the afternoon, which is more carries than Brandon Jackson had in a single game all season long. Can the Packers stay hot and replicate what the Steelers and Giants did as No. 6 seeds in '05 and '07? I'm not sure about winning it all, but with the Saints now out of the way, I like Green Bay to win the NFC.

Now, with the NFC out of the way, to the real debate. Which of the two AFC tilts is more intriguing?

Well, I believe that the Steelers-Ravens is the best rivalry in the NFL since the turn of the century. Some might argue Colts-Patriots and that's just fine. But for my money, the hard-hitting blood baths between the Steelers and Ravens elevates their rivalry to a different level in today's NFL, where the rules are designed to favor offensive production and keep quarterbacks' shirts clean at all times. Here are a few notes about how good and how tight the series has been between the two AFC North foes.

  • The last three contests have all been decided by three points.
  • In the teams' two meetings this year, the combined score was, not surprisingly, dead even at 27-27.
  • Also of note is the fact that Baltimore and Pittsburgh own the two best postseason records in NFL history.
  • Of course, the Ravens have a far less rich history than the Steelers, but they're 9-5 record (.643) is still impressive.
  • The Steelers meanwhile are 31-19 (.620) in postseason play. I absolutely cannot wait for the next chapter in the rivalry to be written Saturday afternoon.

Despite all of that, I'd have to say the Jets-Patriots matchup is more intriguing to vast majority of fans out there. The definition of intriguing is 'engaging the interest to a marked degree'. To me personally, the Steelers game is of course more important and interesting. In fact, if the Steelers lose on Saturday, I might be too downtrodden to even tune in on Sunday. But for the millions of fans across the country and world whose team is not alive and playing this weekend, there's no question that the Jets-Patriots game has more engaging sub-plots.

There's Rex Ryan the bold, brash, loud-mouthed coach vs. Bill Belichick the enigmatic, soft-spoken genius; there are two star, media darling quarterbacks - one a former sixth-rounder who now has four SB rings, the other the No. 1 overall pick in 2008 who's been up and down in his play all season; there's future Hall of Famer, LaDainian Tomlinson, trying to make it to the Super Bowl for the first time after countless failed attempts in San Diego; and both are undeniably polarizing teams that fans love to either root for or cheer passionately against. And finally, just like the Ravens and Steelers, there's no love lost between the two.

So take your pick. There's no wrong or right answer. And that's a great thing for NFL fans and writers far and wide. Should be a great weekend of games! Enjoy.

Go Steelers!

By Michael Bean  |  January 12, 2011; 10:40 AM ET  | Category:  Atlanta Falcons , Baltimore Ravens , Chicago Bears , Green Bay Packers , New England Patriots , New York Jets , Pittsburgh Steelers , Playoffs , Seattle Seahawks Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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Slap me with a wet noodle and call me Sally! I cannot wait for 1630 on Saturday and will have on all my good luck 'lers gear. This is the same feeling I used to get as a child the night before a trip to Kennywood.

Posted by: the_proph | January 12, 2011 11:13 AM

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