Le’Veon Bell breaks out, offense can’t catch up in Ravens 26-9 loss to Steelers

BALTIMORE — Steelers running back Le’Veon Bell skipped most of training camp because of a contract dispute with the Steelers. That showed throughout the first few weeks, with Bell failing to record 100 rushing yards in the first three weeks of the season. On Sunday, Bell finally broke out, dashing for 144 yards and two touchdowns in the Steelers’ 26-9 win over the Ravens.

For the second week in a row, the Ravens’ offense got shutout in the first half. In the opening 30 minutes, Baltimore punted four times, missed a field goal, and turned it over when Alex Collins fumbled on a run play. The ineptness of the Ravens’ offense led to a 19-0 Pittsburgh lead, and the Ravens never dug themselves out off the hole created in the first half.

The Steelers, now 3-1, take first place in the AFC North. The Ravens fall to 2-2 and occupy second place. The Bengals, now 1-3, man third place, and the Browns come in last at 0-4.

The Steelers got their 19 points on two touchdowns (with a failed two-point conversion) and two field goals. The Ravens began the game with the ball, but punted after six plays. Pittsburgh got the ball on their own 3-yard line and answered with a 16-play, 84-yard drive that ate up 10:23 of clock. Bell was all over the place on this drive, rushing for 59 yards and catching two passes for 20 yards. Baltimore made a stop when it counted, and forced the Steelers to settle for a 30-yard Chris Boswell field goal for their first points of the afternoon.

On their second drive of the second quarter, the Steelers doubled their lead with a 49-yarder from Boswell. On the ensuing Baltimore drive, Collins fumbled the football and defensive end Cameron Heyward picked it up to give the Steelers the ball at the. Ravens’ 32-yard line. On a 2nd-and-15 play, Ben Roethlisberger linked with tight end Jesse James for 15 yards. Bell and rookie running back James Conner combined for 13 yards in two carries to get the ball on the goal line. From there, Bell ran it in, scoring the first touchdown of the game with 3:24 to go in the first half.

Baltimore’s offense, much maligned by injuries and poor play, responded with a three-and-out and gave the Steelers the ball right back. With 2:13 to go in the first half, and the ball on their own 30-yard line, the Steelers marched down the field. Roethlisberger found receiver Martavis Bryant twice for gains of 24 and 19 yards, setting Pittsburgh up on the Ravens’ 11-yard line. After an incomplete pass attempt to Bell, Big Ben connected with rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster for his lone touchdown pass on the afternoon. The Steelers tried to give themselves a three-touchdown lead with a two-point conversion attempt, but they did not come up with it.

Last week in London, Baltimore trailed 23-0 at halftime. The deficit was four points less than last week, but the Ravens needed a quick spark on offense to begin the second half. The Steelers collected the latter half kickoff, but Roethlisberger got intercepted on the third play of the opening drive. Receiver Antonio Brown could not complete the catch, and as he was tackled by cornerback Jimmy Smith, the ball popped into the air. Safety Eric Weddle capitalized, catching the football and taking it back to the end zone. However, after a review, the refs called it a fumble, but gave Baltimore the ball at Pittsburgh’s 18-yard line. The Ravens did not gain any yardage, and received their first points of the game off a 42-yard field goal by Justin Tucker.

On the ensuing Pittsburgh drive, Boswell missed a 44-yard field goal. Baltimore responded with a three-play touchdown drive that featured a 50-yard run by Collins. Following an incomplete pass, Joe Flacco threw a 16-yard pass to Mike Wallace for a touchdown. The Ravens went for two points with a handoff to Terrance West. The attempt was initially ruled good, but after review, the ruling got changed to no good. Baltimore would not score for the remainder of the game.

In the fourth quarter, Flacco threw two bad interceptions, with the latter leading to Pittsburgh’s third touchdown of the game. That second interception occurred with 5:37 to go in the game, essentially ending it with Pittsburgh owning a 10-point lead. On the seven-play drive, Bell recorded a 21-yard run, and punched the ball in from one yard out. Boswell’s extra point put Pittsburgh up 26-9 with 2:26 remaining, a 17-point difference.

Flacco has now thrown an interception in 10 straight games for the Ravens, which leads the NFL. He went 31-for-49 on Sunday, throwing for 235 yards. Roethlisberger completed 18 passes on 30 attempts for 216 yards. Along with Bell’s 144 rushing yards, Collins led the Ravens with 82 yards on nine carries. Bryant led Pittsburgh receivers with 48 receiving yards. Bell & Brown caught four passes apiece, but did not match Bryant’s 48 yards. 42 reception yards for Bell gave him 186 total yards from scrimmage. Wallace led Baltimore receivers with 55 yards and a touchdown on six receptions.

On defense, Ryan Shazier finished with 11 tackles (10 solo) and one tackle-for-loss. Pittsburgh’s defense combined for four sacks – Heyward with two, Mike Hilton with one, and Bud Dupree & Stephon Tuitt combining for the last one. Hilton and Shazier registered interceptions.

C.J. Mosley led the Ravens with 12 tackles (10 solo) and two tackles-for-loss. Lardarius Webb tallied Baltimore’s only sack.

Pittsburgh out-gained Baltimore 381-288 on offense. The Steelers converted 22 first downs, and the Ravens had 18. The Steelers ran 73 plays on offense, and the Ravens ran 68. In the penalties department, eight penalties for 60 yards got called against Pittsburgh, and six penalties for 55 yards were called against Baltimore. The Steelers won the time-of-possession battle, 35:29-24:31.

Coming up next week, both teams will play on Sunday, Oct. 8. The Steelers tangle with the Jacksonville Jaguars, now 2-2, at 1:00 EST from Heinz Field. The Ravens head out west to face the Oakland Raiders, which begins at 4:05 pm EST.

Image Credit: TribLIVE

 

 

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Preview: Ravens and Steelers #47

BALTIMORE – Yes, you read the title right. Sunday, Oct. 1st marks the 47th time the Black & Purple have taken on the Black & Yellow. Its been back and forth for so many years, but recently (starting back in 2010) the Ravens have been running the show with a 10-6 record against their biggest rival. The Ravens look to bounce back from last week’s stinker in London and take firm control of the rugged AFC North.

After a confidence-shattering loss on Christmas Day last year, Baltimore has faith in its squad to get adequate revenge on the opponent that effectively removed them from playoff contention. Pittsburgh has gotten off to a rather sluggish start this season. The Steelers lost in overtime last week to the Chicago Bears, who used their patented “Thunder and Lightning” combination of Jordan Howard and Tarik Cohen to trample Pittsburgh and make their defense look like a wet paper towel, a far cry from the Steel Curtain of old. The Bears RBs last week combined for 218 yards on the ground and two touchdowns.

Things To Look For:

  1. Steelers’ Front Seven: After getting gashed by the Bears last week, Pittsburgh is going to want to tighten up ship if they will be able to shut down second-year upstart Alex Collins. The Ravens’ offense may be ranked 32nd right now, but the way the Steelers defense has played recently, Baltimore faithful should have something to hope for.
  2. Ravens Front Seven: After an abysmal performance last week where the absent Brandon Williams was sorely missed, the Ravens allowed 410 total yards (ironic, isn’t it?). With Williams still not a slam dunk to play, and young star Brent Urban on IR now with a Lisfranc injury, young bucks Bronson Kaufusi and Chris Wormley will be heavily relied on to stop Le’Veon Bell.
  3. Ravens Offensive Line: Joe Flacco was pummeled last week (5 QB hits, 2 sacks). The Marshal Yanda – sized hole is not going to be filled until he returns next season, which means more of the same for the stagnant Baltimore offense. Look for Collins to be Baltimore’s biggest playmaker behind this scattershot unit.
  4. Flacco: Coming off the worst statistical game of his career last week (8-for-18, 28 yards, 44% COMP, 2 INTs), fans will see what Flacco and the staff have done in the last week to adjust.

Expect this game to be close as all recent games in this rivalry have been.

My Prediction: 24-21 Ravens. Defense wins the day after last week’s debacle.

Catch the game on local television this Sunday on CBS with Ian Eagle and Dan Fouts on the call. You can also catch the radio broadcast on the home of the Baltimore Ravens, WBAL-AM 1090 and FM 98 Rock with Gerry Sandusky,  Stan White and Dennis Pitta on the call. Gameday audio will also stream on the Ravens’ website.

Enjoy Everyone!

Follow Vasilios on Twitter at @VtheNFLGuy for more commentary and behind the scenes!

Photo Credit: ESPN

Podcast: The guys look back at Championship Weekend and discuss Super Bowl 51

The NFL Conference Championships are over, which means that we now know who will be playing in Super Bowl 51 from Houston, Texas. With the Atlanta Falcons and New England Patriots advancing to the big game, what did Jake, Nolan, and Tyler think about their victories on Sunday? Hear that and more as the guys also give their initial thoughts about the match-up we will see at Super Bowl 51.

Thanks for listening! Be sure to subscribe to the podcast and give us a review on iTunes!

Podcast: The guys react to the NFL Divisional playoffs

The NFL Divisional Round is over, and you know what that means! It’s time for another episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast. Hear Jake, Nolan, and Tyler break down this past weekend’s games before glimpsing ahead to the Conference Championship round.

Thanks for listening, and be sure to check out our website and our social media accounts. You can also subscribe to our podcast on SoundCloud and iTunes.

NFL Conference Championship Previews & Predictions

The final stop on the road to Super Bowl 51 takes place this Sunday with the conference championship round. With four teams left, who do Jake, Nolan, and Tyler think will punch in their ticket to Houston?

NFC Championship: #4 Green Bay Packers @ #2 Atlanta Falcons – 3:05 pm – FOX

Jake: In week 8 these teams squared off in the Georgia Dome, where the Falcons picked up a 33-32 victory. The Falcons rallied from behind in the fourth quarter on an 11-play, 75-yard drive that ended with an 11-yard Mohamed Sanu touchdown with 31 seconds to go in the game. Sanu was the team’s leading receiver that day with nine catches. Matt Ryan threw for more yards than Aaron Rodgers, but Rodgers threw four touchdown passes, whereas Ryan had only three.

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Aaron Rodgers continues to make jaw-dropping throws throughout the postseason. Credit: OBSEV.

This time around, the situation is completely different and the circumstances are much more drastic. The Packers are looking to reach their second Super Bowl in the Aaron Rodgers era, while the Falcons are looking to reach just their second Super Bowl appearance in franchise history.

Since going 4-6 earlier this season, the Packers have won eight straight games, capped off with their 34-31 win over the Dallas Cowboys last weekend. Rodgers once again made our jaws hit the floor with his 35-yard completion to tight end Jared Cook before the Packers kicked the game-winning field goal. Rodgers is playing out of his mind, throwing six touchdowns in two postseason games. The Packers offense will once again most likely be without their top receiving threat in Jordy Nelson, who suffered a rib injury in the Wild Card Round.

Going up against the Packers is Matt Ryan, who is at the helm of the eighth-best offense in NFL history in terms of scoring. Ryan had a great game against the Seahawks, throwing for over 330 yards and three touchdowns. The Falcons have Julio Jones and a dynamic two-running back attack with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. The Falcons are on a five-game win streak of their own, and will be fired up for the last game to be played in the Georgia Dome.

This game has shoot-out written all over it. You have two offenses that are among the best in football going up against the #22 and #25 ranked defenses, respectively. Both teams were able to score more than 30 points against each other in week 8, and they will most likely accomplish that again on Sunday.

Yes, the Falcons have the home field advantage. But this game comes down to one thing: Aaron Rodgers vs. Matt Ryan. Right now, I do not see how anyone can pick against Rodgers. All of the so-called “experts” picked against Rodgers last week, and look what happened. Rodgers is unstoppable right now. It is that simple.
Pick: Packers 35, Falcons 34

Nolan: While I have been impressed by how the Packers played against the Giants and Cowboys, it is important to keep in mind that the competition only gets harder this week. The Falcons are certainly the Packers’ most daunting opponent so far in the playoffs and I am expecting a highly unpredictable matchup with a lot of scoring.

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The Falcons have a dynamic one-two punch in the backfield with running backs Davonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman. Credit: Sports Illustrated.

Rodgers delivered an amazing drive in the final minutes of last week’s game but probably never would have been in that situation if he had not failed to score during the entirety of the third quarter. This can not happen again if Green Bay wants to win. There is far less room for error against a Falcons team that we have seen score very quickly. I do believe that the Packers can fix this issue but the Falcons are not going to have to dig themselves out of a hole like the Cowboys.

The defensive play of these teams does not jump out at you but there have been some highlights for each side in recent games. The Packers defense handled their business against the Giants while the Falcons stifled the Seahawks early and never let up. I don’t expect either of these defenses to stop the opposing QB but if it does happen, it will be the key to victory.

This one is a true toss up for me. I could make the case for either team as they both have high-powered offenses and the ability to produce with the game on the line. Since I have to pick one, I will go with the Packers. This is my least confident pick of the postseason but I can see Green Bay edging this one out in the final seconds.

Pick: Packers 41, Falcons 38

Tyler: My goodness we are in for a treat with this one. Be prepared for a game just as exciting to watch as the Green Bay/Dallas game last week. Two high-powered offenses will square off in a game where defense may be optional. I fully expect both teams to put up at least thirty points in this one. Matt Ryan and the Falcons have by far the most high-powered offense of the four teams left in my opinion. Green Bay may not be at full strength once again as Jordy Nelson has been announced as a long shot to play and Davante Adams experiencing an ankle injury in last weeks game. Neither defense is terrible but neither compares to the two defenses left in the AFC. I expect that the team with the defense that can make one or two key stops comes out victorious in this one. I know everyone is saying that you can’t pick against Rodgers. I know everyone is saying that Matt Ryan is a choke artist. But I think Ryan’s weapons, Rodger’s injuries around him, and Atlanta’s home field advantage will lead the Falcons to the Super Bowl. Also remember that this will be the last game to ever be played in the Georgia Dome. I guarantee that the organization and the fans will want to blow the roof off of the place and go out with a bang.

Pick: Falcons 38, Packers 34

AFC Championship: #3 Pittsburgh Steelers @ #1 New England Patriots – 6:40 pm – CBS

Jake: As soon as the Steelers defeated the Chiefs 18-16 on Sunday, and it was announced that Pittsburgh would be facing the Patriots in the AFC Championship game, a collective groan was heard across Baltimore and the surrounding area. This game will be tough on all Baltimore Sports fans to watch, but the fact is these two teams proved that they are the best of the best in the AFC.

Earlier this season, the Patriots beat the Steelers 27-16 in week 7. However, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger missed that game after undergoing a knee surgery a few days prior.

The Steelers have now won nine straight games, and defeated the Chiefs last week without scoring a touchdown. The Steelers defense is ranked #1 overall this postseason, giving up an average of 266 yards in the two games played against Miami and Kansas City. Pittsburgh also has the top rushing attack in the NFL this postseason, with Le’Veon Bell putting up outrageous numbers. Last week Bell rushed for 170 yards on 30 carries. That is an average of 5.7 yards-per-carry for those of you who are not good at math. If the Patriots can’t stop Bell, it will be a long night.

However, Big Ben has proven to not be the same quarterback on the road this season. His completion percentage is 59.4%, and he has thrown nine touchdowns and eight interceptions. Ben cannot afford to make a few dumb mistakes in this game, because Tom Brady and the Patriots will capitalize on them.

The Patriots defeated the Texans 34-16 in the divisional round, but the game did not break out until the second half. The Patriots allowed the Texans to hang around because Houston was able to get after Brady, who was hit eight times and sacked twice. Brady will probably have to do a decent amount of throwing on Sunday, as the Steelers have limited their opponents to just 108 combined rushing yards this postseason.

The Patriots defense should not be taken lightly either, as they finished the regular season first in the NFL in points allowed. However, the Patriots have not faced many good quarterbacks this season. As mentioned, they did not face Big Ben in week 7. They did face Russell Wilson, and the Patriots lost that game to Seattle at home. Aside from Ben and Wilson, the top QB’s New England faced included Carson Palmer, Ryan Tannehill, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco. Facing Brock Osweiler last week did not break that trend, so facing a quarterback like Roethlisberger will be a big test for the Patriots.

This is a tough call. Pittsburgh has won nine straight, but New England has won eight straight. The Steelers have the 3 B’s – Ben, Bell and Brown, but the Patriots have Brady and Belichick. Both teams have outstanding defenses. With everything considered, this is probably the toughest pick I have made all season.

Pick: Steelers 27, Patriots 24  

Nolan: I may not know who to root for but I have a good feeling about who will win this one. I understand that Brady and Belichick are probably the hardest to beat at home, especially in the playoffs. I also know that Under Mike Tomlin, the Steelers have not played well against the Patriots, but I don’t care about any of that.

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Antonio Brown’s Facebook Live video might have given the Patriots some unneeded ammunition. Credit: Bleacher Report.

Why? Because the Steelers are the better overall team, plain and simple. On offense the Steelers’ playmakers are impossible to contain and I don’t see the Patriot defense keeping them out of the endzone like Kansas City did last week.

On defense the Steelers have an advantage as well. Tom Brady is certainly better than the quarterbacks that Pittsburgh has faced so far in the playoffs but I don’t think that matters too much.  Ryan Shazier, Bud Dupree, and James Harrison can bring the pressure against any QB and Brady is no exception.

Last week we saw what happens when you threaten Brady with a quality defense. He can turn the ball over like any other QB. These turnovers and overall poor offensive play gave Houston a chance in the fourth quarter. Brock Osweiler couldn’t take advantage of this but you better believe that Big Ben and company will fare better than the abysmal Houston offense.

Pick: Steelers 27, Patriots 20

Tyler: Ravens fans don’t worry. Listen to Nolan because he said it best earlier this week. Don’t be disappointed that one of your two most hated teams will be in the Super Bowl. Instead be happy that one of your two most hated teams will be absolutely crushed by just missing out on a Super Bowl appearance.

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The Patriots will be playing in their sixth-straight AFC Championship game, led by Tom Brady and Bill Belichick. Credit: The Boston Globe.

History says that the Patriots should win this game. They have been in the big game more than any other team over the last ten years or so. Vegas will most likely be picking New England too. Bill Belichick is very good at taking away a team’s best weapon. This week that is Le’Veon Bell. Bell has been extremely hot lately and he seems almost unstoppable. Another thing playing into the Patriots favor is the fact that Ben Roethlisberger has not played extremely well on the road this season. I believe I mentioned this last week as well. Ben didn’t play extremely well in Kansas City but he and the offense played well enough to get the win. That is all that matters in the playoffs. The third thing that plays into the Patriots hand is the fact that they have a shutdown corner in Malcolm Butler. Antonio Brown has struggled at times against elite, shutdown corners which obviously helps the Patriots.

With all of that being said I’m picking Pittsburgh. When you’re hot, you’re hot. And Pittsburgh is extremely hot right now. They are healthy and just seem like a team that can win it all. Plus, with the way their defense is playing recently I think they can give Brady fits.

Pick: Steelers 31, Patriots 27

NFL Divisional Weekend Breakdown

Editor’s Note: This article was also written by Jake McDonnell and Tyler Feeser.

The wild card round has passed but to many fans disappointment, the games did not live up to the hype.  This week should be more exciting though, as the contenders have been separated from the pretenders.

To break down this weeks games, all of our experts here at Charm City Bird Watch will provide an analysis of each game, followed by a prediction. Let’s see how much we agree, or disagree.

Saturday, January 14

NFC: Seattle (10-5-1) @ Atlanta (11-5) – 4:35 pm – Fox

JakeThese two teams squared off in week 6 in Seattle, where the Seahawks won in controversial fashion, 26-24.

With 1:39 to go in that game, the Falcons faced a 4th and 10 play and could not convert when Matt Ryan threw a deep pass to Julio Jones. On the play, Richard Sherman should have been flagged for pass interference, but there was nothing called and Seattle escaped with the win.

This time around, the two teams face off in what could be the last game at the Georgia Dome. The Seahawks will be without safety Earl Thomas, who made a crucial interception in that week six game. Seattle will also be without receiver Tyler Lockett, who broke his leg on Christmas Eve. The Falcons are healthier, and have a solid two-running back attack with Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman, but we all know Ryan’s track record in the playoffs; 1-4 with nine touchdowns and seven interceptions dating back to 2008.

This will be a different game than we saw in October. On the road this season, Seattle is 3-4-1 and scoring an average of just 16 points-per-game. The Falcons have the best offense in football, scoring 540 points, which is tied for the seventh-most of all time. I believe that will be the difference in this game, and Atlanta will advance to the NFC Championship.

Prediction: Atlanta 27, Seattle 21

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Julio Jones and Devonta Freeman are just two pieces of the explosive Flacons offense that averages over 33 points per game.  Source: Matthew Emmons – USA Today

NolanThe Seahawks took care of business last week against the Lions, proving once again that they are legitimate contenders for the super bowl.  However, their opponent this week will be much tougher.  Defeating the Falcons is a tall order on its own but Seattle will have to do it on the road, where they have not played their best football.  Even though the Falcons had a fantastic season, the core of their team has yet to prove themselves in the playoff atmosphere.  Quarterback Matt Ryan is a MVP candidate but his playoff resume is lacking.  Like I said before in their matchup against Detroit, the Seahawks are a proven playoff team and that’s why I’m picking them over Atlanta.

Prediction: Seattle 28, Atlanta 20

TylerOn paper this looks like a very intriguing matchup. I fully expect it to be. But if I had to pick a surprise game of the week this would be it. I would not be surprised at all if this ended up like the game in Green Bay did last week. Seattle has not been as good on the road and has not played well recently compared to early in the season. Atlanta on the other hand has been playing very well all season long. Some are considering the 2016 Atlanta offense to be one of the best units ever. They have a great balance of run and pass with Matt Ryan, Julio Jones, Devonta Freeman, and Tevin Coleman. Seattle’s defense is going to have their hands full trying to contain everyone. Atlanta’s defense is exploitable but Vic Beasley led the league in sacks this season (15.5). Russell Wilson and the Seahawks offense will need to play one of their better games of the season to win this one. This is another game where a coach will be facing a former team. Dan Quinn, Falcon’s head coach, was the Seahawks defensive coordinator from 2013-2014. Expect Atlanta to come out healthy and firing on all cylinders.

Prediction: Atlanta 38, Seattle 30

AFC: Houston (9-7) @ New England (14-2) – 8:15 pm – CBS

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Tom Brady and Bill Belichick have a record of 22-9 in the playoffs.  Source: Steven Senne – Associated Press

JakeLike the rest of the match-ups in divisional weekend, the teams involved in this contest squared off earlier this season. In a week 3 Thursday Night Football game, the Tom Brady-less Patriots shut-out the Texans 27-0 in New England.

I think that naming the Texans as 17-point underdogs may be a little generous.

That’s right folks; be sure to make plans on Saturday night, because there is no way that you want to sit down and watch this game. If the Patriots were able to defeat the Texans 27-0 with a third string quarterback, I can only imagine what Tom Brady is going to do to them.

Yes, Houston may have the #1 defense in the NFL in terms of yards given up per game. Yes, Texans head coach Bill O’Brien was on New England’s coaching staff from 2007-2011 and knows Brady & Belichick well. But guess what, it does not matter.

The Patriots have Brady, the best quarterback in NFL History. Brock Osweiler stands no chance against the minds of Brady and Belichick. Let me make myself clear when I say that the Texans have no chance of winning this game. If you think they do, you’re lying to yourself.

Prediction: New England 31, Houston 13

Nolan: This one is being laughed off by everyone.  They say there is no way that Brady and Belichick lose to Houston at home. That’s fine, but why are we ignoring the fact that the Texans have the best defense in the league? I have confidence that Houston’s defense can force Brady into some mistakes.  The question is, can Osweiler and the offense capitalize on these mistakes? This is where my confidence runs out. Brock Osweiler is going to hold Houston back on Saturday. At the end of the day I’m picking the Pats for obvious reasons but don’t ignore the Texans strengths.

Prediction: New England 29, Houston 14

Tyler: This is definitely the easiest game to pick this week, as the other three should be great games. These two teams met earlier this season with New England winning without Tom Brady. Most people will expect a blowout but don’t be so certain. Bill O’Brien used to coach under Bill Belichick and worked directly with Tom Brady for years. I guarantee that the Houston players will want to win this one to not only shut everyone up, but to help themselves in their quest for the first championship in franchise history, and to get O’Brien a huge win over his former employer. That being said, trying to win in New England in the playoffs is one of the toughest things to do in sports. Especially when Belichick is given two weeks to heal his team up and prepare. Look for the Patriots to look as good as they have all season.

Prediction: New England 38, Houston 17

Sunday January 15

AFC: Pittsburgh (11-5) @ Kansas City (12-4) – 1:05 pm – NBC

UPDATE: Game moved to 8:20 pm due to weather. 

JakeIn week 4 the Steelers blew past the Chiefs 43-14 on Sunday Night Football in Pittsburgh. This time around the black & yellow will travel to perhaps the toughest place to play in the NFL – Arrowhead Stadium against a Chiefs team that has gone 22-4 since week 7 of the 2015 season.

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Source: Robert Deutsch – USA Today

Here is another interesting statistic for you – in his years coaching the Eagles and Chiefs, head coach Andy Reid has gone 16-2 after a bye week, and 3-0 in playoff games where Reid’s team had an extra week to get ready. However, before last year, the last time that the Chiefs won a playoff game was 1993. Reid’s first playoff appearance with Kansas City was a loss; an away game in Indianapolis.

The Steelers are red-hot after blowing out the Dolphins 30-12 in Wild Card weekend; their eighth straight win. Antonio Brown scored two touchdowns and Le’Veon Bell ran for 167 yards and two touchdowns. The trio of Ben Roethlisberger, Bell and Brown is perhaps the best in football, and they are catching fire at the right time.

This game is very tough to predict. I think it will come down to who makes the most plays on the offensive side of the ball. With that being said, I trust the Steelers to be able to do that. But, I would not be shocked if the Chiefs won in their home stadium on bye week rest.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 27, Kansas City 24

NolanThe Steelers are playing their best football of the year at the perfect time.  Their three B’s to success (Ben, Brown, and Bell) continue to be the difference makers week after week.  This Sunday they will be traveling into a hostile environment as they take on the Kansas City Chiefs. Earlier this year, the two teams played in Pittsburgh where the Steelers dominated for a 43-14 victory. If Alex smith can put together some long drives and keep the Steelers on the sideline they can win this one. The only problem is that the Steelers have shown they only need 50 – 60 seconds to put together a touchdown drive, thus making the time of possession somewhat irrelevant.

Prediction: Pittsburgh 24, Kansas City 20

TylerIf you like defensive battles this is the game for you. I believe this will be the lowest scoring game of the weekend. Kansas City has a very strong defense and an intimidating home field advantage. Pittsburgh WILL NOT back down though. I promise you that. Pittsburgh’s defense looked very strong last week in their win against Miami while their offense picked up where they left off in the regular season. I think it is very possible we see another long touchdown from Antonio Brown this week as well as a strong day from Le’Veon Bell. The ultimate downfall for Pittsburgh will be Ben Roethlisberger’s struggles on the road. Ben has not been very good this year away from Heinz Field and Kansas City’s defense is top notch. They WILL take advantage of any mistakes Ben may and will make. The slow and methodical nature of Kansas City’s offense will also keep Ben’s opportunities to a minimum.

Prediction: Kansas City 20, Pittsburgh 13

NFC: Green Bay (10-6) @ Dallas (13-3) – 4:40 pm – Fox

JakeBack in week 6 at Lambeau Field the Cowboys defeated the Packers 30-16 during their 11-game winning streak. This time around, Aaron Rodgers returns to Jerry World, the same place where he won Super Bowl 45. On the other sideline, two Dallas Rookies will be making their first playoff appearances – quarterback Dak Prescott and running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Rodgers is playing out of his mind. In the Wild Card game last weekend against the Giants Rodgers threw for 362 yards and four touchdowns, including a ridiculous hail mary at the end of the first half. Most of this was done without star receiver Jordy Nelson, who left the game early with a rib injury and spent the night in a local hospital. Nelson is likely to miss this game, but it should be noted that Dallas’s secondary is nothing to write home about.

When the Packers were 4-6, the national & local media was blasting Rodgers. That appears to be a long-forgotten memory, as Rodgers is again showing why he is the best thrower of the football that the NFL has ever seen.

I am intrigued to see how the two big rookies on the Cowboys play in their first playoff game. Prescott and Elliott have put together MVP-caliber seasons, but we will see how good they play in crunch time against a Packers team that has Rodgers at the helm.

I picked against Rodgers last week, and I learned my lesson. The Cowboys are a much better team than the Giants, but I cannot pick against Rodgers again.

Prediction: Green Bay 34, Dallas 28

NolanMuch like the Steelers, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers in particular are red hot right now. I’m viewing this game in the same light as the Seahawks and Falcons game. I praised Seattle for being a battle tested team and I can certainly say the same about Green Bay.  The Cowboys had an amazing season and are by no means an underdog but I have trouble putting a lot of confidence in rookies like Prescott and Elliot when it comes to the playoffs. My only issue with Green Bay was their lackluster defense but they handled the Giants very well and are looking more like a complete team capable of a Super bowl run.

Prediction: Green Bay 35, Dallas 24

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Rookies Dak Prescott and Ezekiel Elliot are being relied on to get Dallas to the NFC championship for the first time in 20 years.  Source: CBS Sports

TylerIn my opinion this is probably the toughest game to pick this weekend. Dallas has looked extremely good all season when playing their starters against any team not named the Giants. The Packers are on an extreme tear right now after completely dismantling the Giants last week in Green Bay. The Packers will most likely be playing without Jordy Nelson this week after he broke his ribs last week. The key for Dallas will definitely be establishing Zeke Elliott early. If they can control the clock and sustain long drives to keep Rodgers off the field they have a very good chance of winning. Green Bay has been very good against the run this year but I believe this stat to be misleading. I think they are at the top of league in this category because most teams don’t even try to run on them due to their subpar pass defense. Their pass defense has been much better as of late and I think it will be able to confuse the rookie Dak Prescott. They did a great job of this last week to Eli Manning. Rodgers will have another great game but I think the Packers defense will win them the game this week.

Prediction: Green Bay 34, Dallas 30

Podcast: The guys review Wild Card weekend and look ahead to the divisional round

Our three experts – Jake McDonnell, Nolan McGraw, and Tyler Feeser have lots to talk about following a very underwhelming Wild Card weekend in the NFL. The guys open up the podcast by taking a look back at the Wild Card games and discuss the debacle that was the New York Giants receivers’ trip to Miami. The next part of the show is a game-by-game discussion on Divisional weekend. The divisional games next weekend are:

-Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

-Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

-Pittsburgh Steelers @ Kansas City Chiefs

-Green Bay Packers @ Dallas Cowboys

This episode of the Charm City Bird Watch Podcast was a trial run, but keep checking back for more podcasts not only about the NFL playoffs, but the Baltimore Birds as well.

As always, thanks for listening, and be sure to subscribe to the podcast on either iTunes or Soundcloud!