Steelers 31, Ravens 24
These two teams really are mirror images of each other. In fact, I'd even say that Baltimore's offensive line is much better. They play each other within one score nearly every single time they meet. So how does Pittsburgh keep winning? The fact that most of the games are In Pittsburgh helps, but frankly it seems like Baltimore just can't shake their perpetual little brother image, no matter how much they gloat and blather about hating Pittsburgh. Good luck next year, guys.
Packers 48, Falcons 21
Let me begin by stating that the Green Bay Packers have an amazing football team, one that I knew going in would most likely be coming to Chicago for the NFC Championship game. Aaron Rodgers played like he's capable of playing and it's only fitting that the team to represent the NFC in the Superbowl will have to be the last man standing in the oldest rivalry in the sport. I'm not one for smack-talk before the game, so I'll merely leave it be, hope Sunday hurries the fuck up, and hope the Bears take care of business like they did the last time Green Bay came to Soldier Field.
That said, I'm going to devote a little bit of time to why Atlanta was embarrassed the way they were. All year long Atlanta reminded me of the 2003 Chiefs or, to a lesser extent, the 2001 Bears. Both were 13-3 teams with homefield advantage that bowed out in a big way in their first playoff games. Both benefited from favorable schedules, close wins, and an abundance of turnovers despite a defense that, yardage wise, was not particularly intimidating. The Falcons had the NFL's 16th ranked defense, yardage wise, but were 23rd against the pass, allowed 23 TD passes, and also allowed 4.6 yards per rush. They had a respectable 31 sacks, but outside of John Abraham's 13, no one else had more than 4.0. That's indicative of a team that relies on the blitz to create pressure, and those teams generally fail in the playoffs.
The main reason Atlanta's scoring defense was so respectable was due to their 31 turnovers, but with a defensive line that didn't generate that much pressure and a secondary that was less than outstanding, that would seem to be the product of an abundance of luck rather than any great talent on D. Those 2003 Chiefs had 37 turnovers, which allowed them to win games despite their 29th ranked defense. They also bowed out in their first playoff game against the Colts. The 2001 Bears also thrived on turnovers, as they were 15th in yardage, relied on the blitz, and had 37 turnovers. Philly destroyed them 33-19. Teams that rely on the blitz and a feast or famine defense with regard to turnovers generally can't stop a guy like Rodgers who can recognize and avoid the blitz and won't turn the ball over. Throw in the fact that, like I pointed out before, Matt Ryan averaged just 6.5 yards per attempt and isn't the kind of quarterback that's going to win a shootout, especially against that secondary. And that will close the book on the 2010 Atlanta Falcons.
Jets 28, Patriots 21
All it took was one game of Tom Brady playing like a mortal for the Patriots' porous defense to sabotage their championship hope. The Jets controlled the clock, kept Mark Sanchez out of trouble, and the Patriots were more than happy to throw in some stupid turnovers and mental errors to help out. Great win by the Jets. The field is wide open now, boys.