The Five Key AFC North Matchups this Weekend
Baltimore Ravesn & Cincinnati Bengals: 5 Matchups to Watch
Last season the Bengals had to square off against the Houston Texans in this very round of the playoffs, but succumbed 31-10 in Reliant Stadium and will be looking to extract revenge today, whilst the Ravens face a entirely different task in taking on an Indianapolis Colts team that tanked last year before drafting the franchise’s saviour in Andrew Luck who has guided a young team back to the playoffs and has began to step out of that large Peyton Manning shadow.
The Bengals can no longer be satisfied with just making the playoffs, they need to make an impression and start beating the leagues upper echelon teams when it counts, whilst their AFC North compatriots the Ravens have the talent, experience and drive to go on and win it all but they have shown in the past that they struggle to put together a full sixty minute performance – see last years AFC Championship game. I personally believe that both these AFC North teams will pick up the win this weekend but seeing as it’s playoff time, anything can happen.
With that said, everyone knows that today’s NFL is about winning the matchups in various aspects of the game, so here I have highlighted some of the juicier ones on show for you guys to keep an eye on this weekend.
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(1) J.J Watt vs. Cincinnati Bengals Offensive Line
If you’ve recorded 20.5 sacks in a season it’s fair to say that you’re a player to watch. J.J Watt has been the most disruptive force in the league this season and made a big impact on this matchup last year with a interception which he took all the way back for a score.
(2) Ed Reed vs. Andrew Luck
Ed Reed may be slowing down a little but he is still the smartest secondary mind that the league has in my opinion and has outwitted the best quarterbacks in the game with his ability to disguise coverages. Andrew Luck will be very aware of the threat that Reed poses but it’s going to be an entirely different proposition to actually avoid falling into a trap that the ball-hawk has set.
(3) Chuck Pagano vs. the Baltimore Ravens
Chuck Pagano was a member of the Baltimore Ravens coaching staff for four years before he took up his current role at the start of the season, there’s just no way around that. If you want to know what it’s like for teams to face old coaches, reference Superbowl XXXVII when Jon Gruden’s intimate knowledge of the Oakland Raiders helped the Tampa Bay Buccaneers claim the Vince Lombardi Trophy.
(4) Andrew Dalton vs. Houston Texans Defence
This matchup is fairly self –explanatory, even though he was a rookie in last years game, there’s not many excuses for throwing three interceptions. Andrew Dalton must play a lot better if he is to lead his team into the next round of the playoffs.
(5) A.J. Green vs. Houston Texans Secondary
Whilst A.J. Green has put together another fantastic regular season, it will all be for nought if has another night like he did in this fixture last season. When you get to the playoffs, 5 receptions for 47 yards doesn’t quite cut it, Green is a player with exceptional ability and he needs to put it on display tonight to help his team out.