We were fairly successful with our Top 3 Match-Up selections for last week’s games. Matt Bryant capped off a late Falcons drive by kicking a 47-yard game winning field goal against the Green Bay Packers. Jay Cutler tossed four touchdown passes, outplaying Michael Vick en route to a win over the Philadelphia Eagles. Peyton Manning wasn’t exactly Peyton-like, throwing four interceptions as the Chargers cruised by the Colts 36-14. Highlighting this week’s top match-ups are huge division rivalry games that will help shape the playoff picture. Take a look at the Week 12 NFL Top 3 Match-Ups.
New York Jets vs. New England Patriots
It would be tough to think of a more intriguing Monday Night Football match-up in recent memory. These AFC East rivals both enter the game with 9-2 records. Of course, the Jets have the edge because they beat the Patriots back in Week 2. In that game, the Jets defense was able to neutralize Tom Brady and completely nullify the Pats’ run game. Since then, Brady has put together what is likely to be a MVP season, and BenJarvus Green-Ellis has given New England a little spark with the run.
A lot of attention has been paid to the fact that the Jets beat a Patriots team that had Randy Moss as a deep-ball threat. So, in addition to making some adjustments, the Patriots are going to have a slightly different strategy with their offensive attack. After a hot start, LaDainian Tomlinson and the Jets run has cooled off a bit in the second half. However, Mark Sanchez has been as poised as any passer in the league, and the Santonio Holmes acquisition is paying big dividends. To top it off, the Jets are undefeated on the road this season, a trend they’d certainly like to see continue this week.
New York coach Rex Ryan desperately wants to unseat Bill Belichick and the Patriots. These two teams simply do not like each other. Aside from the rivalry aspect of the game, both there are big division and playoff implications on the line. Both teams don’t exactly close out the season on the easiest notes. New York has teams like Pittsburgh, Chicago and Miami left on the schedule, while New England is due to play Green Bay, Miami and Chicago. Prepare for kickoff on Monday night.
Pittsburgh Steelers vs. Baltimore Ravens
This game mirrors the Jets vs. Patriots match-up almost ‘to a T.’ Anytime the Steelers and Ravens get together, you know you’re going to see some hard hits, players leaving the game with injury and possibly a few scuffles. James Harrison has probably mailed a few extra blank checks to Commissioner Roger Goodell for this game alone. Both teams sit with an 8-3 record, vying for the top spot in the AFC North. The advantage currently lies with Baltimore, who beat Pittsburgh with a last minute touchdown back in Week 4.
One of the major headlines heading into this game is the health of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. After spraining his right foot in last Sunday’s game against Buffalo, he has been wearing a protective boot throughout the week and has only had minimal participation in the team’s practices, though he is expected to play. Ben’s status is important, as he has accumulated a 5-0 record against the Ravens as a starter. He was suspended for the game Pittsburgh dropped to Baltimore earlier this season.
While Pittsburgh is 5-1 on the road, Baltimore is undefeated at home. In fact, the Ravens are riding an eight-game home win streak. The vaunted Ravens defense will surely look to put pressure on Roethlisberger and test his mobility with that injured foot. In recent weeks, Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco has been able to find Derrick Mason, TJ Houshmandzadeh and Todd Heap more than Anquan Boldin. Can Anquan rebound against Pittsburgh’s questionable corners? Find out when these two teams clash on Sunday night.
Atlanta Falcons vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Atlanta Falcons have found themselves listed in our Top 3 Match-Ups quite a bit this season, including their Week 9 meeting with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. That game lived up to the billing, as the Falcons were able to outlast a late run by the Bucs to take control of the NFC South. Since then, the Falcons have yet to relinquish control of the division, but the Bucs and Saints still have the Birds in sight.
The good news for Tampa Bay? While Atlanta is lights out at home, they’re a little more vulnerable on the road. The bad news? Tampa Bay hasn’t been that great at home this year. In particular, they’ve struggled against the league’s elite teams. Their losses have come to Pittsburgh, New Orleans, Baltimore and the Falcons. A loss in this game would officially stamp Tampa as a team that isn’t as bad as the worst teams in the league, but not yet able to compete with the best.
With the Saints getting healthy and scheduled in a gimme game against the Cincinnati Bengals, the Falcons certainly don’t want to give the Buccaneers their first ‘elite’ win. Matt Ryan and the Falcons offense will look to go to work early and often against a Bucs defense that isn’t as feared as it once was. Ryan’s favorite target, Roddy White, has been playing as well as any receiver in football. On the other hand, Tampa’s Mike Williams will look to rebound after a forgettable performance against Baltimore. Find out which stud receiver will help lift his team to a win when these teams play on Sunday.
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