Yup, Roar vs. Bore is taken directly from the clever headline-writing of the New York Post . But as much as coaches do not take the field, the less-is-more philosophy of Patriots coach Bill Belichick has served him quite well. The same is true for the brash ways of Jets coach Rex Ryan. This HAS become about the coaches. Rest assured, Belichick and Ryan are using the "it's personal" strategy Ryan employed to the fullest extent. In entirely different ways, Ryan and Belichick use their styles and approaches to get the most from their players. Keep an eye open for this, too: If either coach gets a chance to rub it in, he will.
2 of 12Richard A. Brightly/Icon SMI; AP
Jets OT Wayne Hunter vs. <br>Patriots DE Gerard Warren
The Patriots end has been an integral part to the their success this year, stepping in on a one-year contract and making plays against the run and rushing the passer. With Ty Warren out for the year and Myron Pryor missing practice this week, Warren could be huge. Making it more crucial is that Jets starting right tackle Damien Woody was put on I.R. on Wednesday with an Achilles injury. Backup Wayne Hunter must step in. If the Jets don't get the running game going, pass protection against Warren, and perhaps Pryor, gets that much tough.
3 of 12
The last thing you want to do is poke the bear -- or in this case, the best quarterback in the NFL. But the Jets' style isn't exactly understated, and Cromartie challenged Brady to a throwdown this week by calling him an "ass--'' and daring him to throw his way. Oh, he will, Antonio. He will. Brady didn't take the bait, saying Wednesday, "maybe [Cromartie] really likes me." But especially with Darrelle Revis on the other side of the field, here comes a big, heaping dose of Brady. Can Cromartie handle it?
4 of 12Robert Beck, Lou Capozzola/SI
Seattle's Matt Hasselbeck vs.<br> Chicago's Jay Cutler
One of these quarterbacks is coming off a terrific performance, has a plus-plus arm, can make every throw, has played in the Super Bowl and has the confidence of every teammate and coach in the organization. The other is Jay Cutler. Interesting, isn't it, how one week, one turn of the prism, can change the way everything looks? There's no question Cutler reached another level of football in 2010. He put together a big season and showed a previously unseen ability to put his team on his back. Still, his last four games were below-average, performance-wise. The Bears went 2-2, he had as many interceptions as touchdowns and completed more than 52 percent of his passes just once. Hasselbeck, on the other hand, reminded everyone that playoff experience just flat-out matters. Hasselbeck has played in a Super Bowl. This will be Cutler's first playoff start.
5 of 12Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Julius Peppers has been every bit the player and emotional leader the Bears hoped to see when they brought him in for a King's Ransom in the offseason. Except for one glaring exception. Seahawks rookie Russell Okung handled Peppers with relative ease in Seattle's 23-20 win in October, limiting Peppers to just one tackle and zero sacks. The Bears could not muster a single sack or takeaway in that game, leading to Hasselbeck being comfortable enough to throw 40 times. With great accuracy and a keen ability to check-off to shorter pass routes, Hasselbeck could cut the Bears apart again if Peppers cannot lead a better pass-rushing assault.
6 of 12Leon Halip/Getty Images; Icon SMI
Bears linebacker Lance Briggs vs. Seattle's Marshawn Lynch
As much as Matt Hasselbeck was marvelous in the Seahawks' wild-card upset of the defending champion Saints, he was that much better because Lynch and the Seattle running game came to life. The Bears have been prone to sloppy tackling this year -- particularly when Lance Briggs has not been on the field. He wasn't in the lineup (ankle) in Seattle's win at Chicago Oct. 17. He's back, now. Lynch had one of the greatest runs in NFL playoff history last week and has the power to break through tackles, as he did on the clinching run last week. Briggs, who's made numerous big plays and tackles behind the line, is key.
7 of 12Al Tielemans, Bob Rosato/SI
This truly is one of the great unknowns on both sides of the ball. Just how much is Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton hurting and how will it affect his game? He is the unquestioned run-stopper, even earning the nickname, "The Police" (because you can't run from the police). The Falcons had the No. 10-ranked defense, but it was prone to giving up the big run. As for Starks, he can make the Packers attack truly wicked with his size, breakaway ability and north-south style. If Starks consistently runs like he did last week, the Packers must be considered NFC Super Bowl favorites. But his 123 yards in last week's win over the Eagles was more than he had the entire season. Is he for real? Is Lofton's knee going to hold up?
8 of 12Bob Rosato/SI; Jonathan Ferrey, Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images
The most important hidden stat in the Packers' wild-card win over the Eagles was converting 62-percent of their third-down situations. That points to one thing -- the quarterback having time to make plays. The Falcons like to bring pressure, but they've had mixed results. It's why their pass defense finished a pedestrian 22nd in the league. Brent Grimes and Dunta Robinson certainly will face Greg Jennings and Donald Driver in man-on-man situations that most likely will decide the game.
9 of 12Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images; Bob Rosato/SI
As much as they'll try to pound the ball with Michael Turner and lean on the Matt Ryan to Roddy White big-play connection, Atlanta knows the key to it all could be Tony Gonzalez. He's not the same player he once was. But in these teams' first meeting, Gonzalez exposed a big flaw in Dom Capers' defensive attack -- exploiting linebacker A.J. Hawk when he came out of the backfield and burning safety Charlie Peprah in the middle of the secondary. Don't be surprised to see Packers safety Charles Woodson try covering Gonzalez, but that could lead the Pack susceptible elsewhere.
10 of 12John Biever/SI
Ravens tight end Todd Heap vs. Steelers safety Troy Polamalu
Todd Heap literally isn't in Kansas (City) anymore. Of all the battles within the battles, there may not be a better one between difference-making, tough, clutch performers than this one. Heap had a Ravens' record-setting day last week with 10 catches and 108 yards, keying the road victory. Polamalu excels at over-the-middle coverage and playmaking. Both players have fought through injuries, with Heap missing the majority of a 13-10 loss to Pittsburgh earlier this year after pulling a hamstring on the game's first play.
11 of 12AP; Al Tielemans/SI
Ray Lewis may be the heartbeat and Ed Reed the headline-grabber, but over and over again in Ravens games, No. 37 always seems to show up on the screen making a play. Josh Wilson has been a mostly unheralded cornerback. Don't expect that much longer, especially if he shuts down Wallace, who had a terrific year, the way he did Kansas City's Dwayne Bowe last week. Chris Carr may get the assignment on Wallace occasionally, but Wilson's speed likely will keep him on Wallace most of the game. Altogether, the Ravens have eight interceptions in their last three games, in large part because of Wilson's cover skills.
12 of 12David Bergman/SI
Ravens running back Ray Rice vs. Steelers rush defense
Almost everything the Ravens manage offensively will depend on the success Ray Rice -- and to a lesser degree Willis McGahee -- has against one of the greatest rush defenses in the history of football. The good news is Rice is the only running back in the last 50 games to rush for more than 100 yards against the Steelers. The bad news is that was more than a year ago, and 49 other times the Steelers have put up a brick wall, including the last meeting when Rice gained just 32 yards. The Steelers have allowed fewer than 60 yards rushing to opposing teams seven times.
You May Like
Sign Up for our Newsletter
Don't get stuck on the sidelines! Sign up to get exclusives, daily highlights, analysis and more—delivered right to your inbox!