CBS Sports NFL analyst Boomer Esiason joined the Dennis & Callahan show Wednesday morning to talk about the Patriots, the NFL playoffs and the dysfunctional Jets.
Esiason predicts the Steelers will handle the Broncos, and the Texans will get past the Bengals this weekend, setting up a visit from the Steelers to Foxboro the following weekend.
"To me, [the Steelers have] the layup this week," he said. "They've got Tim Tebow, who obviously is in way over his head. Everybody knows that. It's been a nice story. But 6-of-22 [in Sunday's 7-3 loss to the Chiefs], the last three weeks he's been terrible. This is a layup for the Pittsburgh Steelers, even without Ryan Clark."
Asked what can go wrong for the Patriots this postseason, Esiason said: "Pittsburgh can go wrong for them. They are a damn good defense. And you know that. Nothing's changed for them. It's the same thing over the last 20 years. They're always going to have a good defense They're always going to give you an opportunity to win a football game."
Added Esiason: "I'm already calling it that it's going to be Pittsburgh and New England. And I think it's going toe a very, very tough game, especially with the way that New England defense has been playing. I know they got the turnovers last week against Ryan Fitzpatrick, but this is Ben Roethlisberger. This isn't a team that tends to throw the ball 45 times in a game. They're going to run it, they're going to keep it tight. And it's going to be a struggle for Tom [Brady] and his offense, simply because Pittsburgh is not intimidated by the New England Patriots one bit.
"I know from talking to Bill Cowher week in and week out, when they play a team like the Patriots they think the Patriots are a softer team, that they're more of a finesse team, that they're not a physical team. Pittsburgh loves being in games like that, because they want to impose their so-called will on the Patriots. I think that's where this thing is headed."
The Patriots fell behind 21-0 the past two weeks vs. the Dolphins and Bills before rallying to win both games. Esiason said the slow starts are understandable.
"Obviously, the last two weeks they haven't been [ready to play at kickoff]. Then again, their antennas haven't been up," Esiason said. "They still are human beings, even though they have the best coach in football. They all tend to, somewhere along the line, have flat moments. And I'm not just talking about the Patriots, I mean all teams. But they were playing against teams that are non-playoff teams. … My point being that they will be up and they will be ready to go no matter who they play, whether it be Pittsburgh or Cincinnati in their first playoff game. They will be ready to go. That I will assure you."
Following are more highlights from the interview.
On the Jets' collapse and the team's future: "I think that Rex Ryan's ways have come back to haunt him. And Mike Tannenbaum, the general manager down here, has a lot of responsibility in this regard, because they have put a lot of bad guys together in this locker room. There's a good core of players for the New York Jets. But unfortunately, all it takes is one guy. And Rex Ryan giving Santonio Holmes the captain's 'C' on the chest was an absolute embarrassment. It's a slap in the face of all the good guys in that locker room.
"They have a major problem with him, because they're going to owe him $15 million guaranteed over the next two years if, in fact, they keep him on the roster next year. They can't cut him, I don't think. And I don't think anybody's going to want to trade for him. So, they've got themselves a handful.
"And then this morning in the paper, Jets fans don't want Mark Sanchez back. But this is the world of the Jets. It stays together for a little bit, and then all of a sudden it spirals out of control. And then they have a head coach that kind of exacerbates all of it."
On the possibility of Peyton Manning being traded to the Jets: "Everywhere you look, that's what they're saying. But first of all, we don't even know if Peyton's able to play. If Peyton is able to play and the new general manager and whoever they hire to run that team out there decides to go without Peyton Manning, then I'm sure that the Jets will be sniffing around. Because that's what the Jets do. They're trying to find their Tom Brady. They're trying to find their Aaron Rodgers. And I don't think in their mind they think that they feel like they've found the kid. If you watched Mark Sanchez the last month of the season, he was like a chihuahua standing on Madison Avenue and 36th Street entering the Midtown Tunnel, eyes bigger than you-know-what, and just so shaky."