MIAMI Eight teams are two wins away from the Super Bowl heading into the divisional round of the NFL playoffs and there is no shortage of noise coming from the rivalry between the New York Jets and New England Patriots.
The Jets' trip to Foxborough is the most talked about of the four games but the most bruising battle is likely to be in the other AFC game where the Baltimore Ravens do battle with the Pittsburgh Steelers.
In the NFC, the Seattle Seahawks, surprise winners over the defending champion New Orleans Saints in the wildcard round, look to upset Chicago while the top seeded Atlanta Falcons have a tough test at home to the improving Green Bay Packers.
Jets head coach Rex Ryan began turning up the heat on the Patriots when he declared Sunday's game in New England to be a personal matter between him and New England counterpart Bill Belichick.
The rivalry between the two teams, original members of the old AFL, goes back 51 years but the focus of much of New York's tough talk is less about tradition and more about trying to unsettle the classy Brady.
Jets cornerback Antonio Cromartie used an expletive to describe Brady, criticizing the quarterback for taunting the Jets sideline after throwing a touchdown.
But it takes a lot to unsettle Brady, who set an NFL record this season with 335 consecutive passes without an interception as he led New England to a perfect 8-0 home record as part of their league best 14-2 record.
"I've been called worse, I'm sure there's a long list of people who feel that way," Brady said when questioned about Cromartie's comments.
Brady, who has thrown for 3,900 yards and 36 touchdowns this year, sounded unfazed when asked whether the talk would have any impact on the game.
"We will see on Sunday afternoon, that's when everyone will be able to tell whether it played a role or not," he said.
The two AFC East teams beat each other at home in the regular season but while the Patriots, as divisional winners, sat out last week the Jets had an exciting 17-16 win at the Indianapolis Colts.
The Ravens and the Steelers own the best postseason winning
percentages in the NFL and they also split their series with a combined score of 27-27 showing that there is little to choose between two teams noted for hard tackling defenses.
Baltimore's offense has improved this season with maturing quarterback Joe Flacco now in his the third playoff campaign of his three seasons in the league.
The Steelers, who won the Super Bowl at the end of the 2008 season, won the AFC North and have traditionally had the edge over the Ravens -- they are 20-12 from the 32 meetings which includes both playoff games.
Seattle are the underdogs after becoming the first team to win a division with a losing record but they silenced any critics with a victory over the Saints last week.
The Seahawks won in Chicago in the regular season and Bears quarterback Jay Cutler, playing in his first playoff game, believes they are even tougher opponents now.
"They're a better team. To get to this point, you have to get better throughout the season," said Cutler.
"They beat a very good Saints team last week, so that gives you an indication of how they're playing. We've got a really big challenge ahead of us."
The Georgia Dome in Atlanta will host two of the most exciting young quarterbacks in the league with Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers and Atlanta's Matt Ryan impressing many with their composed play this year.
Atlanta won a tough NFC South while the Packers needed to win on the final day of the season to make it into the wildcard round where they beat the Philadelphia Eagles 21-16.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)