It’s time for a big Divisional Round in the NFL Playoffs! The pressure cooker is on the QBs this weekend, and everyone’s eyes will certainly be glued to Fox and CBS Saturday and Sunday. So which teams will advance to the AFC and NFC Conference Championship games? Without further adieu, let’s get to it!
Divisional Round Predictions
Baltimore Ravens vs Denver Broncos- Saturday, 4:30 pm ET, CBS. There will be two major keys in this one. First, can Joe Flacco step up? Flacco has not been a great playoff performer so far in his career, and it’s time for him to officially step up, break out and throw all over Denver on Saturday. If he can’t play at Peyton Manning’s level in this one, whether that’s a fair expectation or not, it’s over for Baltimore and for Ray Lewis’ career. As for Peyton, he needs to go no-huddle as much as possible every possession. The Ravens’ defense is old, plain and simple. But it’s a great D when they can make the necessary adjustments and substitutions. Don’t give them that opportunity; don’t let them shuffle guys in and out or give them any breathers. Keep the pass attack going and you end Ray’s career. And that’s exactly what the Broncos will do Saturday afternoon. The Prediction: 27-17 Broncos
Green Bay Packers vs San Francisco 49ers- Saturday, 8:00 pm ET, FOX. This game is a toss-up, and everyone is a little unsure about their pick for sure. The Packers’ biggest key will be frustrating Collin Kapernick and controlling on D. If Clay Matthews and Charles Woodson can get the pressure on and force him into making some bad throws and bad decisions in his first career playoff start, this is Green Bay’s game to lose. In addition, the Rodgers-to-Nelson connection needs to be on all night. If they hook up for a touchdown or two, the Pack have a solid chance. For the Niners, it’s about playcalling. You can’t ask Kapernick to do too much, he needs to focus on managing the game and eliminating turnovers. Give it to Frank Gore or call some screens early to get the young QB going, then take some risks if necessary with how the game is going. You can’t get behind when you’re facing Aaron Rodgers. That being said, I think the game goes down to the wire, but the more experienced quarterback gets the job done and escapes an early exit. The Prediction: 20-14 Packers
Seattle Seahawks vs Atlanta Falcons- Sunday, 1:00 pm ET, FOX. The first real upset of the Playoffs will go down at the Georgia Dome on Sunday afternoon. But to me, it’s a no-brainer; the Seahawks will trounce the Falcons. First of all, Matt Ryan struggles in the playoffs almost unlike any other quarterback. Ryan’s regular season record as a starter is 56-24. In the playoffs? 0-3 so far. The Falcons have had one of the best teams during Ryan’s early career, but it’s simple: some QBs have the clutch gene in them and some don’t. Russell Wilson has it, but “Matty Ice” just doesn’t. Add in the fact that star running back Marshawn Lynch is going to run all over the Falcons and their 21st-ranked rush defense. Overall, Seattle has the #1 defense when it comes to the opposition’s points per game, and are #4 in opposing yards per game; Atlanta is #5 in opposing points per game and an awful 24th-ranked defense in opposing yards per game. Seattle has scored 194 points in the last five games including a 58-0 blowout (and a 50-17, and a 42-13 over San Fran…). They may be the only offense more dynamic than Atlanta’s in this postseason, and I can only guess how many total yards they will put up in this one. The numbers don’t lie, and neither does Ryan’s rep. Seattle continues their march to the Super Bowl. The Prediction: 35-17 Seahawks
Texans vs Patriots- Sunday, 4:30 pm ET, CBS. Since the stats are part of the key, let’s cue up some for Sunday’s prime matchup. The Patriots have the #1 offense in the NFL, with 427 total yards a game and 34.8 points per contest. Houston’s O is 7th with 372.1 yards per game along with 26 points per. The Patriots have the best giveaway/takeaway differential in the league, with a plus-25; Houston is second with a plus-12. Houston is 7th in the league in total yards allowed and New England is 25th. Those key stats make this game seem pretty even, right? The Pats have a better offense and the Texans have a better defense. But there are two keys that tilt the game in New England’s favor: home-field advantage and quarterback experience. With home-field, the cold weather comes with it for the Pats. When it’s hot out, Houston is a great team. When it’s cold out, they’re a very average team. When you go down the roster, most of the players went to warm-weather colleges, and it’s not like Houston has tested them for frigid conditions. New England’s most memorable games have been in the snow, and Tom Brady went to Michigan while playing in Boston his whole career; no problems with Jack Frost here. And Brady will be the difference in another playoff win and another trip to the AFC title game. The Prediction: 30-20 Patriots
Enjoy the playoff action this weekend folks! Agree? Disagree? You know what to do!