The road to Super Bowl 47 gets closer for four teams this weekend as the NFL Divisional Round Playoff take place. Three of the four games are rematches of games that took place in the regular season.
Baltimore @ Denver: The Broncos are the AFC’s top seed and have home field throughout the playoffs. Indianapolis quarterback Peyton Manning and the Broncos are on fire having won 11-straight games. It’s pretty unreal to look at the type of season Manning has had. After missing all of last season, the four-time league MVP was tied for first in the NFL for completion percentage, was second in passer rating, third in touchdowns, and sixth in yards.
Manning has had success over the Ravens as he has won nine-straight over them including two playoff games. Baltimore enters the game off of a 24-9 win over Indianapolis last weekend in an emotional filled game due to linebacker Ray Lewis’s final home game.
Both teams met back in Week 15 with the Broncos winning in Baltimore 34-17. The Ravens missed several defensive starters in that game including Lewis. Another factor could be the weather as temps are expected to be in the low 20s. Manning is 0-3 in playoff games in which the temps are below 40 degrees.
My take: The weather may affect Manning and to think that it will be an arial assult is unreasonable. It’s tough to throw the football in really cold conditions. Both teams are pretty good on the ground and have solid defenses. To me the difference is under center. Manning is a four-time MVP and I’d trust Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco to change a flat tire not be clutch on the road. Give me Denver 23-13.
Denver is favored by 9 points. Kickoff is set for 3:30.
Green Bay @ San Francisco: This has sexy written all over it. The Packers with quarterback Aaron Rodgers have an offense that can put up some points. The 49ers are team that is built around their defense. In fact, this game is awfully familiar to last year when the Saints traveled to face San Francisco in a Divisional Round matchup.
Both teams met to open the season in Lambeau Field and the 49ers won the game 30-22. Alex Smith was the quarterback then and now Colin Kaepernick is under center for San Fran. The Packers advanced by winning last weekend 24-10 over Minnesota.
My take: This game has the potential to be a really good one. I think the San Francisco like last season can ride the emotion of being at home and having been in a similar situation last year will help them. The Saints were done in by five turnovers however and still almost pulled out a win. Green Bay is careful with the football and has to me the biggest difference in the game. Rodgers. I get Kaepernick is mobile and has had some moments but doing that at home or in a regular season game is much different than under the lights of the playoffs. A key will be protection. Rodgers was sacked a league high 51 times this season. The Packers showed they can give up big sacks (remember the Seattle game earlier in the year) but that also they can adjust. Give me Green Bay 31-27.
San Francisco is favored by 3 points. Kickoff is set for 7pm.
Seattle @ Atlanta: The New Orleans Saints may not be in the post season this year but Saints fans will be cheering as if the Black and Gold were on the field for this game. The thought of the Atlanta Falcons playing for, much less win a Super Bowl in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is nauseating to Who Dats.
The Seahawks advanced by winning last week at Washington 24-14, making it six straight wins.
For Atlanta, it is simple. Can they win in the playoffs? Mike Smith in five seasons as head coach is 56-24 and led the Falcons to the top seed in the NFC Playoffs twice. Smith is 0-3 however in the playoffs. Seattle is trying to become only the second West Coast team to win back-to-back road games on the East Coast. The Rams did it back in 1989 if you were wondering who has accomplished the task.
My take: I want Atlanta to lose bad and I would love nothing more than to open my radio show on Monday laughing at the Falcons once again chocking in the post season. Seattle however lost defensive end Chris Clemons to an ACL injury last week. Clemons led the team in sacks with 11.5 on the season. Seattle’s defense allows the league’s fewest points at 15.3. Will his loss hurt him? The Saints ran the ball okay against Atlanta with their handful of running backs. Seattle’s Marshawn Lynch is pretty good and should have success are running against them. The Saints kept Michael Turner in check and feel Seattle’s defense is better.
My problem is that all week all Atlanta players have heard is how they are going lose this game. Seattle also had to do a lot of traveling and add the odds of continuing to win consecutive games, well it all give me a bad feeling that the Dirty Birds will once again pull one out of the hat. Atlanta 24-23.
Atlanta is favored by 3 points. Kickoff is set for noon.
Houston @ New England: It was December 10 when these two teams met and it was billed as a showdown between two AFC powers on Monday Night Football. The Texans after all were the AFC’s top seed at the time as they entered Gilette Stadium with an 11-1 record.
The Patriots hammered the Texans 42-14 as quarterback Tom Brady threw three touchdown passes on the opening three drives to give New England a 21-0 lead. Brady would throw four touchdowns on the night and that was without one of the Pats top players in tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Houston’s defense had 44 sacks during the season, good for fifth in the NFL in that category but only managed to get to Brady once in the December meeting. New England is the NFL’s highest scoring team averaging 34.8 points per game.
The Texans advanced by beating Cincinnati last week 19-13 in a balanced offensive performance. Quarterback Matt Schaub threw for 262 yards and a touchdown while running back Arian Foster ran for 140 yards on 32 carries.
My Take: The Bengals got nothing going in that game and almost pulled out win if quarterback Andy Dalton would have connected on a deep pass late in the game. Houston was at home and was unimpressive offensively as they struggled to get the ball into the endzone. Brady can pass Joe Montana with his 17th post season win as the QB with the most post season wins. New England has the experience and while I think the game will be close I still see the Pats winning this one 27-20.
New England is favored by 9.5 points. Kickoff is set for 3:30.
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