Another Four Bite the Dust: NFL Divisional Round Playoff Preview
When I was younger my father gave me some words of wisdom. He told me “a real man admits his mistakes”. However this is the same man that told me when I was only seven years old that Ray Charles was Stevie Wonders father (which got me in hot water with my music teacher) so I take his fatherly advice with a grain of salt.
With that being said I was a perfect 2-for-2 with my NFC playoff predictions last week. It has come to my attention though that some inconsiderate fool submitted false AFC predictions on my behalf. Since I’m never wrong then it becomes clearly obvious that those pics were made by none other than…a one-armed man!!! Not buying that huh? Well clearly it was a devious plan carried out by my evil counterpart from a parallel universe with a villainous goatee (see: Star Trek: The Original Series, season 2 episode 4). Still no good??
Well by going 2-for-4 on my NFL playoff pics I still earned a .500% average. In his best year Ted Williams only hit .407 so I’m still better than a Hall-of-Famer. With that being said I predict a glorious week and an eventual trip to .750%
Denver over Baltimore 34-20
Breaking News: Peyton Manning is not Andrew Luck. Manning has a history and a very successful one against the Ravens. He has won nine straight dating back to 2001 and in a meeting earlier this season put up 204 yards and a touchdown on Baltimore. That game was in Baltimore and now Peyton gets the home-field advantage.
Denver put up nearly 100 more points during the regular season than Baltimore (481-398) and gave up 55 less points (344-289). Manning doesn’t have a good history in cold weather games and the temperature at kickoff is predicted to be twenty-two degrees. However, with big targets Demaryius Thomas and Eric Decker (each gaining 1000+ yards and 10+ TDs) Manning should still be able to make big plays downfield.
The Ravens strong point is clearly Ray Rice running the ball but he struggled last week against an Indianapolis defense giving up an average of 137.5 rushing yards a game (Rice gained a pedestrian 70 yards with no scores). It does not get any easier for Rice as Denver gives up an average of only 91.1 rushing yards a game. Denver is clicking on all cylinders right now and they will extend their 11 game win streak with an appearance in the AFC title game for the first time since 2006.
Green Bay over SanFrancisco 24-17
Do not expect a replay of the week 1 game between these two. The Packers are a much more complete team and the 49ers have a new QB running the offense. Aaron Rodgers plays SF with a chip on his shoulder every time and has turned that into pretty good success. In three meetings with SanFran Rodgers has thrown for 344yds/2 TDs, 298yds/3TD and 303yds/2TDs. His counterpart, Colin Kaepernick, has played well recently with a QB passer rating over 100 in four of his last seven games. Kaepernick will have to be at his best to out duel Rodgers, especially with far less weapons.
2009 Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis has been invisible lately with no scores in nearly two months. Almost as bad is the fact that he has only one catch in four straight games. In last years playoffs Davis had 4 TDs on 10 catches with 292 yds, so he’ll need to come up big for the 49ers to advance.
With Mario Manningham out with an injury, Packers corner Charles Woodson will clamp down on Michael Crabtree who will need to do better than the 7 catches for 76 yds he had in the first meeting. The problem is after Crabtree there is a big drop off in WR production. Crabtree had twice as many catches during the regular season than the next receiver (Randy Moss had 28 catches for 434 yds). Frank Gore will need to have another big game (112yds and a TD week 1) for the 49ers to have a chance. Green Bay advances and hosts the NFC title game once again.
By the way, Notre Dame just missed another tackle
Seattle over Atlanta 27-13
Raise your hand if you trust Matt Ryan and Mike Smith in the playoffs…(insert crickets chirping). Yes, Ryan threw for over 1000 more yards than Russell Wilson. Yes, Roddy White and Julio Jones had 1113 more receiving yards than Sidney Rice and Golden Tate (2549-1436). However, those numbers won’t help against the tough Seattle defense.
The NY Giants showed in last year’s divisional playoff game how to stop Atlanta and Seattle will follow suit. They will use their physical backs and Bruce Irvin (Seahawks rookie record 8 sacks) will step up for the injured Chris Clemons to stop the Falcons passing game. The Seattle defense gave up an average of 60 less yards a game than Atlanta. Their rush defense ranks 3rd in the league while Atlanta is only 29th. The pass defense was 6th while Atlanta was only 23rd. The rush defense ranked 10th and Atlanta came in at 20th.
The numbers don’t lie and if the cliche is right that defense wins championships then Seattle is sitting pretty. Marshawn Lynch will build of his 132 yrd performance last week and Wilson should be able to manage the game again (187yrds/1 TD/0 INT/57% completions/92.9 passer rating) as Seattle makes the NFC title game for the second time in eight seasons.
New England over Houston 31-14
It was a mismatch that resulted in a brutal 42-14 beating. No, I’m not talking about the BCS national championship. I’m talking about New England over Houston in week 13. That game was played in N.E.. This game is played in N.E.. Rule #1 about the NFL: You don’t bet against Tom Brady in playoff games in N.E.. He’s 10-2 at home, averaging 24.55 points a game at home and has 6 game winning drives in his playoff career.
The Patriots offense was a juggernaut this season. They led the NFL in total yards with over 420 a game. They led the league in points with 557 (34.8 a game). They led the AFC in passing yards with 4,662 and were third in rushing yards with 2,184 (only Kansas City and Buffalo had more). J.J. Watt (league leading 20.5 sacks) and the Texans will need to play lockdown defense like last week when they held Cincinnati to 0-9 on third downs, which is easier said than done against Brady.
Matt Schaub has 3 interceptions and no TDs in his last three contests, so Arian Foster will need to duplicate his 140 yds from last week to keep Houston in the game. Belicheck will key in on Andre Johnson as he did last outing which saw Andre limited to 4 catches and 63 yards. Although he did finish the season with 112-1598-4, the Patriots have their own receiving threat in a guy named Wes Welker and his almost identical numbers, 118-1354-6. The Pats dominated Houston last time without Rob Gronkowski, but he’s back this week and Tom Brady gets win number 17, passing legend Joe Montana for most playoff wins all time.
Seattle visits the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field for the NFC title game in a rematch of the week 3 “hail-mary miracle” game. Thankfully there won’t be any replacement refs to ruin the ending worse than an M. Night Shyamalan movie. On the other side of the bracket we get another Manning vs Brady matchup. Watching an NFL season without those two going head-to-head is like ordering some spaghetti with marinara sauce, and getting egg noodles with ketchup.