NFL’s Divisional Playoff Preview
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots,
Saturday, 4:35 pm EST on NBC
The Baltimore Ravens just happen to be the hottest team at the moment: between getting healthy at the right time and simply playing at their best, Baltimore is the ideal unit that could make a long run in the playoffs. At the same time, they still have to go through Tom Brady and the Patriots, who despite a slow start finished the season at 12-4. Will New England torch them through the air or could Baltimore control the tempo with their run game: either way, it looks like an exciting match-up at Gillette Stadium.
Prediction: Despite the Ravens newfound ferociousness, New England is too good in these big game scenarios; in my opinion, home field advantage will be a bit too much for Flacco’s birds.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Sunday, 4:40 pm EST on CBS
Simply put, Andrew Luck has had a monstrous season: leading the uneven Colts to their second straight divisional playoff game. But how will his first ranked passing offense do against the ninth ranked passing defense? It is important to point out that Luck needs to be perfect if the Colts have any chance of winning; the mediocre Indianapolis defense is likely to be torched by Peyton Manning, if he is healthy, and a running game that has shined in the second half of the regular season.
Prediction: Despite Denver’s late season struggles, I do not see Luck getting over the hurdle. The Colts need to draft/acquire a defense before they are looked at as a credible AFC threat. If Indianapolis has any chance, it is the arm of Luck alone, but I do not see this happening at Mile High Stadium.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
Saturday, 8:15 pm EST on Fox
Perhaps the oddest match-up of the weekend, the 8-8-1 Carolina Panthers have won seven straight to get themselves to the divisional round of the playoffs. And they have mainly been carried by their defense, which despite some big losses in the beginning of the season has settled down under the leadership of Luke Kuechly. But still, last week’s wildcard game against the Arizona Cardinals was horribly sloppy and the only way to beat Seattle is to play a perfect game. Will Cam Newton be able to move the ball against the number one total defense? Besides beating Detroit all of their wins came against losing teams: however, they did have a close 13-9 loss to Seattle this season.
Prediction: Despite Carolina’s defense looking good, they will have to stop the one-two punch of Marshawn Lynch and Russell Wilson: something that does not look likely.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Sunday, 1:05 pm EST on Fox
And finally, the Dallas Cowboys are going to the frigid weather of Lambeau to take on the Green Bay Packers. This is a match-up of balanced proportions: Dallas has one of the best running games in the league and the Packers have a fairly mediocre run defense. At the same time, Aaron Rodgers is at home against a secondary that has been lacking all season long. Simply, the only way for Dallas to win is to keep Rodgers off the field: yes, Tony Romo is playing fantastic — especially after last weekend’s come from behind victory over the Detroit Lions — but if DeMarco Murray runs the ball effectively I can see the Cowboys defeating the NFC’s two seed.
Prediction: It is hard to pick against Green Bay at home, but I think if DeMarco Murray controls the tempo of the game, then Dallas could pull it off. At the same time, Dallas’ defense needs to stop both Rodgers and Eddie Lacy — the latter is coming off a career season. With this said, I believe this might be Romo’s year, well at least to go to the NFC Championship; therefore, I am hesitantly picking the underdog.