Divisional Round Predictions for the 2014 NFL Post Season
In a pretty controversial fashion, Dallas is marching up to Lambeau to meet a slightly ailing Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers. Who knows what might have happened after the flag was ruled a penalty and not picked up. I also remember hearing that the head official was working with a different staff than he usually does. Still, Detroit was up by ten points going into half time. As well as Detroit's defense, especially Ndamukong Suh, was playing in the game, they allowed Jason Witten to converte on a crucial fourth down and inevitably that touchdown pass to Terrance Williams. Not to mention Matthew Stafford had a little over two minutes to work with on staging a comeback. The opportunities were there for Detroit to calm the storm, they just couldn't convert. If it were the other way around, I would be saying the same thing.
This is going to be a pretty exciting three days. Saturday and Sunday you have your games and then on Monday the College Football Championship game. Good luck to your team.
Ravens @ Patriots: If you are a Patriots fan, there has to be some sort of feeling inside you that makes you a little nervous. The sight of Joe Flacco, Elvis Dumervil, Terrell Suggs, Haloti Ngata and Steve Smith coming in to Foxborough sounds like trouble. After all, since 2008 (when John Harbaugh and Joe Flacco arrived with the Ravens) Baltimore is 7-4 in playoff games while on the road. This will be the fourth time in six years Baltimore will play at New England, the record so far is 2-1 in favor of the Ravens.
Looking at those two losses by New England, their defense wasn't all that great; Baltimore's defense wasn't a push over though. You also have to factor in Tight End Rob Gronkowski's absence (was still at Arizona for '09 and sidelined in '11), the 83-yard touchdown run by Ray Rice to open up Baltimore's first drive in 2009, and Anquan Boldin's postseason Super Bowl winning-run for Baltimore (22 receptions, 380 yards and 4 TD's).
With that, it is fair to say this game will hinge on Gronkowski. You also have to factor in the defensive performance, both by Baltimore and New England. The Ravens have momentum obviously, after beating Pittsburgh last week. The Patriots are not really a running team but they have had some impressive games with Steven Ridley (now on IR), Shane Vereen, Jonas Gray and LeGarrette Blount. Rookie linebacker C.J. Mosley has done a great job this season for Baltimore that he will play a huge role in this game. New England and Denver alike made improvements last off-season in the secondary. Baltimore on the other hand has been shaky in the same position. Tom Brady will take advantage of it, but I do think he will start out slow.
Panthers @ Seahawks: This is going to be a close and physical game throughout, with the inclusion of a last minute drive that will send somebody to the NFC Conference Championship game.
Seattle held opponents to an average of 6.5 points per game in their last six victories. Carolina, in their last five games (including the victory against Arizona last week), held teams to 11.8 points per game. It is fair to say it will be a defensive battle. With the loss of Carolina's defensive tackle Star Lotulelei for this game, middle linebacker Luke Kuechly will get the task of stopping the between-the-tackles run. No pressure for him with the kind of season he has been having. I don't expect any big gains for either team's running back.
For the two quarterbacks, Panthers Cam Newton missed throws last week that will be more costly against Seattle if he makes the same mistakes. Meanwhile, Seattle's Russell Wilson won't miss those open throws.
Cowboys @ Packers: Green Bay has to feel some sort of relief since New York or San Francisco is not walking in. They instead face the Dallas Cowboys, who are looking to advance and find as much success as those two previous teams.
As well as Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense has been playing, the defense will need to step up. The shootout they had against Atlanta on a Monday Night was a concern. Although Green Bay ranks in the bottom ten in passing yards allowed per game, the reliable Jason Witten, Terrance Williams, and Dez Bryant will be a handful. As far as getting after the quarterback, they did accumulate 41 sacks but they will have to earn it considering the Cowboys offensive line.
The tough battle the Cowboys had against Detroit last week will be looked at as sort of a preparation for this game. It wasn't very easy running the ball last week, so Tony Romo and the defense made some plays. With the Packers giving up the most rushing yards per game at 119.9 in comparison to the seven other playoff teams. DeMarco Murray shouldn't have as difficult a time finding running lanes. On the side of time of possession, Dallas will have to be the victor in that area.
Colts @ Broncos: Robert Mathis was a difference maker in 2013 against Denver. The Colts defense was a bit better than then now. Serving a four game suspension to begin the season, Mathis was ready to play until an Achilles injury side lined him for the rest of the season. Indianapolis will miss his presence. Offensively, Andrew Luck will have to take the reigns as always without a run game. Though, Dan Herron has given Indianapolis a small spark but it won't be much since Denver's defense is the best at defending the run among the remaining playoff teams.
For Denver, Von Miller and DeMarcus Ware will bring the wood at Luck to slow things down. The improved secondary that I alluded to in the beginning for the Broncos will make scoring even more difficult. The running game is alive and will help Peyton Manning in the sense that he will be fresher, which is something that some of us might have never seen in his career from what I remember. It will be cool as the other side of the pillow.
Bonus: Oregon vs. Ohio State. Pick: Ohio State