NFC Divisional Playoff Predictions
After the wild card weekend, it’s on to the Divisional Playoff round of the National Football League’s road to the Super Bowl. The only one real shocker coming out of the Wild Card Weekend to me was, the Broncos beating the Steelers in an exciting game that had Tim Tebow once again work his late game magic by throwing an 80 yard touchdown pass on the first play of overtime to send the Steelers home and the Broncos off to New England for the second round.
Look for the Bye teams to come off their rest, ready to make their march to the Super Bowl but some will have a tougher road than others. The 49ers for one team have a very tough first game against the Saints. The rest of this article will be my analysis and predictions of the upcoming Divisional Playoff matchups.
Saints at 49ers
To me, this game will be the best matchup of the entire weekend. Two highly skilled teams going at it out on the West Coast. The 49ers had a great season and enter the playoffs as a highly regarded team expected to go deep into the tournament. Look for their stingy defense to return and the running of Frank Gore to pound out tough yards all afternoon. That being said, I’m not sure the Niners counted on running into what is probably the hottest team playing football right now, the New Orleans Saints.
The Saints were “scary-looking good” this weekend as they beat up on the Lions. They just have too many weapons, and the biggest comes at the QB position in Drew Brees. This guy has just been unbelievable down the stretch and his ability to pick apart the opposing teams secondary is what will keep defensive coordinators up all night. To go along with Brees’ arm, he’s got a talented cast of receivers, any one of which is capable of breaking a big play.
Then, when you think you have the receivers covered, there is D. Sproles, the All-Everthing back that can beat you running, receiving, and on special teams.
Weather is the only thing that can slow down the Saints offense. Since the game is outdoors in San Francisco, keep an eye on that forecast. Right now, it appears it will be sunny next weekend so look for the Saints to upend the Niners in a classic game definitely worth watching.
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Giants at Packers
It’s going to be very hard to pick against the defending Super Bowl Champion Packers and I don’t plan on doing so. The Rodgers led Packers are still the team to beat in this year’s run to the Super Bowl and I look for them to pick up right where they left off in the regular season, and not with their backup QB imitating Rodgers, but the real thing leading a highly charged offense. Again, with a stellar receiving core, Rodgers can spread the ball out to many options so the Giants secondary will have their hands full.
As for the Giants, they are starting to put everything together as well. Comparisons are being made to their 2007 team that made a surprising run to win the Super Bowl. The team is once again healthy, Eli Manning is having probably the best season of his career, which comes at a good time since brother Peyton was absent this year. Victor Cruz has come out of nowhere to be a super start in 2011-2012, and they’ve got their defensive front line back which can arguably be considered one of the nest in the NFL when all are healthy. Top that off with the reappearance of a running game in Wild Card weekend and the Giants should give the Packers all they can handle.
The Giants last two regular season wins, which were must ins for them came at the hands of the Jets and the Cowboys. Neither of those two teams were playing good football at the time so it was hard to get a read on the Giants. I expected more out of the Falcons in the wild card game, but I’ll attribute their lack of anything to a tough Giants defense.
That being said, I pick the Packers to win this one in a close game.
Broncos at Patriots
For all the doubters out there, Tim Tebow once again proved them wrong as he came out throwing against the Steelers in their Wild Card game and led the Broncos to an unexpected upset win over the injury-plagued Pittsburgh Steelers. He threw for 316 yards and 2 TD’s to go along with his own rushing TD. They were playing with the lead most of the game but after a big Steelers comeback to tie the game, Tebow needed to work his magic in overtime and it didn’t take long. On the first play of OT, Tebow threw an 80 yard TD pass to Demaryius Thomas and the Broncos live on. I don’t think anyone gave the Broncos and their lethargic offense any chance against the Steelers even considering Rothlisberger was not at 100%.
So are the Broncos this years Cinderella team? Can Tim Tebow, the guy who only knows how to win pull another rabbit out of his hat? Normally I would say “maybe”, but not this time.
The Broncos need to travel and play the always dangerous New England Patriots who with their star QB, Tom Brady, are no strangers to the NFL playoffs. The Patriots just have too much talent for the Broncos to deal with. The Patriots already beat the Broncos pretty bad this season in Denver so I see nothing different happening as the Patriots are now playing at home. Brady has had another great typical Brady season and to top things off, the very suspect Patriots defense has started to play much better down the home stretch of the regular season.
The cold weather won’t be a factor for either team as Denver is well accustomed to cold Decembers in the Mile High city. That assumes the east coast doesn’t get another weekend of mild unseasonable weather which we saw this past weekend.
All that being said, look for the Patriots in an easy victory this weekend.
Texans at Ravens
Hats off to the Houston Texans who won their first playoff game in the clubs history. Arian Foster looked like his old self in leading a rushing attack which stymied the Bengals. Foster needs to have another big running game to help take the pressure off backup QB T.J. Yates, who is filling in for the injured Matt Schaub. T.J. who? Yes, the Texans looked pretty impressive in wild card weekend but I think the run stops there.
The Ravens are too talented to let the Texans beat them. They can answer Foster’s running game with the diminutive Ray Rice and Joe Flacco will direct a steady offense on several scoring drives to keep the Texans at bay all afternoon long. Add to the Ravens offense one of the toughest defenses in the league, and that is a recipe for a very long afternoon for the Texans.
Look for Baltimore to win this game big as they host the Texans down in Baltimore.