The Divisional round of the playoffs are widely viewed as the best weekend of the NFL. You get two games on Saturday and two more on Sunday. Theoretically the weakest have been weeded out in last weekend’s Wild Card matchups and the big dogs are rested up and ready to roll. It should be a great weekend of football, featuring three re-matches from earlier this season.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Saturday, 3:30 PM CST on CBS
Ray Lewis and the Ravens head to Denver to face Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos. It’s a rematch from just a few weeks ago when the Broncos blasted the Ravens 31-14.
No team is hotter than the Manning-led Broncos, who are riding an 11 game winning streak. It’s amazing that Peyton didn’t even know if he could play football a year ago while last season the Broncos made it to this far in the postseason on Tim Tebow’s heroics. What a difference a year makes.
The Broncos have the total package. Manning is leading Denver’s 4th ranked offense while Von Miller’s defense ranked 2nd in the league. Meanwhile, the Ravens are on a mission to keep this playoff run going for Ray Lewis who has announced his retirement when this run ends.
Ray Lewis and the Ravens defense aren’t what they used to be while the Broncos defense bottles up Ray Rice and Joe Flacco. Manning and the Broncos put an end to the Ravens season and Ray Lewis’ playing days.
Prediction: Broncos 31, Ravens 21
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Saturday, 7 PM CST on Fox
Here’s another rematch from this season, this one goes all the way back to Week 1 when the 49ers beat the Packers 30-22 in Lambeau. Now Aaron Rodgers and the Cheeseheads pack up their act and head to the Bay to face Collin Kaepernick and the 49ers.
Aaron Rodgers is red hot heading into the playoffs and he’s just getting his weapons back. That’s not good for any team, especially a 49ers team which has been inconsistent at best in their last few weeks. They jumped out to a huge lead against the Patriots a few weeks ago and had to hang on to pull off the upset. Aldon Smith was terrorizing the league early in the season, but ever since running mate Justin Smith got hurt he’s been sackless. That combination and an inexperienced Collin Kaepernick adds up to a Packers road win.
Prediction: Packers 26, Niners 22
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
Sunday, 12 PM CST on Fox
Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons have a lot to prove to the league and themselves. They’ve been in this position before; well rested and waiting for an underdog to come to the Georgia Dome (or whatever they’re calling it these days) and they’ve fallen on their faces. The pressure is on Matt Ryan and head coach Mike Smith to deliver a playoff win.
On the other sideline, Russell Wilson and the Seahawks are on fire. They went into Washington and beat a hobbled RGIII and the Redskins, proving they can without their beloved 12th man.
On paper, the matchup sets up well for the Seahawks. They go strength and strength with the Falcons. Their big, physical secondary matches up well with Roddy White and Julio Jones while Wilson and Lynch should be able to do well with their read option against the Falcons run defense, which gave up an average of 123 yards per game. On defense, the Seahawks will miss Chris Clemons who was lost last week to a torn ACL.
The big thing working against Seahawks is a second straight trip into the Eastern time zone, this week it’ll feel like 10AM to the Seahawks when they hit the field on Sunday. I think that hurts the Seahawks and the Falcons finally get over the hump.
Prediction: Falcons 27, Seahawks 24
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Sunday, 3:30 PM CST on CBS
If not for their late season stumbles, the Houston Texans would be the well rested team ready for the Patriots. For a big chunk of the season, Houston was the best team in the AFC, but the Broncos and Patriots passed them by. That wasn’t any more evident than about a month ago when the Patriots rolled past the Texans 42-14. When the Texans have been good, they’ve been good, but when they’ve been bad, they’ve been horrible.
Arian Foster should be able to keep it interesting. He’s averaged well over 100 yards in each of his playoff games, but Tom Brady and the Pats will pull away. The last game of the weekend figures to be the most lopsided.
Prediction: Patriots 44, Texans 24