Ravens (4) vs. Broncos (1), Saturday 4:30 CBS
Some are quick to say that this game will go exactly how the last one went, trhe Broncos will take a lead and not look back. There are a few very big differences this time, the biggest one being the return of Ray Lewis. Not everyone realizes how much his presence helps to stifle the running attack of most teams. He didn’t play last time these two met, and the Broncos offense was able to attack through the air and ground. If the Ravens can slow the run game and get pressure on Peyton Manning they have a chance at winning. Another big factor to consider from the last time they met, the Ravens were in the red-zone and were about to score when Flacco got pick-six’d to end the first half. That greatly turned the momentum of the game and after that it was all Broncos. Flacco only completed 50% of his passes then and must be better in order to have a chance.
Final Thought: The last time the Broncos have actually been tested by a good team was in their loss to the Patriots mid-season. If the Ravens can come out aggressive, it could turn the tide of this game.
Prediction: 31 – 20 Broncos
Packers (3) vs 49ers (2), Saturday 8:00 FOX
This game will be so different than the first time they met in week 1 that its good no one is talking about it. Colin Kaepernick adds a whole different dimension to the ‘Niners offense that Alex Smith just couldn’t bring, the deep ball and the scramble. The biggest issue facing the 49ers is the extended break they had with the bye week. Think about it, Kaepernick has been riding momentum ever since seizing the starting job from Smith. This is the first time his team has slowed and relaxed for a bit. I think it will take their momentum away and cause problems for the offense. If they can overcome this and start the game aggressive, this will be an exciting game. Aaron Rodgers got overshadowed by Peyton Manning and Tom Brady for most of the season, but he is still an extremely accurate passer and with all of his offensive weapons healthy for the first time, he could have a monster game if the ‘Niners don’t disguise their coverages.
Final Thought: Aaron Rodgers grew up a 49ers fan and Colin Kaepernick grew up a Packers fan. This obviously doesn’t have any bearing on the game, just a fun fact!
Prediction: 24 – 21 Packers
Seahawks (5) vs Falcons (1), Sunday 1:00 FOX
I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see this game. Yes, the Falcons haven’t won a playoff game with Matt Ryan or Mike Smith and the Seahawks are on fire, but the Falcons are determined to break the spell. While the Seahawks have arguably the best defense in the league, the Falcons have so many weapons on offense that there’s no way they can all be shut down. Chris Clemons was Seattle’s best pass rusher, and he’s now on IR. If Matt Ryan has time in the pocket, he will find holes in this seemingly perfect defense. On the other side of the ball, the key for the Falcons will be containing RB Marshawn Lynch. Their run defense isn’t great, but they need to find a way to shut him down since the Falcons’ secondary should be able to take care of Seattle’s receivers. The other key is to keep Russel Wilson in the pocket and not let him scramble. I was amazed at how the Redskins seemed unprepared in that aspect of his game.
Final Thought: The three times that Matt Ryan has lost in the playoffs, he has lost to teams that have made the Super Bowl, and 2/3 times they won (Cardinals, Packers, Giants)
Prediction: 21 – 17 Falcons
Texans (3) vs Patriots (2), Sunday 4:30 CBS
The Patriots are a much more mature team than they were in 2010 when they lost to the Jets in the divisional round after destroying them in the regular season. There are over 20 players left on the roster from that year, and they are determined not to let history repeat itself. The Pats desperately needed the bye week in order for starting corners Dennard and Talib to get healthy, which allows Devon McCourty to move back to safety, his strongest position. Amazingly, DE Rob Ninkovich will be able to play, but even if he is not 100%, the Pats have plenty of depth at that position. If the Pats can shut down Arian Foster and force Schaub to make plays, they have a good chance of winning this game. Oh, did I not mention the last time the Patriots and Texans met, Rob Gronkowski was on the sidelines? His presence adds another element for the Texans defense to attempt to contain. The Texans’ best chance of winning comes from JJ Watt pressuring Tom Brady up the middle and getting in his face as he throws.
Final Thought: Brady needs 1 more post season win to break his tie with his childhood idol, Joe Montana, for most postseason wins. He currently has 16
Prediction: 38 – 21 Patriots
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