January 14, 2012; Foxborough, MA, USA; New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski (87) spikes the ball after scoring his second of three first half touchdowns against the Denver Broncos during the 2011 AFC divisional playoff game at Gillette Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports

Sim’s Picks: NFL Divisional Playoff Weekend

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Wild Card Weekend is now in the books and it is time to take a look at the match ups for this upcoming weekend. Divisional weekend is the best weekend of the season, especially for the true football junkie that wants to watch games on Saturday and Sunday, and this weekend has some great games to make it that much better. We didn’t see any big surprises in the Wild Card round, unless you expected to see an injured RG3 and the Washington offense beat a stingy defense in Seattle, but I think the divisional round may have a surprise or two up its sleeve. OK, enough rambling, let’s get to it…

 

Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

When I watched the Ravens on Sunday, I didn’t know what to think. It felt like their defense was playing better than they had all year, but the Colts were still moving the ball up and down the field. When I actually took a deep dive into some of the numbers from the game, it was clear that my eyes didn’t deceive me- the Colts left a win on the field in Baltimore. The Colts had 25 first downs, 419 total yards, with over 150 on the ground, and all that equals out to is nine points on the board? There was a common theme in the game and it was missed opportunities, from drops to turnovers, and the Ravens, being the smart and experienced playoff team they are, just played their game. They hit, run it with Rice and throw the deep ball. It is what they do and it worked for them because the Colts couldn’t make the plays that teams need to make to advance.

As much as I want to pick the Ravens to go into Mile High and win, I just don’t see it happening. I do believe the game is going to be closer, but Denver has committed to the run, and Baltimore still cannot stop it. Add Manning and his ability with the play action, and we have a Denver team hosting the AFC Championship game next week.

Broncos 31, Ravens 21

 

Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

Packer fans on Twitter were all excited that their beloved Pack’ were able to slow down Adrian Peterson and Aaron Rodgers was able to light up the Minnesota secondary, but that win in only earned the Packers another rematch with a team they lost to in Lambeau Field during week 1. Granted, things have changed since that time, but there is one constant that hasn’t changed, and that is Green Bay struggles to stop the run. The 49ers run the ball on par with the Vikings, and their pass game is considerably better than the Vikings. The Packers have struggled when facing good offenses, and if the 49ers can score 30 in week one on the road, why would they not do the same at home after having a week off to get healthy?

The biggest issue besides the running game is the 49er defensive line. Green Bay has done a better job in protection since Jeff Saturday stopped playing on Sundays (see what I did there?) but I see the Packers having protection problems on Saturday night. All this adds up to the San Francisco 49ers earning a second consecutive berth in the NFC Championship game.

49ers 31, Packers 27

 

Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

The Battle of the Birds down in Atlanta on Sunday, in my opinion, is the most intriguing match up of the weekend. Seattle is in this position because of their defense, specifically Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner. The Falcons want to create match up problems with Roddy White and Julio Jones, but Seattle is the one team that can put two lock down corners on them that not only match up talent wise, they match up size wise too. Tony Gonzalez is also a threat in the passing game, but the Seattle defense has been able to keep most tight ends in check. I know Atlanta has the home field advantage, but I just don’t have a good feeling about them this week. I have watched them all year, and they have had great games (Giants) but they are very flawed and this is the worst possible match up they could have ended up with. Seattle is hardened and just flat out tough, and Atlanta is going to find out the hard way this Sunday. Break out the Skittles; the Seahawks are headed to San Francisco for an all NFC West- NFC Title Game.

Seahawks 26, Falcons 16

 

Houston Texans at New England Patriots

I covered this game in depth on Saturday night, and I have had a few more days to think about this upcoming game. I put in a lot of thought and this is what I came up with: I feel exactly the same as I did Saturday, which is how I felt the first time these two met in December. The Texans are a pretty good team and they went on a nice run earlier this season, but after the Cushing injury and the bye, this team has been simply average. They allowed the same amount of points as the Patriots, so the idea that they have this great defense is simply untrue, and they play a pretty straight man to man defense that is easily exposed by strong passing games.

Rob Gronkowski missed the first game, and although everyone wants to talk about his effect in the passing game, his return is a huge boost to the running game too. I guarantee Gronk rocks JJ Watt with at least one block on Sunday. Gronk is a devastating blocker, and that will come into play on late Sunday afternoon. Chandler Jones also played sparingly in the first game because he was returning from an injury, so watch for him on Sunday. It appeared he had hit a rookie wall but with a strong showing against Miami in Week 17, it appears the young Patriot defensive end is back on track. The NFL gets its dream match up with Brady versus Manning for the AFC.

Patriots 35, Texans 13

 

Well there you have it, my picks for this weekend. I know many Raven, Packer, Falcon, and Texan fans won’t be happy with these picks, but what I am supposed to do? I can only go by what my eyes and the stats tell me. Don’t shoot the messenger.

 

Follow me @ https://twitter.com/chris_simoneau

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