NFL Division Weekend Playoff Preview
Somehow, we've managed to make it to the divisional round of the NFL playoffs. The regular season came and went quicker than Johnny Manziel's stint as the starting quarterback for the Browns. The Wild Card weekend didn't disappoint as the Baltimore Ravens, Dallas Cowboys, Carolina Panthers, and Indianapolis Colts all were winners and will play this weekend. The NFL has blessed us once again with games on Saturday and Sunday to fill the void that college football has left as the National Championship approaches. Let's take a journey into the four divisional games.
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) at New England Patriots (12-4)
Gillette Stadium, Foxboro - 4:35 PM ET Saturday January 10, NBC
Ravens vs. Patriots has developed into one of the best playoff rivalries in the last 15 years. New England has the best playoff record in the league (18-8) since 2000 and Baltimore is second at 15-7. Saturday's contest will be the fourth time these two AFC power houses have met in the last six years.
The Patriots are coming off their fifth consecutive first-round playoff bye and have home-field advantage throughout the playoffs. New England hasn't been to the Super Bowl in three years, while Baltimore not only appeared more recently, but claimed the Lombardi in 2013.
Though the teams are familiar with each other, the two rosters couldn't be more different than previous meetings. The last time these two teams met in the postseason, the top two receivers from each team were Anquan Boldin and Dennis Pitta for Baltimore and Aaron Hernandez and Wes Welker for New England. Aaron Hernandez is in jail, Boldin and Pitta are at home, and Welker is trying to win Peyton Manning another Super Bowl. Baltimore is also missing Ray Rice, but they still have quarterback Joe Flacco who is one of the best postseason quarterbacks in the league.
I really believe this game will come down to which quarterback plays better and if it's Flacco, plus if they can get Justin Forsett going in the backfield, the Ravens could pull off the upset.
Jan's pick: Ravens
Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) vs. Seattle Seahawks (12-4)
CenturyLink Field, Seattle - 8:15 PM ET, Saturday January 10, FOX
It's been a wobbly road for the Super Bowl Champs, but after getting their swagger back Seattle has been seemingly unstoppable. The Seahawks have allowed three touchdowns, 39 points, and kept five of their last six opponents to seven points or less in their final six games of the season. Oh, and they didn't allow a point in the fourth quarter during that stretch. Seattle has the top-ranked defense for the second year in a row and if the saying is true that defense wins championships, then Seattle could be in for a repeat.
Carolina is the "little brother" of Seattle. Their defense has a similar mentality, their quarterbacks are have similar play styles, both teams have played well down the stretch, and so on - but Carolina is just not quite to the calibur that Seattle is. Carolina is missing the star power that Seattle has on both sides of the ball as well. Star power doesn't win games necessarily, but it does help when your star power backs it up with star power-type play. I just made that up.
Jan's pick: Seattle
Dallas Cowboys (12-4) at Green Bay Packers (12-4)
Lambeau Field, Green Bay - 1:05 PM ET, Sunday January 11, FOX
I'm going to go ahead a beat a dead horse here (no horses were harmed in the following rant): Dallas got some help from the refs. That's why they're in this game. That pass interference call that was called, then not called, then Dez Cryant's temper tantrum on the field that wasn't flagged got Dallas to this game. The Lions played an overall better game then got robbed for it. I also hope Chris Christie doesn't show up so Jerry Jones doesn't have anyone to awkwardly hug when the Cowboys lose to the Packers.
I can throw stats and numbers at you for this game but the Cowboys aren't going to win. I also consulted Governor Butch Otter's crystal ball that he and his lawyers use to make predictions for Idaho's future and the crystal ball says Dallas will lose. Go Pack Go.
Jan's pick: Green Bay, duh.
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) at Denver Broncos (12-4)
Sports Authority Field, Denver - 4:40 PM ET, Sunday January 11, CBS
In case you're new to the NFL, Peyton Manning used to play for the Colts and every time the two teams face off people get really hyped up about it. The Colts and Broncos are similar in that they both have horse-themed team names and mascots. Their logos are also horse-themed. This post is very horse-friendly. Here's a horse gif:
Jan's pick: Denver
As we ride our metaphorical horses into the metaphorical sunsets, let me put a post script here. As I do every August, I make my Super Bowl prediction. I've been correct the last three years and this year I picked New England and Seattle. If you read this entire post, you're probably saying "hey, wait a minute. You picked Baltimore!" Well, to that I say hay is for horses. Baltimore is probably the only team that has a real shot of going into New England and messing stuff up. I also have a good track record for calling upsets (Raiders over Niners, Bills over Packers - anyone?) so I'm sticking to my Baltimore prediction. Either way, it's a win-win for me and that's how I like my horses.