NFL Divisional Round Preview

Posted: January 11, 2014 by ericbernsen in Inside The Odds, NFL, Sports, Uncategorized
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It is needless to say that last week’s slate of Wild Card games provided us with a highly entertaining weekend of football. From the Colts miraculous comeback against the Chiefs to the 49ers hard fought win on the freezing tundra of Lambeau Field vs. Green Bay, all NFL fans were on the edge of their seats throughout each contest. We now have eight teams remaining in the playoffs and four match-ups that should prove to keep us locked in on our TV screens. Let’s preview each game and an idea of what to expect from the NFL Divisional Round. 

New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks (-8, 46.5)

The Saints were able to prove those wrong last week who said they could not win on the road as they knocked off the Eagles in Philadelphia. Even without RB Pierre Thomas, the Saints stayed committed to the running game, allowing them to keep the Eagles explosive offense off the field. However, New Orleans will be facing a Seattle defense that is much stronger than their competition of last week. The Seahawks destroyed the Saints 34-7 in Week 13, so New Orleans has plenty of game film to review and improve upon. The Seattle crowd should be wild as usual and there is no reason to think QB Russell Wilson is not up for the challenge. Seattle is arguably the best team in the NFL, but that does not always guarantee victory in the playoffs. Nevertheless, I will back the Seahawks in what should be a hard-fought home win against Drew Brees and the Saints.

Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots (-7.5, 51.5)

The Colts and Patriots are no strangers when it comes to postseason meetings. While this game will not feature another classic Tom Brady vs. Peyton Manning matchup, current Colts QB Andrew Luck has proven himself to be one of best young signal callers in the game. However, Indianapolis will have to play at a high level for 6o minutes in order pull off this upset. The Colts scored 35 points in the second half to stun the Chiefs last week, but rest assured they will not be able to repeat that feat in Foxborough. QB Andrew Luck will have to do a better job of protecting the ball (he had 3 INT’s last week), and the Colts defense must figure out a way of slowing down one of the best QB’s in history. While the Patriots are a team devastated by injuries, they have figured out a way to win week after week without their elite players. On the defensive side of the ball, it will be essential for the Pats to slow down Colts WR T.Y. Hilton and force other skill-position players to prove their worth. In what should be a high scoring game, I expect the Patriots to continue to implement their renewed focus on the running game, which will open up passing lanes for Tom Brady and company. Look for New England to advance with the home crowd behind them.

San Francisco 49ers at Carolina Panthers (Pick, 41)

The 49ers have some serious momentum heading into this game as they went to Green Bay and beat the Packers with a last-second field goal last week. San Francisco has now won seven games in a row and they are looking to avenge their early season home loss to the Panthers. Carolina impressed the football world this year earning a No. 2 seed after winning 11 of their final 12 games. It is understandable why this game is a pick em spread-wise as both teams feature elite defenses and young playmaking QB’s in Colin Kaepernick and Cam Newton. San Francisco’s offense is now at full strength with the return of WR Michael Crabtree, so it is safe to assume that this game will feature more scoring than the combined 19 points in the previous meeting between these two teams. The determining factor in this game will be postseason experience as the 49ers made it to the Super Bowl last year, while this will be the first ever playoff game for QB Cam Newton. Cam has been playing great football lately, leading his team to four game-winning drives in the past 12 games…but he may need another one in order to advance to the NFC Championship game. In a toss-up game, I will go with the 49ers in what should be a down to the wire finish.

San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos (-10, 54)

The Chargers will look to repeat their Week 15 performance against the Broncos as they went into Denver and defeated their AFC West rivals 27-20 as a 10-point road underdog. If the Chargers want to continue their improbably playoff run, they will have to exploit Denver’s weak defense and somehow slow down Peyton Manning. There is no denying that this potent Broncos offensive is one of the best in NFL history, but it does not mean that Denver is unbeatable. If San Diego continues to execute on third-down and control the pace of the game, another upset is not out of the question. Remember, it is not always the best team who wins in the playoffs but the one with the most momentum. Led by QB Phillip Rivers, the Chargers have the weapons on offense to keep up with Denver and I look for them to keep things interesting in this game.

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