Last week I picked 3-1. I missed on my “upset pick”. I thought Cincinnati would come out and play well against a slumping Houston team, but instead Cincinnati came out slumping and looked awful.
Not much more to say, let’s get to the picks.
Saturday, 1/12 – 4:30 pm ET
Baltimore Ravens 10-6 @ Denver Broncos 13-3
Prediction: Denver Broncos
I like Denver here. Denver is hot after an 11-game winning streak heading into last week’s first-round bye. Denver has been led by QB Peyton Manning, who has put together a MVP caliber season, and a defense that finished the regular season ranked 2nd in the league. Throw in a solid running game led by RB Knowshon Moreno, who has suddenly found his feet again, and you have quite the challenge for Baltimore in Mile High. I think Denver could start a little slow as they get their feet wet again, but will find their stride at home and pull off the win.
Baltimore played last week in an emotional win against Indianapolis at home. This week they travel to frigid Denver, fresh off a major winter storm. Baltimore has played very well at home all season, but on the road, it has been a different story. I think QB Joe Flacco struggles, as he normally does on the road, and if Baltimore doesn’t pound the ball with RB Ray Rice, they only have a remote chance. Baltimore’s defense has the emotion of LB Ray Lewis back, but they haven’t been the Ravens of old. They could struggle to slow down Manning and Co. Even if Manning and the offense are slow, the Denver defense should play well enough to win.
Saturday, 1/12 – 8:00 pm ET
Green Bay Packers 11-5 @ San Francisco 11-4-1
Prediction: Green Bay Packers
San Francisco is home and fresh off a bye week. Green Bay won soundly against Minnesota last week – albiet with Vikings QB Joe Webb getting the start. I like San Francisco, not only because a trip to the West Coast is never easy, but also because San Fran has a solid run game capable of controlling the clock and they have QB Colin Kaepernick, who brings a new, dynamic element to the offense. If the 49ers use that run game to keep the ball out of Packers QB Aaron Rodger’s hands, San Francisco should be able to pull off the win. Back in Week 1, these two teams played in Green Bay with the 49ers getting the win. A big part of that was the 49ers’ ability to limit the Packers offense.
I think Green Bay gets this one. Just because the 49ers have the formula to beat Green Bay doesn’t mean it will work perfectly. In fact, if San Francisco uses the same strategy as in Week 1, you know the Packers have looked back and dissected that game film. Is Green Bay the dominant team on paper? Nope. But in the playoffs, things don’t go as planned on paper. I like Rodgers and his suddenly healthy receiving core who can, and should, be explosive.
Sunday, 1/13 – 1:00 pm ET
Seattle Seahawks 11-5 @ Atlanta Falcons 13-3
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
Seattle has gotten a lot of attention this week after their win in Washington in the Wildcard round. Atlanta is on the other side of the spectrum. Despite finishing the season with the top seed in the NFC, Atlanta continues to get looked over as a serious competitor for the Super Bowl. Many people like Seattle in this matchup. I personally think it is more of a toss up, but I’m siding with Atlanta. Seattle is very dangerous with a great defense, a strong run game and QB Russell Wilson, who doesn’t put up incredible stats, but plays very well and finds wins. Seattle’s cornerbacks, Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner are big, physical players who could manage to slow Atlanta’s passing attack and Atlanta’s 21st ranked rush defense will be tested by RB Marshawn Lynch.
The real factor here is Atlanta at home. Traditionally Atlanta plays very well in their Georgia Dome with the benefit of their home fans and the controlled environment. In the dome, Atlanta’s offense is explosive enough to challenge Seattle. Browner and Sherman versus Atlanta receivers, Roddy White and Julio Jones will be very interesting to watch. I personally think White and Jones get the upper hand. Plus… you know the dome will be rocking.
Sunday, 1/13 – 4:30 pm ET
Houston Texans 12-4 @ New England Patriots 12-4
Prediction: New England Patriots
I said above with the Green Bay vs. San Francisco pick that losing in Week 1 may benefit the Packers in their second matchup. Houston and New England are similar in that the Patriots beat the Texans 42-14 in Week 14 at New England. So we have Round 2.
I like New England again here. Losing the first matchup normally gives the team that lost an advantage in that they can dissect the game film and game plan accordingly. However, I just can’t pick against Patriots QB Tom Brady at home. He gets his favorite target back in TE Rob Gronkowski and is matched up against a Texans defense that has struggled against quality offenses in recent weeks (Cincinnati was not quality last week).
The real key for Houston will be if they can get their run game going with RB Arian Foster. If the run game gets going like it did last week agains the Bengals, Houston will be able to “hide” QB Matt Schaub. Schaub has been off for a large chunk of the season. If he has to win the game through the air, I don’t think Houston can keep up with Brady and the Patriots offense. A lot hinges on Foster’s success against the 9th-ranked rush defense. Houston certainly has a shot, but I just think there is too much that has to go right for Houston.