Last week, I was a paltry 1-3 in my Wild Card Weekend Predictions… ouch. I correctly called the Colts’ win, but that wasn’t very convincing either.
I could have sworn Philadelphia was going to run the ball better. Having 80 rushing yards for that offense is a huge deal for a Saints defense that really showed up against LeSean McCoy.
Andy Dalton had an atrocious second half. He looked pretty good in the first half, but it looked like Giovani Bernard fumbled away both the ball and Cincy’s chances at the end of the first half in the redzone. That’s a talented team that can’t seem to get out of the first round. San Diego did run the ball well, which is what I had thought could shift the game in their favor.
I expected more from Aaron Rodgers and that offense. That’s an impressive win for San Francisco on the road in the frigid weather.
If you have any questions or simply want to discuss my Divisional Round Predictions, simply contact me and I’ll try to get back as soon as I can.
Saturday, 1/11 – 4:35 pm ET
New Orleans Saints 11-5 @ Seattle Seahawks 13-3
Prediction: Seattle Seahawks
The big thing here is that I simply don’t think Seattle can be beaten at home, particularly by a team who, excluding last week, was historically bad on the road. Seattle has lost once at home since in nearly two years and that was to divisional foe, Arizona, a couple weeks ago. New Orleans has a great offense that was impressive last week in Philadelphia and their defense played as good a game as they’ve played all season, especially for being on the road. However, Seattle has had a week to rest, to prepare and they are a focused team with a “Super Bowl or Bust” attitude. The game should be closer with the Saints using their 34-7 loss to Seattle in Week 13 to prepare a better gameplan for attacking the NFL’s top defense, but Seattle is just such a difficult place to play, even without the Seahawks fielding, arguably, the most talented roster in the NFL. If the Saints have a chance, it may be by running the ball offensively and stopping Marshawn Lynch on the other side of the ball, but with the home crowd buzzing and the Seahawks built to play in that environment with a terrifying pass rush, an incredibly talented secondary and an offense that pounds the ball on the ground, I don’t like New Orleans’ chances. I’m taking the Seahawks.
Saturday, 1/11 – 8:15 pm ET
Indianapolis Colts 11-5 @ New England Patriots 12-4
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
I’m taking the upset. Andrew Luck and the Colts got out to a slow start last week against the Chiefs before coming back from 28 points down and winning in the closing minutes. Luck was fantastic in the second half and will need to do more of the same this week against the Patriots. I expect him to play well and lead this Colts’ offense to a victory over the Patriots. The Patriots are hard for me to take here because they simply don’t have the explosive weapons that you would expect to win a game like this. Sure, the Patriots were still winning without Rob Gronkowski, but the Colts are coming in with a tremendous amount of momentum following their epic comeback, which should translate into a focused team that is playing to their skill level. Tom Brady will put up points, but the bigger key for the Patriots could be their running game. I think Indianapolis has enough defensively to limit the New England run game, allowing Luck to take advantage of a Patriots defense that was 26th in total yards allowed per game during the regular season. This game will come down to the final minutes, but I like Luck to outduel Brady for the win.
Sunday, 1/12 – 1:05 pm ET
San Francisco 49ers 12-4 @ Carolina Panthers 12-4
Prediction: Carolina Panthers
Carolina is home, but San Francisco is the favorite. The 49ers are playing well and are built like a team ready to continue on a deep playoff run. They run the ball well and have a great defense. Colin Kaepernick is playing well as they are coming off a huge win in frozen Green Bay against Aaron Rodgers and company. That said, the playoffs are where the unexpected happen. I like Carolina to win this one. Playing at home doesn’t give them the home-field advantage that Seattle has, or even New Orleans in the Superdome, but it counts for something. Carolina is ready to cheer for their Panthers in the Divisional Round. Carolina managed to shut down the 49ers to a 10-9 win in San Francisco behind a tough defense that allowed the offense to do just enough to win. I think this week, Cam Newton plays well – even in the face of the 49ers defense – and leads the Panthers offense that has really matured since their Week 10 win over the 49ers. I know it seems unlikely looking at it on paper, but I’m taking the Panthers to move on to the NFC Conference Championship.
Sunday, 1/12 – 4:40 pm ET
San Diego Chargers 9-7 @ Denver Broncos 13-3
Prediction: Denver Broncos
Another AFC West showdown for these two teams after splitting the previous two this season. Both won on the road with San Diego most recently pulling off the 27-20 upset in Week 15 (which I actually correctly predicted in my Weekly Predictions). Regardless of their final regular season records, this is an intriguing matchup. The key for San Diego is their ability to run the ball. Last week, they were able to run the ball on Cincinnati and that fueled their road victory. In Week 15, Ryan Mathews ran for 127 rushing yards en route to that win over the Broncos. Running the ball is key for the Bolts. I picked San Diego to win back in Week 15, but I’m taking Denver this time around. As I’ve said before, playing a team after previously losing to them earlier in the season is a benefit. Also, we need to remember that Wes Welker was out in that Week 15 game due to injury and that the game was played on Thursday night. Part of my rational then was that offenses can’t handle the quick turnaround to Thursday night because of the short preparation week and without Welker, it was going to affect Denver the most. I know what they say about Peyton Manning struggling in January, but Manning is on a mission this season. He has his offense ready to go, Denver has had plenty of preparation time and they should go out and beat San Diego this weekend setting up Indianapolis and Denver in the AFC Championship with storylines abound.