Dec 22, 2013; Charlotte, NC, USA; Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton (1) runs off the field after the game. The Panthers defeated the Saints 17-13 at Bank of America Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

NFL Playoff Predictions: Divisional Round

Last week, I wrote an article trying to predict the outcome of the Wild Card games. I went 3-1 with my predictions, which i’m okay with. This week’s slate of games figure to be even harder to predict, but i’m going to give it a shot.

(Like last week, i’m not picking against the spread.)

New Orleans Saints vs. Seattle Seahawks

Sean Payton, the head coach of the New Orleans Saints, is doing everything in his power to prepare his team for the rowdy, Seattle fans. First, he had the Seahawks logo painted on the Saints practice field. After that, he blew out two speakers while trying to simulate the crowd noise that the 12th man brings to the table. You’ve got to like the efforts by the Super Bowl winning coach, but you also have to wonder, is it enough?

I don’t believe it will be. If the game was in New Orleans, I would probably pick the Saints, but it’s not, so i’m picking Seattle. I anticipate the Seahawks to play Jimmy Graham similarly to how the Patriots did earlier this year. Aqib Talib & Kyle Arrington were able to shut down the big bodied tight end. I see the Seahawks trying to do the same, but with their All-Pro cornerback, Richard Sherman. If Sherman can shut down, or at least limit Graham’s production, then Seattle should be able to secure the victory against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints.

Indianapolis Colts vs. New England Patriots

Last week, Andrew Luck and the Colts were able to mount a historic comeback against the Kansas City Chiefs. Luck possesses the trait that every team wants their franchise quarterback to possess, he’s clutch. It’s not every day a team comes back from being 21 down at the half, especially in the playoffs. I expect the game against the Patriots to be close, but not nearly as high scoring.

Tom Brady doesn’t have the playmakers he usually has at his disposal, so I foresee the Patriots going to the ground in an effort to dictate the tempo of the game. With that being said, be prepared to see a lot of Legarrette Blount. If the Patriots do get the run game going, I would think the game would be close and low scoring. This might be one of those games that whoever has the ball last, wins.

Both quarterbacks have shown that they have the ability to drive the ball down the field in hectic, late game situations. It’s not an easy pick, but i’m going with the Patriots at home. 

San Francisco 49ers vs. Carolina Panthers

In last weeks Wild Card game, the 49ers edged out the Packers, who I thought were the “team of destiny.” It seems like Colin Kaepernick always finds a way to beat the Packers when it matters most. Not to be cheesy, but he’s essentially Green Bay’s Krypotonite. Ironically, Cam Newton is the NFL equivalent to Superman, or he thinks so, at least. I’m not going to lie, i’m pretty huge on Cam Newton and his playmaking abilities. I’m also a fan of Kaepernick and his abilities, though.

Both quarterbacks are supremely talented, but I think the game is going to come down to the defensive side of the ball. The Carolina Panthers allowed the second fewest yards in the league during the regular season, while the 49ers finished 5th in that particular category. So which defense is going to make more plays? I have a gut feeling that the 49ers will be that team. Their playoff experience has a lot to do with it, in my opinion at least.

I think we’ll be seeing round 3 of Seattle and San Francisco next week. I’m taking the 49ers in a close, defensive contest.

San Diego Chargers vs. Denver Broncos

The Chargers were able to capitalize on 2 Andy Dalton turnovers and escaped Cincinnati with a victory. It’s unlikely that Peyton Manning will be as careless with the football, though. And if he does happen to throw a few picks, it’ll likely be with 3 or more touchdowns. If Manning gets things rolling, the game could get ugly, but if San Diego controls the clock like they did earlier in the season, they’ll have a good shot at winning.

San Diego is more than capable of winning the game, but I don’t think that they will. Peyton Manning has had a record setting season and I don’t trust the Chargers pass defense enough to stop him. I’m selecting the Broncos to win the divisional game, which would place the Broncos against the Colts and Andrew Luck or against Tom Brady and the Patriots. Both games would be incredible to watch.

Who do you have moving on this week? Feel free to post your thoughts in the comment section below!




Tags: Carolina Panthers Denver Broncos Divisional Round Indianapolis Colts New England Patriots New Orleans Saints NFL Playoff Predictions Playoffs San Diego Chargers San Francisco 49ers Seattle Seahawks

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