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NFL Divisional round preview & predictions – Inside The Wheelhouse

January 10, 2013 By: Category: NFL | NCAA Football, Sports

The 2012 NFL season is now down to just 8 remaining teams, all whom are vying for a spot in their conference’s championship game. But for that to happen they must beat their opponent in the NFL Divisional Round this Saturday and Sunday. When the dust settles there will be just 4 teams that remain with a spot in Super Bowl 47 that much closer. Let’s take a look at this weekend’s NFL Divisional round games:

AFC:

(1) Denver Broncos vs. (4) Baltimore Ravens

If you enjoy “old school” NFL football than this game is for you. If you are looking for an “offensive explosion” of a game than don’t even bother to tune into this game because that’s not what you are going to get. The Broncos and Ravens have two of the most impressive defensive unit’s in all of Football and you are going to get these defenses to play on such a high level knowing that the AFC Championship Game is in their grasps.

Denver enters this game as the “hottest” team in the NFL that nobody is talking about. Call it disrespect, call it getting lost in the Western part of the United States, but for whatever reason the Denver Broncos aren’t being looked at as the serious Super Bowl contenders I believe they should be. Denver hasn’t lost a game since October 7th (against the New England Patriots) as they have won their last 11 games. They have the most momentum in the NFL currently and hopefully the first-round bye layoff won’t affect this team against Baltimore.

As for the Baltimore Ravens they are playing on pure emotion right now. This team loves Ray Lewis and they want him to exit the National Football League in-style with a Super Bowl ring. Their defense played the best I have seen it all season long against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round and I expect they will try to do that again versus Peyton Manning. If the Ravens offense can get to the same level as their defense was playing last week then we could potentially be looking at an upset in the AFC Divisional round.

The deciding factors in this game will come down to both team’s quarterbacks. Peyton Manning is one of the best quarterback’s to ever play the game so how he tries to manipulate this tough Ravens defense will be something I will closely be looking for in this game. As for Joe Flacco it’s all going to come down to consistency, for all things considered he was solid against the Indianapolis Colts in the Wild Card round but now he takes on a tough defense in the Broncos and is on the road, two things Flacco has a tough time dealing with. As for the final in this one I like the Broncos to get the victory and advancing to the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Broncos 24 Ravens 14

(2) New England Patriots vs. (3) Houston Texans

There is something to this game for both of these teams. It’s something more then the winner getting the opportunity to play in the AFC Championship Game. For both of these teams they can make a strong statement to rest of the NFL or avenge one of the worst losses in franchise history. This game has the chance of either being a compelling matchup or just a blowout at the hands of the “old dogs of the AFC.”

New England has been in this position before. This will be the 2nd time in 3 years that they will be playing a team they blew out in a primetime matchup in a playoff game. The last time that happened it was the New York Jets in the 2010 NFL Playoffs and the Patriots got shocked by a team that they dominated weeks prior to their playoff rematch. New England will look to prevent “lighting from striking twice” in this game and proving that they are as dominant now as they were we they destroyed Houston weeks prior.

For Houston on the other hand they are being looked at as a team that cannot compare to the New England Patriots. Many people were wondering if Houston would be able to finally hang out at the “big boys table” against the Patriots and the Texans walked on the field of Gillette Stadium only to get destroyed by New England. The Texans have a lot to prove in this one and need to show the league whether or not they deserve to be one of the best AFC teams in consecutive years.

This game is a tough call because part of me wants to pick the Houston Texans (they were my AFC Super Bowl pick) in avenging their horrible loss at the hands of New England nearly a month ago, but you cannot stop the Patriots right now. New England hasn’t looked consistent as of late but this is the New England Patriots we are talking about. They have been here many-a-times before and the 1st round bye layoff doesn’t affect them like it would other teams, in-fact it makes them better. Once again, New England heads to the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Patriots 42 Texans 14

NFC:

(1) Atlanta Falcons vs. (5) Seattle Seahawks

Here we go again, the Atlanta Falcons are a #1 seed in the NFC and they are playing one of the most dangerous, if not the dangerous team in Football. Its déjà vu all over again as the Falcons played the hottest team in 2010 (Green Bay) and in 2011 (New York Giants) in the playoffs. So I suppose if this trend can continue then it’s a foregone conclusion that Seattle wins the Super Bowl, right?

The focal point of the Atlanta Falcons will be, of course, Matt Ryan. In Matt Ryan’s playoff career (3 games) he is 0-3 and hasn’t thrown for more then 199 yards in those games. So the preverbal “monkey is on the back” of Matt Ryan in this one and he needs to get it done on Sunday or this will plague him for yet another season.

Seattle on the other hand is one of or the hottest team(s) in the NFL depending on how you look at it. The Seahawks are getting it done offensively and defensively as they have “peaked” at the right time in the season. Should history repeat itself then we all know those teams who “peak” at the right time typically hold up the Vince Lombardi trophy at season’s end.

Keeping in mind history is how I am going to make my predictions for this Sunday’s game. Seattle is red-hot and Atlanta has playoff history flaws. Until proven otherwise there can be no way I bet against the Seattle Seahawks right now and pick Atlanta in the playoffs with Matt Ryan as their quarterback. Sorry Atlanta.

Prediction: Seahawks 21 Falcons 13

(2) San Francisco 49ers vs. (3) Green Bay Packers

It’s a Week 1 matchup that has plagued the Green Bay Packers for most of the 2012 NFL season. It’s also a Week 1 matchup that solidified the San Francisco 49ers as being “for real” as a top team in the NFC and the NFL. Now these two teams will battle it out again, this time in San Francisco, for the right to play in the NFC Championship Game. Two historic franchises, one spot, talk about a compelling NFL Playoff matchup.

All season long I have praised the San Francisco 49ers as being one of the best teams in Football. At points in the season they were the best team in Football as they looked extremely strong on both sides of the Football. There was no bend and there was no break in how good this team was or is. If the San Francisco 49ers were a movie script many people believe that it will end with confetti and celebration in the Superdome but first they have to go through one of the best in the NFC.

For Green Bay this isn’t necessarily how they envisioned their 2012 season. They have battled adversity from injuries (Charles Woodson, Greg Jennings, Clay Matthews to name a few), tough losses (Indianapolis Colts, San Francisco 49ers, Minnesota Vikings) and even referees (the “Fail Mary vs. Seattle). But this is what Green Bay likes to do, battle through adversities. There are some correlations to the 2010 Super Bowl season right now but for that to continue Green Bay needs to beat San Francisco to keep the “quiet momentum” going.

The best thing about this playoff matchup is that they are two completely different teams then they were back in Week 1. At that time Green Bay was playing with problems while San Francisco was nearly flawless. Now Green Bay is playing flawless while San Francisco is playing with problems. It’s going to be a fun matchup but I like the Green Bay Packers avenging their Week 1 loss and advancing to the NFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Packers 24 49ers 21

For more NFL talk join Bower, Chris Johnson and myself Monday – Friday throughout the Football season on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, ESPN 1300 in New Haven and online at 979espn.com!

You can listen to Jeff on “The Bower Show” every Monday – Friday from 3pm – 7pm ET on 97.9 ESPN in Hartford, CT. You can listen online at www.979espn.com

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Jeff Peck

You can follow Jeff on Twitter at www.twitter.com/JeffPeck979ESPN

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