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2011-12 NFL Divisional Round Preview & Predictions – Inside The Wheelhouse

Aaron Rodgers Eli ManningThe field of 12 has now been narrowed to the field of 8 as the Wildcard weekend has come and passed & now it’s time for the divisional round. There will be four of teams left standing as we get ever so closer to Super Bowl 46.

For the four remaining teams after this weekend they will play for conference pride & its championship as they look to represent their conference in the most ultimate game in all of sports. With that being said here is the preview & predictions for this weekend’s upcoming NFL playoff games:

New Orleans Saints vs. San Francisco 49ers

Talk about your basic offense vs. defense matchup. The New Orleans Saints and their explosive offense will head to San Francisco to take on the Niners & their explosive defense. I don’t think it could get any better then this when it comes to two teams that are strikingly different on opposite sides of the ball.

San Francisco enters the game as the #2 seed in the NFC and home-field advantage in this game which is extremely important to San Francisco because I don’t know how they would do if this game was in the Superdome. The Niners have been on a terrific miracle run this season after being an after thought in the weak NFC West and not being a team that people thought could be the #2 seed in the strong NFC let alone make the playoffs. That have done it by playing terrific defense and an offense that gets the job done, I haven’t been completely sold on the Niners this season but you have to give the major credit that is due, this team is for real and they are very good.

The Saints on the other hand enter this game after a great win over the Lions in the Wildcard round that saw them completely “go-off” in the 2nd half. New Orleans is the veteran NFC playoff team out of all the remaining teams making the playoff on a yearly basis, winning a Super Bowl and seeing the highest of highs this time of the year & the lowest of lows.

They have been coined by many lately as the best team in the NFC simply because their passing game continues to do what it does while the running game has stepped it up to be very explosive the last couple of weeks. This is a team that is clicking on all cylinders at just the right time of the season.

As for the divisional matchup itself it’s very hard to decide who will be the winner heading into the NFC Championship game. For years I have praised NFL Championship teams for having the better defense which San Francisco clearly has. But this year has been different for the NFL as the explosive offense is currently leading the way to the top of the NFL ladder where I have to lean to offense over defense this season.

For that reason I have to go with the New Orleans Saints in this one, the Saints obviously have the better offenses of the two teams and their defense isn’t all that bad either forcing Matthew Stafford in the Wildcard round to throw a ton of mistakes that favored the Saints.

The 49ers have been a great team this season but there is a huge question mark on their offensive side of the ball regarding how well Alex Smith can actually play and if Frank Gore is going to be healthy. The Saints are on a roll right now I feel like they can be a strong team to contend for the NFC Championship next week.

Prediction: Saints 24 Niners 14

Denver Broncos vs. New England Patriots

If you told someone back in like Week 5 that the New England Patriots would be taking on the Denver Broncos in the Divisional Round of the AFC Playoffs this season you might have been laughed at and have an immediate motion for your “NFL Fan Card” to be taken away. Well on the legs and sometimes left arm of the Tim Tebow movement the Denver Broncos have advanced to the Divisional Round of the NFL Playoffs & will in-fact be taking on the New England Patriots for the right to advance to the AFC Championship game. Can this amazing run the Denver Broncos have had this season continue?

The Broncos have had their backs against the wall all season long. They weren’t supposed to win anymore games after Tebow was named the starter, they weren’t supposed to win their division, they weren’t supposed to beat the Steelers and now they aren’t supposed to be the New England Patriots in this game.

While they are certainly the underdog in this game I wouldn’t write them off like many people will be heading into this game. Their defense is highly underrated and if they can perform their offense as well as they did on the very good Steelers defense against the very weak Patriots defense then we may have one of the biggest upsets in the NFL Playoff history.

But you cannot discredit the New England Patriots. Despite being a team that for the most part has been an AFC dynasty the last ten or so years they are a team with a huge chip on their shoulder. They have no won a playoff game since the 2008 AFC Championship Game and have had a horrible playoff streak since the last time they upset in the playoffs against the New York Giants. Despite all their accomplishments they are a team with (and I can’t believe I am saying this) something to prove. They want to show the entire world that they are still that great Patriots team was saw perform in the mid-2000s and will look to make a huge statement the same way they did against the Broncos just a couple weeks ago.

Let’s face facts here; I have loved what the Broncos and Tim Tebow have done this season. We all love Cinderella stories but they are a team on borrowed time that is overachieving anything they should’ve accomplished this season. They have earned and deserved all the respect in the world from the football world but they are not a team that can stop this Patriots team. It may be a fun game to watch for like a quarter or even the first half, but I really believe the Patriots blow this team out of the water.

I hope I am wrong as a Football fan but I don’t know how the Broncos can come back from the whooping they took from the Patriots just a couple weeks ago. New England is tired of hearing that they may not be the good team that they really are, they can definitely make a statement for the rest of the AFC & the NFL even by what offensive showcase they will display against the Broncos.

Prediction: Patriots 42 Broncos 17

Houston Texans vs. Baltimore Ravens

If you love defensive football then this your matchup as these two teams are carbon copies of one another as they rely on their defense and on the offense side of the ball they rely on their running game. This game may be a lot more interesting to watch if Matt Schaub was healthy but I wouldn’t write off T.J. Yates from putting to the Baltimore Ravens in this one. Whichever defense stays the strongest throughout this game will determine the winner in this one.

The Houston Texans enter this game knowing that they are banged up and have adapted well to it thus far in the playoff atmosphere. The good thing for the Texans is that they had at least some time with T.J. Yates behind center to get used to him rather then Schaub going down before Week 17.

They played very well against the Bengals last week and against a much underrated defense in the Bengals. Houston needs to pound the ball early with their running game and set the tempo as despite being a #3 seed they are still a pretty heavy underdog in this one. If they just put points on the board their defense will do the talking.

As for the Baltimore Ravens they enter this game the clear favorite with their defense going up against a rookie quarterback. To me I believe it will be the exact reverse for the Texans as T.J. Yates will face what Andy Dalton faced against the Texans defense in the Wildcard round. The Ravens defense will be hungry with a rookie quarterback under center in a playoff atmosphere. The Ravens need Joe Flacco to deliver in this one and if he does I don’t believe it will be a very good day for the Texans.

I believe the first half of this game is going to very close and I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s at zero heading into halftime. But I believe the Ravens as the veteran playoff team that has gelled together for a longer time then the Texans will make the necessary adjustments to pull away in the 2nd half. The Ravens have terrific leadership on their sidelines and I really believe that they think this is there year to contend for a Super Bowl. They were my AFC pick at the beginning of the season to make the Super Bowl and I’m going to continue to ride that pick heading into the AFC Championship Game.

Prediction: Ravens 21 Texans 6

New York Giants vs. Green Bay Packers

Here we go again for these two franchises as we get a rematch from the 2008 NFC Championship Game where the New York Football Giants went into Lambeau Field and won en-route to a Super Bowl Championship in a magical season that some are already comparing this current team too.

The New York Football Giants enter this game as one of the hottest teams in the NFL and have the confidence & momentum to shock the world as the underdog against the heavily favored Green Bay Packers in the Divisional round. Sans the New Orleans Saints I truly believe that the New York Giants can be another team in the NFC to put it to Packers in the playoffs.

The New York Football Giants enter this game red hot and Eli Manning is starting to take shape as one of the best quarterback’s in the NFL. Amazing you’d be saying that since Manning has a Super Bowl ring already but he’s really starting to get the recognition he clearly deserves as he has led this team to the divisional round of the playoffs.

The defensive line is possibly the best in Football and they have been very confident in their week-to-week play since their matchup with Green Bay back in Week 13 which they only lost by 3. If the Giants can get by the Packers in the Divisional round I would not be surprised if they made it to the Super Bowl because they are playing extremely well.

On the other side of the ball you have the disrespected defending Super Bowl Champion Green Bay Packers who are still a team that went 15-1 in the regular season and did beat the New York Giants on the Giants home turf. Ever since Green Bay lost against the Chiefs in Week 14 it’s almost been like they are an after thought to be Super Bowl Champions again. That’s good for the Green Bay Packers because they entered the season under the radar and flourished throughout the season because of it. They have had their ups & downs on throughout the season and mostly defensively but they still have MVP candidate Aaron Rodgers under center & well rested after two weeks off.

This game is going to be good and I mean real good. These two teams brought it the last time they faced each other in the playoffs and I fully expect it again. The biggest key in this matchup will be the health of the Giants secondary and the Green Bay Packers total defense.

If Green Bay can play defense like they did all of last season and throughout the playoffs then they will show up & play well against the Giants and if the Giants have a healthy secondary then they will at least attempt to throw Aaron Rodgers off rhythm. At the end of the day though the Green Bay Packers are playing at 100% and want people to keep disrespecting them. Until someone can do it & knock them off, I am sticking with the Green Bay Packers in this one.

Prediction: Packers 31 Giants 21

Join Bower, “The Sweet Nasty” Chris Cause & myself every Sunday for more NFL & Fantasy Football talk over at www.wheelhouseradio.com!

Jeff Peck is the producer for the “Wheelhouse Radio” program that airs every Sunday at www.wheelhouseradio.com.

Jeff also co-hosts “The Still Real to us show” with Eric Gargiulo which can be available at www.wheelhouseradio.com and can be downloaded in the “Real Guy Radio” section of the site.

You can follow “The Champ Jeff Peck” on Twitter at www.twitter.com/therealjeffpeck you can also follow Wheelhouse Radio on twitter at www.twitter.com/thewheelhouse and you can e-mail them @ [email protected]

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Eric G.

Eric is the owner and editor-in-chief of the Camel Clutch Blog. Eric has worked in the pro wrestling industry since 1995 as a ring announcer in ECW and a commentator/host on television, PPV, and home video. Eric also hosted Pro Wrestling Radio on terrestrial radio from 1998-2009. Check out some of Eric's work on his IMDB bio and Wikipedia. Eric has an MBA from Temple University's Fox School of Business.

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