I hope all my readers survived that “Polar Vortex,” or the “Deep Freeze,” as I call it, because this weekend, January 11-12th, will be a hot one for NFL fans. This weekend will be Divisional Round Weekend where the winners of both the AFC and NFC Divisional rounds will move on to each of their respective conference championship games. The match ups this weekend look to be very intriguing indeed. I expect better games this week than last week’s Wild Card Weekend. I also hope to do better on my picks in this blog, too.
In speaking of last week’s Wild Card Round, I went 2-2. I was NOT happy. I did have the Colts winning. I am not sure if it was because of LUCK (pun intended), or the combination of injuries and Andy Reid’s incompetence, but the Colts pulled that win out of the fire. The Saints surprised the Eagles by winning a playoff game on the road. I had the Eagles as the winners.
I got burned on Sunday, picking the Cincinnati Bengals. Why, I did that, I don’t know. I should have known not to pick a team that has yet to win a playoff game in over 20 years. You live and learn. However, thank you Colin Kaepernick for making my picks respectable by leading your 49ers to victory over the much heralded Green Bay Packers.
Saturday, January 11th: NFC Divisional Round
(1) Seattle Seahawks vs .(6)New Orleans Saints: 4:35PM, EST on FOX at CenturyLink Field
Analysis: The Saints are going into the toughest place to play in all of the NFL. Any team that plays the Seahawks at home has to deal with the “12th man,” referring to the ultra loud home crowd that makes it tough for the visitors. The last time the Saints played against the Seahawks during this season, they got destroyed. Even though the team proved against the Eagles they could win on the road, I think Seattle will be tough sledding.
Seattle, I admit, has had some close calls. The hapless Tampa Bay Bucs gave the Seahawks a run for their money, before the Seahawks finally won. The Cardinals came into Seattle, and stunned everyone with a win. In 2011, the New England Patriots nearly won, and really should have.
The Seahawks also have a tendency to get a bit over-aggressive on defense. I am also not in love with their offense, so the Saints could try to capitalize on that. The team is not totally flawless. Then again, they are virtually unbeatable at home.
My Pick: As much as Who Dat Nation thinks they can pull the upset, I honestly do not see it happening. If they do, when I go to WrestleMania in New Orleans, I will apologize to the first person I see wearing a Saints jersey. However, I don’t think I am going to have to do that.
Winner: Seattle Seahawks move on to the NFC Championship Game.
Saturday, January 11th: AFC Divisional Round
(2) New England Patriots vs. (4)Indianapolis Colts: 8:15PM, EST on CBS at Gillette Stadium
Analysis: The Indianapolis Colts go into Foxborough, MA, and renew their rivalry with the New England Patriots, coming off their 45-44 victory over the KC Chiefs. Andrew Luck has been lauded by ESPN, Profootballtalk.com, and NFLN as the Second Coming of Peyton Manning, the man he replaced. Luck has been lauded as this “legend,” based on this one playoff victory. I know the media loves their hyperbole, but let’s pump the brakes, shall we? Luck did lead that comeback, but he did throw THREE INTS along with the four touchdowns, so let’s not crown him one of the greats yet.
The Colts are coming off an emotional win. Yes, I realize that Chuck Pagano has prior experience on the defensive side with his former team, the Ravens (who didn’t make the playoffs), and can make life tough for the Patriots’ offense, especially with Robert Mathis (who should get Defensive Player of the Year, in my opinion). I realize the Colts are younger and healthier. I must remind you that Luck and company are facing two REAL LEGENDS in Coach Bill Belichick and QB Tom Brady.
In speaking of Belichick and Brady, this game will be an interesting game as far as strategy. I agreed totally with Coach Belichick that the Colts’ signing of former Patriot and Seahawk WR Deion Branch for likely intelligence purpose is way overrated. Teams change their codes/signals all the time. As Pagano is playing checkers and mind games, Belichick is playing chess. I am thinking that Coach Belichick has something up his sleeve to slow down Luck and that offense.
Another thing is that the Patriots have been battling injuries all season long. They lost top players on both sides of the ball. They lost Rob Gronkowski for six weeks on the PUP list. They lost him later to an ACL injury. They lost Vince Wilfork, Tommy Kelly, and others. They now lost Brandon Spikes. That will hurt them defensively.
That being said, the fact they are IN the playoffs, with a bye, is an accomplishment in and of itself. Will the injuries finally catch up to them? We will have to see. Tom Brady has led this team this far, it will be interesting to see how much further he can take them.
My Pick: I really have gone back and forth with this game. I am sure most of the “experts” will be picking the Colts, especially with their love affair with Andrew Luck. I mean, they loved that kid before he was drafted last year.
I have heard all the reasons why the Patriots will lose this game. Sure the Patriots are decimated by injuries. Sure, Tom Brady is a little older. Sure, many pundits have wondered how the Patriots “have won all these games.” I just think it’s their mental toughness that has carried them through the season. I am likely going to be a contrarian, and pick the Patriots to win this game, but I still feel that as long as they have Belichick and Brady, this team has a shot.
Winner: The New England Patriots stay “Boston Strong,” and advance to the AFC Conference Game
Sunday, January 12th: NFC Divisional Round
(2) Carolina Panthers vs. (5)San Fransisco 49ers: 1:05PM, EST on FOX at Bank of America Stadium
Analysis: The San Francisco 49ers go into Charlotte, NC to face the Panthers for a trip to the NFC Championship game. The 49ers bring in the wonderful Colin Kaepernick at QB, and their suffocating defense. The team just dismissed the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card Round. The 49ers lost to the Panthers, 10-9 at Candlestick Park earlier this season, and hope to turn it around this time around in the playoffs. In other words, if you love a defensive type of a game, this is your game.
As we saw in the Green Bay game, I am expecting Kaepernick to use his speed to escape the pass rush of the Panthers’ defense. Given the results of the teams’ prior meeting, which could be described as a slug fest, I also expect a low scoring game, considering both these teams have hard hitting defenses.
I also suspect the fact that this is going to be Panthers’ QB Cam Newton’s first playoff experience, so the 49ers’ defense will certainly take advantage of Newton’s playoff inexperience. This will also be Panthers’ Head Coach Ron Rivera’s first time coaching in the playoffs as a head coach, so I am sure he will be making some playoff mistakes that the more experienced Jim Harbaugh will capitalize on.
Analysis: As much as I love Cam Newton, and have admired his growth, both as a QB and as a person, I think his inexperience in playoff games will hurt him. I think Colin Kaepernick, and his experience, along with that 49ers defense, will be too much.
Winner: San Francisco 49ers
Sunday, January 12th: AFC Divisional Round
(1) Denver Broncos vs. (6)San Diego Chargers: 4:40PM, EST on CBS at Sports Authority Field at Mile High
This should be a fun game, if you like offense. San Diego defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in last week’s Wild Card round, and now have the task of trying to eliminate the Denver Broncos, led by the media darling, QB Peyton Manning. As just about everyone on the planet knows, Peyton Manning set a ton of passing records this past season at age 37. Now, he has to worry about winning a playoff game against Philip Rivers and the San Diego Chargers.
During the season, the Broncos and the Chargers split the series. The Broncos beat the Chargers in San Diego, and the Chargers beat the Broncos in Denver. The San Diego Chargers have historically given Peyton Manning trouble, even when Manning was with the Colts. The Chargers have handed him losses in the regular season, and in the playoffs. I find it interesting that many teams hadn’t copied the Chargers when they’ve had to face Manning.
Analysis: I am going to be contrarian again, and go with the Chargers. This is the “hot” team that gets on a run. I am not a fan of the Chargers, and I cannot stand Philip Rivers, but this team appears to have what it takes to defeat a team like the Broncos. As I said, they also appear to have Manning’s number. This should be a good game.
Winner: San Diego Chargers.
So, those are my picks. I went with: Seahawks, Patriots, 49ers, and Chargers.
Enjoy the games.
Terri Bey currently blogs for CamelClutchBlog.com about Wrestling, NFL, and other sports/pop culture related subjects. Her work has appeared in BleacherReport and for F4WOnline.com. Terri can be found here at Facebook- http://www.facebook.com/TerriBey and at Twitter- http://www.twitter.com/giopontifan
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