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2015 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

Tom Brady and the Patriots face the Ravens in the playoffs for the fourth time (Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY)
Tom Brady and the Patriots face the Ravens in the playoffs for the fourth time (Robert Deutsch / USA TODAY)

2015 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

The Wild Card round was pretty dull until the final game between Detroit and Dallas. That game more than made up for lack of action with a flurry of missed calls and the penalty that was not midway through the final quarter. We can only hope that the Divisional Round produces as much excitement as the Lions-Cowboys game. After going 3-1 last week, let’s hope we can make it 4-0 this weekend.

 

Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at New England Patriots (12-4) – 4:35 PM ET Saturday on NBC

What a game to start the weekend with. The top seed in the AFC, the New England Patriots, will be playing the Baltimore Ravens at home for the fourth time in the playoffs. Baltimore has a winning record in the first three games at 2-1. However, those games came in the 2009-10 and 2012-13 seasons. The latest game between the two teams was in Week 17 of the 2013 season where the Patriots won 41-7 on the road.

What makes the Ravens so good at beating the Patriots is they get pressure on Tom Brady. Doing so again would be advantageous once again for the Ravens, but they also need quarterback Joe Flacco to keep excelling on the road. Flacco owns a 10-4 record in the playoffs and has 7 wins on the road.

For the Patriots, they will need to protect Tom Brady to have enough time for him to find his targets. His primary target will be Rob Gronkowski, but if the Ravens take him out of the plan the Pats still have a myriad of other options.

Prediction: While the Patriots are favored by a touchdown, this game feels like it is a field goal difference. The Patriots find a way to win 24-21.

 

Carolina Panthers (8-8-1) at Seattle Seahawks (12-4) – 8:15 PM ET Saturday on NBC

After last week’s expected win at home against Arizona, the Panthers travel to the Pacific Northwest to face the Seattle Seahawks. These two teams are familiar with each other as they have faced off during the regular season the last three years.

In 2012, 2013, and earlier in 2014, the Seahawks traveled to Carolina and won all three games. None of the games were high scoring with all three of them also being close until the end. The average score was 14 to 9 in favor of the Seahawks.

The one thing to note is that the Seahawks are now playing at home against the Panthers for this first time since 2010. The Seahawks won that game 31-14, but that seems like ages ago given how they have been built into a Super Bowl Champion. The Seahawks boast a 7-1 record at home this season while the Panthers have struggled on the road going 3-4-1.

Once again, this game figures to be defensive in nature, but the Seahawks are getting hot at the right time. They are winners of 6 straight and have yielded a total of 39 points in those 6 games. In only 1 game have they given up more than a touchdown. That happened to be on the road at Philadelphia.

Prediction: The combination of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch (and how could we forget the defense?) will be too much for the Panthers. Seattle wins 27-3.

 

Dallas Cowboys (13-4) at Green Bay Packers (12-4) – 1:05 PM ET Sunday on FOX

This game will be dictated by how well Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers can play through his calf injury. He was clearly bothered in the season finale against Detroit and even missed some game time due to the injury. If he is at 90 or 95%, the Packers will be tough. However, we will not know who healthy he is until game time.

For the Cowboys, they look to continue their perfect road record for the season. They will be lead by DeMarco Murray, who led the NFL in rushing with 1,845 yards. He will be tested by the always dangerous linebacker Clay Matthews on the other end.

The Cowboys also have the dynamic Dez Bryant to catch passes from Tony Romo. Bryant was held to only 3 catches for 48 yards last week against Detroit, but he had 6 touchdowns in the final 3 regular season games.

The Cowboys are certainly not a popular choice after last week’s controversial game, but they have a shot if Aaron Rodgers is not healthy enough to make the passing game go.

Prediction: Rodgers is good enough to lead the Packers over the Cowboys, 28-21.

 

Indianapolis Colts (12-5) at Denver Broncos (12-4) – 4:40 PM ET Sunday on CBS

The Colts come into this game off a 26-10 win against a listless Cincinnati offense that struggled to do much on offense without A.J. Green. Now, they have to face the Denver Broncos on the road.

The two teams met in the season opener with Denver racing to a 24-0 lead before halftime and then led 31-10 midway through the fourth quarter. The Colts came back with two touchdowns in the in the final half of the quarter, but their rally came up short as they lost 31-24.

Andrew Luck had a solid game going 35 of 53 for 370 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 picks. He also ran in for a score. However, another two interception game would probably cost the Colts once again. Facing him on the defensive side for the Broncos is Brandon Marshall who returns after a foot injury.

Meanwhile, the Broncos have a bit to worry about with their quarterback Peyton Manning. There is little doubt he is still one of the best quarterbacks in the league, but the final quarter of the season have some concerned. In the final four games he failed to throw a touchdown twice and had 6 interceptions. His game at Cincinnati was particularly worrisome because he had 4 picks compared to 2 interceptions and appeared to not have the same velocity. The game time temperature for Sunday will probably be in the 30’s, which may be an issue.

Prediction: Andrew Luck and the Colts manage to go into Mile High and win 31-28.

 

Conference Championships

Based on the predictions above the conference championships would be:

AFC Championship: Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots

NFC Championship: Green Bay Packers at Seattle Seahawks

Enjoy the wonderful playoff action this weekend!

New England Decimates Chicago As Bears Freefall Continues

 

Rob Gronkowski had 149 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving to help pulverize the Bears (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)
Rob Gronkowski had 149 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving to help pulverize the Bears (Jim Rogash / Getty Images)

 

Tom Brady threw 5 touchdown passes, 3 to Rob Gronkowski, and the New England Patriots pulverized the Chicago Bears 51-23. Even the final score is misleading as the Patriots held 45-7 lead late into the third quarter.

The first Brady to Gronkowski pass came early in the first quarter form 6 yards out. The first quarter saw the Pats end up on the Bears one yard line and faced with a fourth and goal. The Patriots went for it and Jonas Gray was stuffed for a two yard loss, but New England was called for a false start. It was a blessing in disguise because the Pats kicked a 23 yard field goal to go up 10-0.

The New England offense continued to roll after a Chicago three and out. Brady hit Tim Wright from a yard out to make it 17-0. The Bears would finally muster a response with Jay Cutler finding Matt Forte on the wheel route out of the backfield to make it 17-7. However, the Bears would soon be faced with an onslaught to end the first half.

With under two minutes remaining, Brady and Gronkowski hooked up again with Gronkowski tapping both feet in bounds. The play was reviewed to determine if Gronkowski maintained possession and the official ruling was the call on the field stood.

After forcing a three and out, Julian Edelman returned the punt to Chicago 19 yard line for a 42 yard gain. On top of that return, a holding penalty was called against Chicago to put the ball on the 9 yard line. It took only one play for Brady to hit Brandon LaFell for the 9 yard touchdown strike and the Pats led 31-7.

The disaster continued for Chicago on the next play. Cutler was being sacked when he fumbled the ball with Rob Ninkovich picking the ball up and running it back 15 yard for a touchdown. It took a total of 57 seconds for the Patriots to go from a 17-7 lead to a 38-7 lead. Cutler’s desperation have on the final play was intercepted by Darrelle Revis to end the nightmare opening 30 minutes for Chicago.

The New England offense would not be stopped on the opening series of the second half. Brady hit Gronkowski, who shrugged off a defender and then ran into the end zone for his third score. The pass play was from 46 yards out and the Pats now led 45-7.

The Bears did manage to get to the Patriots’ 26 yard line, but Cutler’s fourth down pass to Alshon Jeffrey was incomplete. The Bears would get a second touchdown with Martellus Bennett‘s 20 yard touchdown catch on his back. The two point conversion was converted and the Bears only trailed 45-15 late in the third quarter.

The Pats opened the final quarter with Stephen Gostkowski‘s second field goal of the day before Cutler and Jeffrey hooked up for a touchdown. The Bears converted the two-point conversion again but were down 48-23. Following an onside kick, Gostkowski drilled home his third field goal of the day to cap the scoring at 51-23.

The thoroughness of New England’s domination over the Bears cannot be understated. The Patriots were 7 of 11 on third down and completed 87% of their passes. The receivers had little trouble getting open or being stopped.

Jay Cutler went 20 of 30 for 227 yards with 3 touchdowns and an interception. He also had the fumble that was returned for a touchdown late in the first half.

Matt Forte had 114 yards rushing on 19 carries while also catching 6 passes for 54 yards and a score. Martellus Bennett caught 6 passes for 95 yards and a touchdown. Alshon Jeffrey had 5 catches for 59 yards and a score and Brandon Marshall was held to only 3 catches for 35 yards.

Tom Brady was incredibly effective. He went 30 of 35 for 354 yards and 5 touchdowns. Rob Gronkowski caught 9 passes for 149 yards and 3 touchdowns while Brandon LaFell had 11 catches for 124 yards and a score. Tim Wright had 7 catches for 61 yards and a touchdown.

Julian Edelman had a quiet day with only 1 catch for 14 yards. He was targeted four times, but it did not matter with the plethora of chance his teammates were getting.

Jonas Gray had the bulk of the carries with 17 for 86 yards. Shane Vereen ran only 5 times for 22 yards, but added 3 catches for 23 yards. James White had 6 carries for 17 yards.

Chicago (3-5) has lost four of their last 5 games with the last two against Miami and New England looking especially poor. They have a bye next week before traveling to face the Green Bay Packers for Sunday Night Football on November 9 in Week 10.

New England (6-2) are on a four game win streak after the poor showing in Kansas City in Week 4. There is no doubt that the talk in the aftermath of that game has spurred them to this point. They have a massive game next Sunday at home against Denver (6-1) before a bye in week 10.