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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!

Patriots Continue Hot Streak, Crush Broncos 43-21

Tom Brady continues his magnificent run with 4 more touchdown passes (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)
Tom Brady continues his magnificent run with 4 more touchdown passes (Jared Wickerham / Getty Images)

 

The Patriots won their fifth straight game on Sunday and did so in impressive fashion against the powerful Denver Broncos. Tom Brady’s four touchdown passes led New England to the 43-21 pounding of the Broncos. All four of those touchdowns went to different receivers.

Despite the final score, there was little scoring to talk about in the first few drives. Stephen Gostkowski’s 49 yard field goal broke the deadlock midway through the first quarter to give the Patriots a 3-0 lead. Denver responded right away with Ronnie Hillman pounding the ball in from a yard out to give Denver the 7-3 lead.

The Patriots opened the second quarter with another Gostkowski field goal, this one from 29 yards out for a 7-6 deficit. The Pats defense stepped up on the following possession with Rob Ninkovich stepping in front of Demaryius Thomas and intercepting Peyton Manning. Four plays later, Brady hit Julian Edelman for a 5 yard touchdown and a 13-7 lead.

Edelman was not done in the second quarter. After seeing their drive stall at their own 31, the Broncos punted the ball. Britton Colquitt had trouble with snap, but managed to get the punt away. Edelman took the punt, made a stutter step, and then went down the sideline with a huge opening. He continued to make people miss and finally got in the end zone to make it 20-7. The punt return went for 84 yards.

The Broncos did well to move the ball on the next drive, but Brandon McManus‘ 41 yard field goal hit off the right upright and fell back to the field.

The Broncos marched back down to the Patriots’ 34 yard line and decided to go for it on fourth and six. Akeem Ayers, who has been with Patriots for only two games, made the sack and gave the ball back to New England. The Patriots made the most of it with Brady hitting Shane Vereen for a 5 yard touchdown strike with 11 seconds left in the first half. That made it 27-7 at the break and the Patriots had all the momentum.

The Patriots opened the third quarter with an interception when Bradley Roby made a diving interception. The Broncos turned the pick into a touchdown with Manning finding Julius Thomas for an 18 yard touchdown. The Pats hit a 45 yard field goal to to extend their lead to 30-14.

Manning would throw his second interception when Wes Welker could not hang on to the pass and was crushed on the play. Brandon Browner caught the ball and returned it to the 10 yard line. Welker was diagnosed with a back injury and would not return after that play. The Patriots made quick work of the interception as they only need one play, a 10 yard pass from Brady to Brandon LaFell, to make it a 37-14 game.

The Broncos cut the lead to 37-21 with Manning hitting Hillman for a 15 yard touchdown, but that would be all they could muster against New England’s defense.

The second play of the fourth quarter produced a spectacular one-handed catch from Rob Gronkowski to reach the one yard line. Gronkowski would get the honors on the next play with a one yard touchdown catch on a slant from Brady to make it 43-21. Brady’s two-point conversion to Edelman was stopped short of the goal line to finish off the scoring for the game.

Denver had chances to close the gap, but were stopped on fourth and goal from the New England 8 on the next drive. Two drives after that, Manning’s pass to Emmanuel Sanders was a bit too long and the Broncos once again turned it over on downs.

Peyton Manning went 34 of 57 for 438 yards with 2 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. The 57 attempts were a by-product of an awfully ineffective run game. The Broncos had 43 yards rushing on 17 attempts for a paltry average of 2.5 yards. The leading rusher was C.J. Anderson with 3 carries for 18 yards. Those 18 yards all came on the final three plays of the game. Ronnie Hillman ran 10 times for only 16 yards with a touchdown.

Emmanuel Sanders had another big game with 10 catches for 151 yards. Demaryius Thomas had 7 catches for 127 yards as the second leading receiver.

Tom Brady went 33 of 53 for 333 yards with 4 touchdowns and one interception. It was Brady’s 22nd career game with four or more touchdowns, which moved him into fourth all-time ahead of Dan Marino.

The Patriots did not have a great game rushing themselves with 66 yards rushing on 25 carries. Jonas Gray ran 12 times for 33 yards and Shane Vereen had 11 carries for 29 yards.

Rob Gronkowski led the way in receiving for the Patriots with 9 catches for 105 yards and a touchdown. Julian Edelman had 9 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown to go along with the 84 yard punt return touchdown. Brandon LaFell caught 6 passes for 53 yards and a touchdown while Shane Vereen had 5 catches for 38 yards and a score. Even Danny Amendola had 2 catches for 35 yards and fullback James Develin caught 2 passes for 13 yards.

The Denver Broncos (6-2) will play their second of three straight road games next week. They will face fellow AFC West foe Oakland (0-8) next Sunday.

The Patriots will have a bye next week before returning on Sunday, November 16 to face the Indianapolis Colts on the road.