NFL fans are in football heaven. This weekend the divisional playoffs will be played. Snacks and beverages will be ready by kickoff time on Saturday; only a necessary bathroom break will force real fans to rise from their recliners. There were some surprises in the wild card round, and there will likely be at least one this weekend. I don’t believe in indecision; so here are my predictions for Saturday and Sunday.
The Baltimore Ravens will be in Foxboro to face the New England Patriots. The Ravens defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers last week in Pittsburgh. Baltimore was dominant in their win, although 39 percent of Pittsburgh’s offense was missing in the form of Le’Veon Bell, their star running back. The Steeler’s young defense did not rise to the occasion.
The strength of the Ravens is in their pass rush. Their defense must dominate the game and prevent Tom Brady from having enough time to move through his progressions and find his receivers. If they cannot ‘get in Brady’s face,’ the Patriots will win another home playoff game. New England has had an extra week to heal and prepare.
I don’t believe the Ravens have enough talent to defeat the Patriots. The final score; New England 28, Baltimore 13.
The NFC game to be played on Saturday features the Carolina Panthers traveling to Seattle to play the reigning champions, the Seahawks. Seattle had a bye week and Pete Carroll will have his team prepared to face a surprising Carolina team.
The Panthers defeated the Arizona Cardinals and a third string quarterback in the wild card round. Cam Newton will be facing a defense which has peaked at the perfect time, and Marshawn Lynch will bull through Carolina’s defense at will. Seattle 24, Carolina 10.
The Indianapolis Colts playing in Denver against the Broncos is an intriguing game. Denver had a bye last week. Towards the end of the regular season questions began to arise about Peyton Manning.
Denver appeared to rely more on the running game than the arm of future Hall of Famer Manning. The big question is whether or not Peyton can throw the deep ball at this point in his career.
Andrew Luck continues to impress NFL fans. He has all three attributes required to attach the label ‘great’ to a quarterback in the 21st century. He has an accurate and powerful arm; he can beat the opposition with his legs; and he has football intellect, making the correct decisions most of the time.
The question surrounding the Colts centers on defense; can they stop Peyton Manning? In addition, their running game is virtually non-existent.
Manning will be effective enough to secure a victory for the Broncos; Denver 27, Indianapolis 21.
The final game of the weekend may be the most contentious. The Dallas Cowboys will be on the frozen tundra Sunday evening to face the Green Bay Packers.
If the contest becomes a battle of quarterbacks, the Packers will be victorious. The Cowboys must continue to be successful running the ball with DeMarco Murray.
It has become a joy to once again cheer for Dallas. They found a good defense; they have an outstanding running back and wide receiver; and they have a quarterback who not only plays through injury and pain, he plays well.
‘R-E-L-A-X’ became a mantra for the Green Bay Packers. Aaron Rodgers took Green Bay to another division championship as he promised after a start early in the season which raised questions about the Packers’ season. Their defense has come of age, and the running game has made a statement.
Can Tony Romo find a way to defeat Green Bay at home and advance to the NFC Championship? History says ‘no.’ Green Bay 35, Dallas 24.
I can’t be right; I picked every home team, and that seldom happens. There is always one visiting team who plays above themselves and returns home with a victory. The one possibility I foresee is Baltimore; we’ll know Saturday evening.
Commentary By James Turnage