NFL: Divisional Playoffs

Okay, let’s try this again. After a disastrous weekend of football predictions last week, I have to bounce back and do better this week.

Let’s start with the Denver Broncos versus New England Patriots. I just re-watched their first game from three weeks ago. It took the Patriots a little time to hit their stride. Tom Brady won the game not by throwing to Wes Welker or Rob Gronkowski but instead by connecting nine times to Aaron Hernandez. He was a key to the game. Also, the Patriots changed their offensive protections in order to slow down the Bronco pass rush. The Patriots did a pretty good job at stopping the Denver rushing attack. Look for Denver to try to put in some wrinkles in order to run the ball more consistently. I think that this game will hinge, once again, on how well the Patriots offense is able to move the ball and score. I don’t think that Denver will be able to keep up in a shootout. I look for Tom Brady to try to score early and often. (I’m still flabbergasted that the Denver Broncos beat the Pittsburgh Steelers last week.) I’m going with the New England Patriots at home.

New York Giants versus Green Bay Packers – Now, this is what the NFL is all about. I think that both offenses will be able to march up and down the field, almost at will. Green Bay will figure out a way to slow down the fearsome pass rush of the New York Giants. This will expose their vulnerable secondary. I don’t think that Tom Coughlin and the New York Giants want to get into another shootout. I look for Eli Manning to try to control the clock with short passes and a run game. I just don’t know if the Giants run game, which has been much better in the last couple weeks, is consistent enough to depend upon it to carry the Giants. It is clear that you can get a ton of yardage against the Green Bay Packer defense, but they also create turnovers. This game will be won or lost in the trenches, specifically regarding the defensive line of the New York Giants versus the offensive line of the Green Bay Packers. Whoever wins this battle will win the game. My friends from New York are jazzed. I’m sorry, but I think I’m going to have to go with the Green Bay Packers on this one.

San Francisco 49ers versus New Orleans Saints – It is hard for me to choose against Drew Brees. In spite of how well Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers are playing, Drew Brees has played better over the last three or four weeks. He’s been unstoppable. The best way to stop the New Orleans Saints is with a quick pass rush. The San Francisco 49ers have been playing great defense all year. Alex Smith has not put up flashy numbers, but at the same time, he hasn’t turned the ball over. This team is built much like the Baltimore Ravens, with a strong running game and a strong defense. Frank Gore is running the ball as well as any runningback in the league. New Orleans plays better on the fast-track (indoors). The weather should be warm at game time, approximately 60°. Now that we are in the playoffs, do you win with defense or do you win with a superior quarterback and offense? I’m going to go with the New Orleans Saints, but this is a close game and it’s hard for me to call.

Houston Texans versus the Baltimore Ravens – If this game were being played in Houston, I would be choosing the Houston Texans. The Baltimore Ravens are a different team when they play away versus when they play at home. They have really laid some eggs this year. Of all the teams in the playoffs, the Baltimore Ravens may be the most inconsistent. They lost to the Jacksonville Jaguars in what was an awful game to watch. They lost to the Seattle Seahawks. And they didn’t just lose to the San Diego Chargers, they got blown out. I really, really would like to go with the Houston Texans. They have an outstanding defense. They have a great running attack, but they have this quarterback that I simply cannot trust. Then again, I find it extremely hard to trust Joe Flacco. So, should I put my trust in Adrian Foster or Ray Rice? I’m going to go with Adrian Foster and TJ Yates. Look for Joe Flacco to make a couple of mistakes down the stretch which will change this game.

Probabilities of victory:

Pwin GAME Pwin
0.63 New Orleans at San Francisco 0.37
0.16 Denver at New England 0.84
0.57 Houston at Baltimore 0.43
0.42 NY Giants at Green Bay 0.58