Last weekend we saw a very exciting four games in the NFL Wild Card. As far as predictions go, I went 2-2, so let’s see if I can improve that this week in the Divisional round. This weekend we have some very interesting matchups to watch. Who will advance to the conference championship games? Let’s try and predict just that.
6 New Orleans Saints @ 1 Seattle Seahawks
Seattle came out of the NFC with the best record solidifying home-field advantage, which for the Seahawks, is very critical. The Seattle faithful always come out in full force to support their sports franchises, especially the Seahawks. The visiting Saints will have to deal not only with the team, but the fans and the weather as well. The forecast is calling for 100 percent rain for Saturday’s game as well as winds of 20-24 miles-per-hour. The weather didn’t affect the Saints last weekend in Philadelphia as all week they were being talked about for not playing well away from New Orleans. Earlier this season, the Seahawks had their way with the Saints, beating them 34-7. The Saints were fourth in the NFL in both offense and defense and that offense will go up against the number one ranked defense. Offensively, the two teams are polar opposites as the Saints have the fourth ranked passing attack and the 25th rushing attack, while the Seahawks rank 26th in passing and fourth in rushing. Something has to give right?
Prediction: Seahawks 34 Saints 24
The Seahawks will prove to be too much for Drew Brees and company. Russell Wilson has this offense down, although it isn’t the most dangerous offense. Marshawn Lynch will be called upon frequently in this game, especially with the weather conditions. Seattle will remain at home for the NFC Championship game.
X-Factor: Seattle’s 12th Man
The best crowd in all of sports will be heard extremely loud this Saturday. This will be the difference of the game as I believe the fans can rattle the Saints just enough to get them to make some mistakes.
4 Indianapolis Colts @ 2 New England Patriots
The Colts somehow managed to come back after facing a 38-10 deficit in the third quarter against the Kansas City Chiefs last weekend in the Wild Card round. Andrew Luck led the Colts back and is showing why he considered one of the best young quarterbacks in the game today. On the other sideline, Bill Belichick and Tom Brady, the NFL’s winningest coach-player tandem, await. This year on the marquee, it will be Andrew Luck vs. Tom Brady. In the past, the marquee around the league in both the regular and post seasons, it read Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady. The era of Luck in Indy is upon us and he gets his big chance against perennial contenders. The first and only time these two teams met since Luck has been in the league was November of 2012, seeing the Patriots handle the Colts 59-24. The forecast in Foxboro on Saturday night is roughly what it was in Seattle with 90 percent chance of rain with that going to 100 percent as the nighttime comes. Wind will also be a factor as the forecast is calling for 30-47 miles-per-hour winds. Will Brady continue his postseason success and quest for his fourth Super Bowl or will Luck and company knock off the Pats?
Prediction: Patriots 38 Colts 30
You have to be impressed with the way the Patriots have responded to the multitude of injuries over the season. They will once again play well and advance to the AFC title game. The Colts will give them all they can handle, but in the end, the Patriots will prove to be too much.
X-Factor: Tom Brady
For as good as Andrew Luck is right now, Tom Brady is better and more experienced. He is the guy who won three Super Bowls in four seasons in the early 2000s. Brady and Belichick will continue towards another Lombardi Trophy.
5 San Francisco 49ers @ 2 Carolina Panthers
The bulletin board was filled last week for this game before the 49ers took on the Green Bay Packers. The man responsible for the bulletin board material was arguably the greatest professional wrestler in history, Ric Flair. San Francisco requested that Flair come speak to them before the matchup with the Packers and he was honored to do so as he is a longtime 49ers fan. This ruffled a few feathers in Carolina as Flair is a native of Charlotte and has season tickets to the Panthers’ games every year. Some in Carolina feel the Nature Boy turned heel – a wrestling reference to when a guy turns to a bad guy. The 49ers escaped the frigid temperatures of Lambeau Field to advance to face the Panthers in a much warmer Charlotte. For the Panthers, this is a great opportunity for Cam Newton and company to make a big statement and take another step closer to the Super Bowl? Can Cam Newton keep up his strong play from this season? Will Colin Kaepernick and San Fran be able to get back to the Super Bowl with hopes of winning it this year? This will be another defensive battle, much like the teams’ only meeting this year, when the Panthers won 10-9. San Francisco and Carolina boast the fifth and second ranked defenses respectfully. How will this one play out?
Prediction: 49ers 17 Panthers 14
I see this game being a very defensive minded game with the 49ers enacting some revenge on the Panthers. The 49ers will be led by Kaepernick’s arm and legs as he is a dynamic quarterback. Newton will have his fair share of highlight reel plays, but it isn’t the Panthers time, in my opinion. The quest for six will continue next week in Seattle.
X-Factor: Anquan Boldin
The veteran wide receiver will be the key player for this team this weekend. He will be the one to make big plays for Kaepernick and the 49ers. I see him having a big game against Carolina. Also, look out for Frank Gore, who is hungrier than ever to get that elusive Super Bowl ring. This team knows what it takes to get back there, and in this game, will be one step closer.
6 San Diego Chargers @ 1 Denver Broncos
This is the most intriguing matchup to me this weekend. You have the high-powered offense of the Denver Broncos against the Cinderella team in the San Diego Chargers. The Broncos are led by Peyton Manning and the Chargers are led by Philip Rivers. The two have a history with one another, albeit a short one. In seven games against each other, Rivers holds the edge 4-3, including two playoff victories against Manning’s Indianapolis Colts. The two teams met twice this season and if the first two were any indication of this playoff matchup, we should be in for a great game. The two teams split the season series, with Denver going to San Diego and winning 28-20 only to have the Chargers return the favor and beat the Broncos in Mile High 27-20. These two teams have never met in the playoffs, so this will only add to the divisional rivalry. Denver scored the most points in the NFL this season, but unfortunately for them, the seven teams that have set that record have never won a Super Bowl. Manning has had his fair share of postseason struggles, aside from the Super Bowl he won. In the playoffs, Manning is 9-11, including going one-and-done eight times. His legacy will be just fine regardless of this matchup, but will he add to it?
Prediction: Chargers 31 Broncos 27
The Chargers have won six of their last seven including wins at Denver, Kansas City, and Cincinnati. San Diego can possess the ball for a great amount of time and that will be a difference maker. As great as Manning is, he for whatever reason comes up short in the playoffs, which I think will be the case this weekend. The clock will not strike midnight on the Chargers, at least not this week.
X-Factor: Philip Rivers
Rivers has had a tremendous season and will continue to do so this weekend. As long as he doesn’t turn the ball over, he will be just fine. The balance of Rivers and the running attack, consisting of Ryan Mathews and Danny Woodhead, will have this Chargers advancing. For as great as the Broncos were this year, the Chargers will be the team to prevail this weekend and Rivers will play a big part in that.
These are my predictions for the NFL Divisional round for this weekend. Be sure to comment below or let me know on Twitter @KingEdward15 who you think will be victorious.