Mika’s Weekly Match-Ups and Predictions: NFL Playoffs Divisional Weekend Breakdown
Annnd we’re off! After a pretty great wild card round last weekend, to kick-off the NFL Playoffs with a bang, we’re looking at potentially an even better set of match-ups in this weekend’s Divisional round. Chalked full of high-flying offenses, powerhouse defenses and a ton of personality, this weekend’s 4-game lineup is sure to please even the toughest football critics. Here’s a quick look at what’s in store.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos – Saturday, 1:30 PST/4:30 EST
a.k.a. Ray Lewis vs. Peyton Manning. What better way to start off the weekend than with your proverbial Legend vs. Legend game. Sure, these two squads met just a month or so or go in a Week 15 match-up in Baltimore, where the Broncos easily claimed victory, 34-17. But let’s be serious – there is a hell of a lot more to play for this time around. Not only is this the playoffs, and win or go home, but it’s also a potential final game for Ray Lewis, as he announced his retirement after a prolific 17-year NFL career last week. That being said, Lewis and the Ravens hard-nosed defense are sure to be in full force on Saturday, but will it be enough to stop the NFL’s comeback player of the year and potential MVP, Peyton Manning? Seems unlikely. The Broncos are riding an 11-game win streak, and there’s no quarterback I’d rather have to carry me to a 12th straight win than Manning.
Prediction: Broncos over Ravens, 34-31
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers – Saturday, 5p PST/8p EST
Ahh, home sweet home! The 49ers are entering their divisional round match-up in San Francisco with confidence, after gaining home field advantage when the Packers lost their week 17 game against the Vikings. But the twist here – this is Aaron Rodgers’ home too. Rodgers grew up just outside of the city as a Niners fan, and is playing in his hometown for the first time since becoming a superstar. (The other two times the Packers have come to SF, Rodgers was a backup for Brett Favre, and one was a preseason game.) That makes this game a big deal for Rodgers and the Pack. To win though, they’ll have to overcome one of the league’s toughest defenses, and a 6-1-1 record at home this season. The Niners also have rookie QB Colin Kaepernick under center, playing in his first playoff game ever, but to this point, Kaepernick has hardly shown signs of his age and inexperience. Rather, he’s played solid since he took over for Alex Smith in week 10, leading the Niners to finish the season 5-2-1 and the division title. This is going to be a great (and close) one, no doubt, but if I had to pick, I’d take the 49ers by a slim margin.
Prediction: 49ers over Packers, 28-27
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons – Sunday, 10a PST/1p EST
And then there’s the matchup we never saw coming, but we are sooo pumped to see. This one’s worth waking up for, folks. The Falcons came to play this season, going 8-0 before finally losing to the Saints in week 10. That record, though, doesn’t really tell the whole story. Sure, the Falcons got the W’s, but they also did so by some pretty slim margins, and several times it took overtime to get there. On the other hand, the Seahawks started out a bit slow, but finished strong, winning their last 5 games, and steadily becoming the darlings of the 2012 NFL season. Sure, they’ve got a rookie quarterback (who’s also 5’10) and a college coach that most wrote off when he made the move to the NFL. But that’s what makes them so endearing. They also have a defense that has been relentless as of late, and will likely pose major challenges to the Falcon’s receiving core. And then there’s the fact that Matt Ryan is yet to win a game in the playoffs. Enough said. While I certainly think that this will be a game, I think it’ll be a little more clear cut who comes out on top in the end.
Prediction: Seahawks over Falcons, 24-13
Houston Texans at New England Patriots – Sunday, 1:30p PST/4:30p EST
To wrap up the weekend, we’ve got what should have been a pretty open-and-shut game for the New England Patriots. Sure, the Texans have played well this year, but Matt Schaub is not Tom Brady, as we clearly saw when the Pats came out and stomped the Texans 42-14 in week 14. But, of course, this wouldn’t be the NFL if there wasn’t a little controversy to stir the pot. Unless you’ve been under a rock for the last week, you’ve certainly heard about the Boston Globe writer that infamously touted “Could this get any easier?” on his way to calling the Texans “fraudulent” and “terrible.” My reply to him – could you light any bigger fire under the Texans’ players’ asses? SERIOUSLY? Now, Arian Foster and the rest of the Texans will be on a mission to kill on Sunday, and there is no question in my mind that Foster will run all over the marginal New England defense. Despite his efforts, though, I still think Brady and the Pats air attack combined with their extensive playoff experience will be too much for Houston to overcome. While I really hope this one is close, mainly because I LOVE Arian Foster, my money is solidly on the Patriots.
Prediction: Patriots over Texans, 38-24
(Photo Credit: Getty Images)