Divisional Playoff Predictions: Who Will Step Up?

Matt Ryan is the choke artist we thought he was, the Texans ground game was just too much to handle for the Bengals, and the Saints did not lose in the dome. I was surprised, like many, that Tim Tebow and the Broncos sent Big Ben and co. to the rafters. I love to root for the underdog, so I’m happy for God’s son.

So this week, we see 8 of the collectively best teams battle it out. I think much of the sports world though will be tuned into to see if Tim Tebow (David) can take the NFL Goliath, Tom Brady and his Patriots, down on their home turf.

Broncos vs. Patriots: Tim Tebow threw for 316 yards and rushed for a touchdown last week. The Broncos put the nail in the black and yellow coffin with an 80 yd touchdown pass to Demaryius Thomas in OT. Although the Pats suck at stopping the run and pass protection, this is Tom Brady we’re talking about! Tight end Rob Gronkowski leads the league in TDs, and Aaron Hernandez has stepped up immensely when teams have smothered Gronk. While I’d like to keep riding the Tebow Train, I believe the Pats will return to their conference glory days. [Result: Patriots win]

Saints vs. 49ers: I knew the 49ers would be a problem with their defense. But I honestly didn’t expect them to be this good. They’ve won games primarily by shutting down RBs. In week 4, against 1 of the best RBs in the game, they held LeSean McCoy to only 18 yards rushing. The downside is they haven’t faced a QB that’s as intrinsically gifted as Drew Brees! The Saints are 5-3 on the road. Their defense is fairly decent stopping the opposition’s run. They’re about as complete as a team can be. Like I stated last week, Brees has so many offensive weapons, it’s hard to truly predict where he’s going with the ball. Last week, it was the Saints running game (the trifecta of Sproles, Chris Ivory, and Pierre Thomas) that overtook the Lions defense. This week and on the road? It’ll have to be the length and athleticism of 6’6, 240lb Jimmy Graham, as well as the 6’4 Marques Colston (Hofffffstra!!!!) [Result: Saints win]

Texans vs. Ravens: This match up is about as unpredictable as the Broncos/Steelers game last week. It honestly could go either way and will heavily dependent on defense. We’ll be watching 2 top 10 RBs in Ray Rice and Arian Foster, and a good enough to make a huge play healthy Andre Johnson. WR Torrey Smith has been a consummate wack-a-mole for the Ravens though. Against the Bengals, he had 165 receiving yards and 1 TD. Contrary, against an atrocious Browns D, he was only targeted twice with no scores. So basically if he’s not targeted often enough, Smith is not going to be a real factor in the offense. The Ravens are 8-0 at home; while the Texans have not had a break since before Thanksgiving. Also worth nothing, the Ravens have already beaten the Texans in Baltimore once this year. Under then Texans QB stud Matt Schaub, the Ravens had a total of 54 tackles with 4 sacks in that win. TJ Yates is no Schaub. I’m sure lethargy will play a big deal in this defensive battle. [Result: Ravens win]

Giants vs. Packers: Let’s be honest here; the Packers with any other QB would not be this good. A-Rod’s ability to see the field and put the ball where it has to be is incredible. But that’s where my hype for this team ends. Their running hasn’t been good all year, due to the injury rotisserie of Ryan Grant and James Starks. Their defense allows a combined average of 400 yards per  game. The last time we faced the Packers, their defense gave up 447 total yards! This time in Lambeau, I think the results will be the same in every way. Victor Cruz didn’t play very well last week, as the Falcons secondary kept him covered. But to my surprise, the unseasonably quiet Mario Manningham had a great game! Our defense will contain A-Rod well enough that he may not throw long bombs as often. Because of the extended break, A-Rod’s arm will get off to a slow start. But once it gets going, it’ll be a shoot out. [Result: Giants win]

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