Article Written By: Julian Beck
With Wild-Card weekend being entertaining with back and forth games, amazing plays, and a couple last second field goals to win the game, this week the divisional round brings some intriguing match-ups as well. There could be defensive match-ups in two of the games and two games that can end up being a shoot out. This week should be just as entertaining or better than last week.
New Orleans Saints at Seattle Seahawks; Saturday 4:35 pm ET
The Seahawks will try to win a sixth straight home playoff contest and secure their 16th victory in 17 games on their own field when they take on a New Orleans team looking to avenge last month’s blowout loss in Seattle. Saints are coming off a last second win against the Eagles on the road. Drew Brees didn’t have a typical game where he threw all over the field and only relied on himself. Instead Mark Ingram came alive and gave the Saints a running attack, something they have been needing to help take pressure off Brees. The Seahawks are coming off a well needed bye-week. They will be fully healthy and will have a game plan that focuses on stopping Brees and Graham. Lynch, Wilson, Sherman, and Thomas will all have fresh legs and will take advantage of that.
Prediction: 28-17 Seahawks
X-Factor: Richard Sherman. If Sherman is on either Colston or Graham they will have a tough time getting open. Brees looks for both wideouts throughout the game. So if one is shut down then he will have a tough time finding an open receiver.
Indianapolis Colts at New England Patriots; Saturday 8:15 pm ET
In just two seasons Andrew Luck has proven that he can comeback and win any game. Coming back from a 28 point deficit last week shows that he is one of the best quarterbacks in the league. Luck makes any player around him better and he produces with those players. Their defense is the only thing holding them back, but Luck does enough with the offense to make up for the defenses mistakes. Tom Brady will be coming off a round one bye and will need his young receivers to step up in this game. Brady produced good numbers with and injury prone wideout core. Gronk and Amendola both have been injured most the season but that didn’t hold Tom back. Aaron Dobson and Kenbrell Thompson have both played well when called upon. Julian Edelman was Brady’s favorite target all year and will be relied upon.
Prediction: 34-31 New England Patriots
X-Factor: Shane Vereen. Brady trusts Vereen catching passes out of the back field. When he gets the ball in his hand he is able to produce big yards.
San Francisco 49er’s at Carolina Panthers; Sunday 1:05 pm ET
Trying for an eighth straight victory that would send them to their third consecutive NFC championship game, Kaepernick and the visiting 49ers look to avenge a regular-season loss to Newton and the Panthers on Sunday. The 9er’s have been clicking on all cylinders since Crabtree has rejoined the offense. Crabtree opens up this offense to another level because opposing defenses won’t be focusing on both Vernon Davis or Anquan Boldin. Now they have one-on-one match-ups, allowing them to make big plays and moving the chains more often. While the Panthers defense has carried this team all season. Forcing turnovers and allowing Cam to take advantage of the field position. When Newton is able to stand in the pocket and dissect the defenses he is able to find the open receiver. Even though the Panthers offense doesn’t have many weapons Newton was still able to produce and put points on the board.
Prediction: 21-17 San Francisco 49er’s
X-Factor: 49er’s defense. If they are able to force Newton into throwing interceptions Kapernick will have to take advantage of the turnovers and put points on the board.
San Diego Chargers at Denver Broncos; Sunday 4:40 pm ET
Philip Rivers has been carrying this offense all season and has been doing a stellar job. Rivers has been playing some of his best football in his career and isn’t slowing down. They have been the hottest team in the league and looks to carry their momentum into this match-up. Peyton and his offense will be well rested and may be in for a big game. But being off for a good amount of time can also create rust and stop momentum at the wrong time. Peyton won’t let that happen. Both teams will rely on their running game to open up the passing attack. Mathews has had a great season while Moreno has been used in the running and passing attack all season. This match-up looks like a shoot out in the making.
Prediction: 42-32 San Diego Chargers
X-Factor: Keenan Allen. When Allen gets a majority of the targets, he takes advantage and finds the red-zone when it is needed. Look for Allen to have a big game.
What are your predictions for this weekend? Leave your predictions in the comments below.