|It's the Division Round of the Playoffs...It's Like Deja Vu|
It's the divisional playoff round this weekend in the NFL, and three of the four matchups are repeat matchups from the regular season. What does it mean, exactly? Not much. Even teams that beat their playoff opponent by 28+ points in their regular season meeting are only 11-11 in the playoffs. That means the mighty Patriots, my superbowl pick, only have a 50/50 chance of winning against the Texans, who they embarrassed 42-14 in week 14. Even though we've seen 75% of these matchups before (Houston/New England, Baltimore/Denver, Green Bay/San Francisco), a reversal of fortunes may be in the cards this weekend: when it really counts.
|Denver Broncos(-9.5) vs. Baltimore Ravens: 1/12/13, 4:30pm ET|
|San Francisco 49ers (-3) vs. Green Bay Packers: 1/12/13, 8:30pm ET|
|Atlanta Falcons (-2) vs. Seattle Seahawks: 1/13/13, 1:00pm ET|
Every reasonable bone in my body says take Atlanta. They're at home, where they perform significantly better. It's only two points. Two measly points. They're on a bye, at home, and they're only giving two points. However, I am not going to be reasonable. Yes, I know that Seattle lost its double-digit sack leader in Chris Clemons. But he was never going to be the real difference maker. What sets Seattle apart are their elite, big cover corners who will be charged with blanketing Atlanta Wide Receivers Julio Jones and Roddy White. While they may not completely shut them down, they will limit their effectiveness. There will not be large chunk plays hit against this defense because the two primary deep threats will be covered by corners that are both 6'3+. Throw in Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas at the safety positions, and you have yourself the BEST defensive backfield going right now. Bobby Wagner has been a revelation at linebacker and will have the responsibility of handling hall of fame tight end Tony Gonzalez (who has NEVER won a playoff game). Another threat neutralized by the athleticism of the Seattle defense. The only way that Atlanta wins this game is if it is able to do something no other team has done against Seattle: run the football successfully. I don't think Michael Turner is the best running back on the Falcons, anymore. Jacquizz Rodgers has passed him by, and the Falcons don't really know it. Rodgers is the only player I can see giving the Seattle defense a tough time with his ability to both run and catch the football. However, I don't think that happens. I do see, however, Seattle's Marshawn Lynch running all over what is the softest defense left in the playoffs. Atlanta's D is susceptible to power running, and the Seahawks can certainly do that. Russell Wilson will also have a field day when he escapes the pocket. Atlanta's cover 2 will break down once he breaks contain, and he will. I really want to play it safe and take the home team coming off a bye only needing to win by a field goal, but I think Seattle is that good. Seahawks 26, Falcons 13
|New England Patriots (-9) vs. Houston Texans: 1/13/13, 4:30pm ET|
Remember that stat from earlier where teams are 11-11 in the playoffs after beating the same team by 28 points in the regular season? It's going to 12-11, and it won't be close. Andy Dalton missed a plethora of throws last week, even a wide open touchdown pass to AJ Green. Tom Brady won't. I still cannot find an NFL player capable of covering Rob Gronkowski, and the Texans will provide very little resistance to Gronk one-on-one, which means there will be plenty of room for Brandon Lloyd, Wes Welker, and Aaron Hernandez to exploit, and they will (or Gronk still might). The only way Houston has a chance of keeping it close is if Arian Foster goes absolutely crazy and runs all over New England, which he won't. Bill Belichek always takes away what you're best at, and forces you to beat him with your #2,3,4,etc. options, and the Texans simply can't do that. Matt Schaub will have to show us something he has not been able to his entire career: that he's a fearless gunslinger to any open target. Outside of Foster and Andre Johnson, there is not one threat that scares me (sorry Owen Daniels). New England's D will find ways to turn Houston over (I expect at least two Schaub INTs) and hand Tom Brady at least seven points. And He doesn't need help. This one should be the biggest snoozer of the weekend. Patriots 40, Texans 21