Saturday, January 12, 2013

2012 TransGriot NFL Picks-Divisional Round

The 2012-13 NFL playoffs have moved on to the divisional round with both division champions winning in the AFC playoff bracket but Seattle taking out the Washington Redskins on the road in the NFC.wild card playoff bracket.

I'm happy my Texans won their deja vu playoff game over the Bengals, but it earned them a return matchup with the New England Patriots.  There are also return matchups between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers and the Denver Broncos and Baltimore Ravens. 

So how will the Divisional Round shake out?    Here's how I think it will happen, and here's Mike Watts' opinion about the Divisional Round of the playoffs will go.   He got all four games right and I was 3-1 during Wild Card weekend.

Saturday's Divisional Round Games

Baltimore at Denver

This is a rematch of a December 16 game at M&T Bank Stadium in which the Broncos came into it with a 10-3 record and winners of 8 straight at that Week 15 point in the season.   The AFC North champion Ravens were in a funk at the time, missing Ray Lewis, Dannell Ellerbe, Marshall Yanda and Bernard Pollard from their defense and had just lost games with their AFC North arch rivals the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Washington Redskins in OT.  It continued with a 34-17 loss to Denver that dropped them to 9-5 at the time. 

But this is the playoffs.  It's hard to beat a team twice in the same season, and the 13-3 AFC West Division champion Broncos come into it holding the number one seed, which hasn't always been a ticket to playoff success either.   They also have to deal with an emotional 11-6 Ravens team who is now healthy,  motivated to play hard for their inspirational leader Ray Lewis, and kick it up another notch in the playoffs.   

But this game is in Denver, when they only lost once at home during the 2012 regular season.  Peyton Manning will be motivated in his first playoff game for the Broncos and so will their defense.

Once again, it comes down to which Joe Flacco shows up and how many times the Angry Birds give the ball to Ray Rice. 

If the All-World Joe Flacoo shows up like he did last week along with the old Ravens defense, this could be a very interesting game.  If the football flaccid Flacco shows up and the Ravens defense can't keep Peyton in check, it will be a long sad last game for Ray Lewis.and the Ravens fans in Charm City.

I'm betting bad Flacco shows up.   Denver to win this one.

Green Bay at San Francisco

This is also a rematch of their season opening September 9 game at Lambeau Field in which the NFC North champion Packers stumbled and trailed 23-7 before putting on a furious 4th quarter rally that fell short and resulted in a 30-22 loss.   They were 2-3 out of the gate with one of the losses being the infamous 14-12 'Fail Mary' game in Seattle before they eventually sorted out their issues and finished 11-5.  

Alex Smith was the starting quarterback for the 11-4-1 NFC West Division champion Niners for their season opener, but after suffering a midseason concussion in that Week 10 tie against St Louis that forced him to sit out the next game, he found himself being replaced by Colin Kaepernick.  The second year quarterback made the most of his opportunity and compiled a 5-2 record as a starter.  One of Kaepernick's signature wins was a 41-31 triumph on national TV against the New England Patriots in Foxborough. .

This playoff rematch will be at Candlestick Park, and you'll have a playoff hardened Aaron Rodgers who just sent the Minnesota Vikings packing last week against a second year quarterback getting his first taste of NFL playoff action.   Both teams had solid defenses but different offensive styles and it will come down to which one imposes their style of play on the other. 

I repeat, it's hard to beat a team twice in the same season.  If 12-5 Green Bay turns this into a track meet, they win.   If the Niners get the lead and can play that ball control chew up the clock style game while pounding on Rodgers with that defense, they'll move on to the NFC Championship game.

It's going to be a close game, but picking the Packers to win

Sunday's Divisional Round Games 

Seattle at Atlanta

It's the 'Battle of the Birds' at the Georgia Dome in the early game between the 12-5 Seattle Seahawks and the NFC South champion Atlanta Falcons.   Seattle has a defense featuring their 'Legion of Boom' defensive secondary that is big (all 6'3"), fast and revel in lighting you up.  They have a Rookie of the Year candidate quarterback in Russell Wilson that has proven to be impervious to pressure and rolled to a 24-14 wild card round win in Washington last week. 

Atlanta's no slouch either defensively, but will be motivated to prove it in front of the home fans.  

The Falcons and their quarterback Matt Ryan are tired of being dissed by the NFL punditry and eager to atone for their past playoff flameouts.  Two years ago they had the number one seed and got waxed at home 48-21 by the Green Bay Packers who moved on to claim the Lombardi trophy two weeks later at the Jerrydome.  Last season it was the New York Giants ushering them out of the playoffs in a 26-2 blowout win at MetLife Stadium enroute to claiming the NFL title in Indianapolis 

Seattle is making their second consecutive road trip east from the Pacific Northwest.   Didn't affect them last week.  The fun matchup to watch will be the 'Legion of Boom' versus Atlanta's receiving duo of Roddy White and Julio Jones.  Ageless tight end Tony Gonzalez is still seeking that elusive Super Bowl ring to cap off a stellar sure bet NFL Hall of Fame career. 

Seattle will give them a battle, but picking Atlanta to win this one.

Houston at New England

In the Sunday afternoon game, it will be the rematch that should have been at Reliant but isn't between my 13-4 Texans and the defending 12-4 AFC champion New England Patriots.  

No one outside of Loop 610 gives the Texans a chance in this game.  Vegas has my hometown NFL ballers as 9.5 point underdogs.  Radio DJ Tom Joyner and his 'Joyner Jinx' is still rooting for the Texans.  The NFL punditry thinks it will be just like the 42-14 blowout game back in December that started the Texans late season swoon that cost them the AFC number one seed.  Ron Gronkowski will be back for this game, but so will Owen Daniels for the Texans. 

I'm sick of the Dallas Cowboy Harris County Fifth Column snarkily predicting another loss.   And what time does your playoff game kick off at Cowboys Stadium again?

But as Herm Edwards says, that's why you play the game.   The NFL South Division champion Texans aren't chopped liver and have 8 Pro Bowl selections for a reason.  The Bulls on Parade looked good in the 19-13 playoff win over the Bengals.  Arian Foster had 140 yards rushing and when he does that, the Texans win..

As a Texans fan, they can't play any worse against the Patriots than they did that night, and what a lot of people fail to realize is that all the breaks went the Patriots way.   Kareem Jackson fails to recover a Stephen Ridley fumble on the Pats opening drive, the next play they score.   JJ Watt forces a fumble that ends up getting recovered for a Pats TD. 

The Texans are putting together a nice drive trailing 7-0 that ends up with Schaub getting picked when he tried to force a pass to Andre Johnson.  Arian Foster gets held to 46 yards on 16 carries. The Bulls on Parade get almost no pressure on Brady and that will kill you, especially if you're trying to play man coverage against this team.

And I'm going to repeat this one more time,  it's hard to beat a team twice in the same season.

Yes, the Patriots made it to the Super Bowl last year but they lost.  They had a similar situation in 2011 in which they were 14-2, had the number one seed and faced a Jets team they'd blown out 45-3 in Week 13 in the divisional round of the playoffs.  But it was the Jets who walked out of Gillette Stadium with a 28-21 win to face the Steelers in the AFC championship game. .

They are also facing a Texans team who has no pressure on them because everyone expects them to lose and want to atone for getting embarrassed on national TV.  . 

They won't if the following things happen.   They get their ball control offense cranked up and make Tom Brady sit on the sidelines picking splinters out of his uniform.  I don't know of any NFL offense that can score points while sitting on the sidelines.   The Buls on Parade show up and show out by putting Brady on his GQ behind a few times, force turnovers, and Shaub and the offense turn Patriot turnovers into touchdowns while minimizing their mistakes.   

And you know what, I think they'll shock the NFL world and do precisely that.  Texans in an upset.  .

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