Saturday, January 11, 2014

2013 TransGriot NFL Predictions-NFL Divisional Round

Usually it's an advantage for a team to host a playoff game, but you couldn't tell that by the results during the Wild Card weekend round of the 2013-14 NFL playoffs.  

Three of the four road teams won, and it would have been a clean sweep for them if Indianapolis hadn't executed the second largest playoff comeback in NFL history to eke out a 45-43 win.

I split the wildcard weekend games at 2-2, so now it's time to predict which way the NFL Divisional Round games for the 2013-14 playoffs will transpire.
Eli and Mike's picks are here

Saturday Divisional Round Games 

New Orleans (12-5) at Seattle (13-3)

The early game has the Saints taking on the top seeded Seattle Seahawks in a playoff rematch of a December 2 regular season game at CenturyLink Field in which the Seahawks stomped the Saints 34-7. 

The Seahawks jumped out to a 17-0 first quarter lead in that game and never looked back as Russell Wilson lit up the Saints defense for 310 passing yards and 3 touchdowns.  

That 7 points the Saints scored in that blowout was the lowest point total they have scored since Sean Payton became their head coach in 2006.  It'll be safe to assume now that the Saints have gotten that road playoff woes gorilla off their back with that 26-24 win in Philly last week, they will score more than 7 points in this game.  

New Orleans will march into Seattle in a better mood to ezorcise another playoff demon in terms of their loss to a 7-9 Seahawk team when they were trying to repeat as NFL champs. 

The Saints are the number two ranked team in the NFL in total offense and number four in total defense and Drew Brees will probably have a better games as well.   

But Seattle was the number four team in the league in rushing offense thanks to Marshawn Lynch, and has six Pro Bowlers.  One of them is Texan season killer Richard Sherman, who had a league leading 8 interceptions.  They are rested, made a run to the divisional round last year, are champs of the toughest division in the NFL and have a formidable home field advantage with the ear-splitting loud 12th Man.

Aluminum bleachers behind the end zones of CenturyLink Field are ready-made noisemakers, and cantilever roofs draped over the upper deck on each sidelineBut that Seahawks home field invincibility aura took a hit after they lost to the Arizona Cardinals in Week 16 to snap their 14 game home winning streak 

Something else for you Saints fans to keep hope alive with.  Since 2005, Number 6 seeds are 5-2 against Number 1 seeds in the divisional round of the NFL postseason.

Yeah yeah, it's hard to beat a team twice in the same season, but Seattle to win and make it to the NFC title game..

Indianapolis (12-5) at New England (12-4)

Andrew Luck
I don't like either one of these teams, so in my case as I'm watching this late game it comes down to which team do I despise more?  

So what do the Indianapolis Colts do for an encore after executing the second largest playoff comeback in NFL history to escape with a 45-44 win?  Try to beat the number two seeded New England Patriots in a Divisional Round playoff game at Gillette Stadium and their future Hall of Fame QB.

Good luck with that task   New England has had a week to watch the tape of that game and you can bet that Bill Belichick has already planned on taking TY Hilton away from Andrew Luck and making him beat them without his best weapon.  

 Luck is capable of flinging the football around as he proved last week against Kansas City, but he isn't playing in the cozy confines of Lucas Oil Stadium this week, he's in Foxborough where the Patriots have won 14 of their last 15 home playoff games.   

But the question remains does Tom Brady have the weapons on his side to beat the Colts?   Yep.

Even though Rob Gronkowski is out, they still have their trio of RB's in Stevan Ridley, Shane Vereen, and LeGarrette Blount to throw at the Colts and set up their lethal play action passing offense. 

New England will be focused because they remember how their season ended last year, with a home loss in the AFC Championship game to the Ravens.

New England (boo hiss) to win the nightcap playoff game and punch their ticket to the AFC Championship game.    

Sunday Divisional Round Games 

San Francisco (13-4) at Carolina (12-4)

Wild Card Playoffs - San Francisco 49ers v Green Bay PackersThis early game is another one of the three regular season rematch games on the divisional playoff schedule.  Back on November 10 the teams clashed at Candlestick Park with the 49ers on a five game winning streak and coming off a bye week.  

But the Panthers escaped with a 10-9 statement win that propelled them to an NFC South title and the number two seed in the NFC playoff bracket.  

A large part of the story in that Carolina win was Colin Kaepernick being sacked six times and only generating 91 yards passing.  WR Michael Crabtree and TE Vernon Davis were sidelined with injuries and in Davis' case a concussion.  RB Frank Gore didn't have a very productive day either.

Well, they're all back, and the 49ers come into Charlotte for this rematch at Bank of America Stadium on a roll after subduing the Green Bay 23-20 in a frosty wildcard round game that Kaepernick rushed for nearly 100 yards to end the Packers season. 

The Niners are determined to do the same to the Panthers and avenge the loss at Candlestick  Their defense is ranked fourth against the rush and seventh against the pass and gave Cam Newton fits, too.

But as the Panthers have proven in this stellar season for them, they are no slouches on defense either, ranking sixth against the pass and second against the run.   Luke Kuechly has been their anchor in his Pro Bowl season  
Cam Newton also had a less than stellar day in that first game at Candlestick, but in his first ever playoff game he is wanting to prove he is an elite quarterback that can carry his team to a Super Bowl, and he gets his opportunity to prove it.

And yes, as I mentioned earlier, it's hard to beat a team twice in the same season.  This is going to be a tough, hard fought defensive struggle like the first one was in Candlestick, but I think Carolina will pull it out late to make it to the NFC championship game.    

San Diego (10-7) at Denver (13-3)

This Sunday late game is round three of the season series between the Chargers and their AFC West foes  the Denver Broncos.   The Bolts shocked the Cincinnati Bengals and the NFL world in The Jungle with a 27-10 upset win to set up the rubber match with their top seeded nemesis. 

Peyton Manning wants to be playing football on February 2.  So does Philip Rivers.  Which quarterback will make it happen for his team? 

The Broncos and Chargers split the 2013 season series with Denver taking a 28-20 win over the Bolts in San Diego on November 10. 

The Chargers returned the favor in a nationally televised 27-20 win in Denver on December 12 that snapped the Broncos 13 game home winning steak and 10 game winning streak against AFC West Division opponents.

San Diego has basically been on a playoff pressure run for the last month, having won five straight games since December 8.  So the Bolts are riding a lot of momentum coming into this game. 

The Chargers have figured out the best way to defend Peyton Manning is keep him and his offense on the bench.  In that December 12 win they ate up 38 minutes on the clock and frustrated the Broncos.  They are going to attempt to do the same thing again.   

And something else to make you worry Denver fans besides Peyton Manning's 9-11 playoff record.  It was the same scenario that the Ravens came into Sports Authority Stadium with last year and ended the Broncos season with.

And yep, may I remind you Broncos fans of the stat that Seattle fans are nervously contemplating.  Since 2005, Number 6 seeds are 5-2 against Number 1 seeds in the divisional round of the NFL postseason.

Denver wants to shake off the bitter memories of last season's stunning playoff loss to the Ravens and advance to the Super Bowl.   But they have to get past the Chargers first, and losing Von Miller for the season and Derek Wolfe for this game isn't going to help.

Neither will the Bronco offense getting off to a slow start in this game against a hot team. 

It'll also help tremendously their chances of hosting the AFC title game at Sports Authority Field if the Broncos offense gets to play with the ball for more than 22 minutes and play some defense when it counts.

I think the Broncos can do it.   Denver to win and host the AFC Championship game


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