Saturday, January 11, 2014

2014 NFL Divisional Round Predictions

Saints @ Seahawks: The last time Seattle played New Orleans, the Seahawks absolutely demolished Drew Brees and the Saints, beating the Saints by a score of 34-7. In that game, Russell Wilson passed for 310 yards, 3 touchdowns, and a passer rating above 135, while Brees passed for 147 yards and a score, both being his lowest totals of the season. The Saints are now trying to plan accordingly for the deafening noise within CenturyLink Field, where the Seahawks have lost only one game at home since December of 2011. Even worse for New Orleans, Brees and the Saints have a history of playing poorly on the road. Not only will the Saints' offense try to beat Seattle's 12 man, but Seattle's stingy defense as well. The Seahawks defensive unit led the league in total defense, passing yards allowed, rushing touchdowns allowed per game, and interceptions. Bottom line: the Saints are in trouble. We predict the Seahawks to roll past new Orleans into the NFC Championship Game.
Seahawks over Saints 30-13

Colts @ Patriots: The Indianapolis Colts were down 28 points to the Kansas City Chiefs in last week's playoff matchup, but thanks to an excellent comeback led by Andrew Luck, as well as a resilient defense, the Colts were able to come from behind and win the game. Last Sunday's win marked Andrew Luck's first career playoff win, and even though he threw 3 interceptions that created the deficit, Luck's five total touchdowns, as well as 443 passing yards, allowed the Colts to advance to the Divisional Round. Now, Indianapolis will travel to Foxboro in order to play Tom Brady and the New England Patriots. Ever since the Colts lost Reggie Wayne, Luck's number one target in 2013 has clearly been T.Y. Hilton, who will likely be limited by New England's star cornerback Aqib Talib in Sunday's game. This means Luck will have to rely on his other wide receivers if the Colts wish to win through the air. Even worse for Indy, there is a 100% chance of rain in Foxboro on Sunday, meaning passing the ball will become more difficult. The rainstorm favors New England, whose running back trio of Steven Ridley, Shane Vereen, and LeGarrette Blount have all rushed for more than 100 yards in a single game this season. Lastly, Tom Brady's playoff experience makes New England the favorite to win this game.
Patriots over Colts 23-17

49ers @ Panthers: Colin Kaepernick walked into frozen Lambeau last weekend as the favorite and were able to beat the Packers, even though the temperature reached below zero with the wind. Now, the 49ers are favored to beat the Panthers, just the third time since 1990 that a home playoff team was the underdog in the Divisional Round of the playoffs. Everyone expected Cam newton to have a great year statistically, but the main reason why Carolina has been so successful is their punishing defense. Luke Kuechly, a second year linebacker out of Boston College, totaled 156 tackles, 4 interceptions, and 2 sacks in 2013. After winning Defensive Rookie of the Year last season, Kuechly is one of the favorites to win Defensive Player of the Year this season, which would mark the second time a defensive player won Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in their first two seasons (only other player was Lawrence Taylor, who won Rookie of the Year and Defensive Player of the Year in the same season). The Panthers defense as a whole ranked second in the league in both total defense and run defense, where the 49ers were not too far behind in either category. The two defenses in Sunday's matchup will both play very well, but in the end, we predict San Francisco to win this thanks to their playoff experience.
49ers over Panthers 27-20

Chargers @ Broncos: The San Diego Chargers pulled off the upset over the Cincinnati Bengals last weekend, even though Cincinnati was undefeated at home entering the Wild Card Round. Phillip Rivers has a history of choking in the playoffs, and even though his statistic were not incredible against the Bengas, his numbers are bound to increase now that he is going up against a weaker Broncos' defense. Denver lost star outside linebacker Von miller for the rest of the season due to a torn ACL, but this team is 7-0 in games where Miller is not int the starting lineup. Quarterback Peyton Manning finished 2013 with 5,477 passing yards, 55 touchdowns, and a passer rating of 115.1. Because of the first round bye, Wes Welker has had time to recover from his concussion, and he is listed as probable for Sunday's game. Welker, Thomas, and Decker create the best wide receiving corp in the NFL, which is why we predict Denver to beat the Chargers and move on to play Brady and the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game.
Broncos over Chargers 27-23

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