Predicting the NFL Divisional Round

The NFL Divisional Round is always exciting and typically features at least one upset. Today we dissect the final eight teams and give our predictions on who'll be moving onto Championship Weekend.

Ravens @ Patriots

Saturday, January 10, 2015, 4:35 PM

Gillette Stadium, Foxboro, Massachusetts

Considering I wrote about a 1400-hundred word preview already, this will be the cliff notes. The Ravens went 9-0 vs. teams with a combined record of 49-94-1 and 1-6 vs. teams with a combined record of 82-39-1. Simply put, Baltimore beat up on awful teams so their statistical rankings are VERY deceiving. They beat Pittsburgh at home, which is typically impressive, but not when they’re missing their best player. The Patriots went through a gauntlet of a schedule this year and still finished two games ahead of Baltimore. New England went 6-3 vs. teams above .500 and 4-1 against playoff teams; they’re battle tested and the considerably more talented team. This isn’t 2009 or 2012; Patriots win comfortably.

Prediction: New England 37, Baltimore 16

Carolina Panthers @ Seattle Seahawks

Saturday, January 10, 2015, 8:15 PM

CenturyLink Field, Seattle, Washington

Everyone is assuming this is going to be a cakewalk for the reigning-champion Seahawks, but the Panthers are not your typical 8-8-1 team. Carolina went 12-4 last season and they did it with defense, running and timely plays from Cam Newton. After overcoming growing pains with a completely rebuilt receiving core and starting 3-8-1, Carolina won five straight and started to resemble the 2013 version of the Panthers. Carolina was facing an undermanned Cardinals team last week, but they completely shut them down and made the needed plays on offense.

Seattle is still the best team in football, so it would be a shock if Carolina was able to pull off the upset. The Seahawks led the league in rushing but were 27th in passing, which could be an issue today. Seattle also features a dominant defense, just as dominant as they were in 2013. They stuff the pass; they stuff the run, and they only allow 15.9 points per game. I expect a close defensive battle with the winner being the team that makes more big plays. There is a good chance we see a defensive touchdown decide this game.

Prediction: Seahawks 19, Panthers 12

Cowboys @ Packers

Sunday, January 11, 2015, 1:05 PM

Lambeau Field, Green Bay, Wisconsin

In what could be the best game of the weekend, the road-warrior Cowboys head into Lambeau to face the best offense in football; Dallas is 8-0 on the road in 2014, so playing away from home has not been an issue for them. This is the same team that won in Seattle, something the Packers haven’t been able to do. Dallas had issues defending the pass this year, allowing 251.9 yards per game, ranking them 26th in the NFL. They are strong against the run though, allowing just over 103 yards per game, ranking them 8th in the NFL. The problem Dallas is going to have is Green Bay being able to adjust to whatever they’re facing; if Lacy can’t get it going in the run game, they’ll use him on screens and dump offs. Dallas is going to have a hard time defending the dynamic duo of Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, so expect Green Bay to score plenty of points, as long as Aaron Rodgers calf muscle holds up.

Like I said, Green Bay has a great offense, but the Cowboys do to. Their excellent offensive line catapulted the running game to the second best in football, averaging 147.1 yards per game. The passing game was excellent when it needed to be, so looking at their yardage ranking is deceiving (236 yards per game, 16th in the NFL.) Dallas also scored 29 points per game, good for fifth in the NFL. The Packers defense allowed 120 rushing yards per game this season, ranking them 23rd in the NFL. So what we are looking at here is a Cowboys team who struggles to stop the pass and a Packers team that has issues with the run. Something has to give.

Prediction: Cowboys 31, Packers 30

Colts @ Broncos

Sunday, January 11, 2015, 4:40 PM

Sports Authority Field at Mile High, Denver, Colorado

The new Colts franchise quarterback battles the former Colts franchise quarterback in the third installment of Luck vs. Manning. The Broncos are the clear favorite due to their balance of throwing, running and strong defense. Peyton Manning has had some struggles in the later part of the season, but over that time running back C.J. Anderson has emerged as a bell-cow for a Denver offense that needs to have a strong running back to compliment their passing game. Indianapolis averaged 400 yards per game through the air in 2014, so they always have a punchers chance. Denver has been excellent stopping the run this season, but that doesn’t really matter because Indy is going to try and throw all day.

The Colts pass defense has been pretty good in 2014, so there is a chance they’ll be able to slow down Manning and the passing game. Teams have been able to run on Indy though, and if the Broncos start having success running, look out for play action because Manning is deadly when that happens. I don’t see this game being a blowout simply because Andrew Luck is such a handful to deal with, but playing in Denver is tough for any opponent.

Prediction: Broncos 38, Colts 34

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