NFL Playoff Preview: Who is Left Standing on Sunday Night?

NFL Football

It is the best NFL weekend of the year—4 games in 2 days that decide the sport’s Final Four. So grab some wings and your favorite adult beverage and be a couch potato for 2 days. Here are my picks for the games:

Baltimore At Denver - The Ravens played an impressive second half last week at the expense of a gritty Colt squad led by Andrew Luck but this is a new week and beating the Broncos in Denver is a tall order. Not only do the Ravens have to deal with Peyton Manning but a defense that is tough, smart, and knows how to shut down offenses. Just a few weeks ago, these teams met in Baltimore and Denver controlled both sides of the line of scrimmage so what hope do the Ravens have? They will have to unleash Ray Rice in creative ways which means at least 22 touches for the dynamic Rutgers grad. Defensively, it will be an interesting chess match between the audibles of Manning and the fierce competitiveness of Ray Lewis. I think Denver wins this game but the Ravens will keep it close Prediction: Broncos 28 Ravens 27

Green Bay At San Francisco - Here is a dream matchup between the dynamic offense of the Packers led by Aaron Rodgers versus the hard hitting defense of the 49ers. The Packer quarterback better bring his best “discount double check” to the line of scrimmage because this 49er team will put serious pressure on the passing game by single covering Green Bay’s talented wideouts in the hope that can rattle State Farm’s best spokesperson. The danger here is Rodgers is very capable of making big plays with his arm and legs which is the best way to disarm the array of blitz packages that Harbaugh will send the Packers way. The question is will he make the gambling 49er defense pay? The answer is yes but not nearly enough as the 49er offense will have its way with a porous Packer secondary that relies on a plethora of Cover 2 packages. Frank Gore will have a huge day and I suspect the Niners might stick one in the end zone from the defensive side of the ball or even on special teams and cruise in this one with 2 4th quarter scores. Prediction: 49ers 30 Packers 17

Seattle At Atlanta - The pressure on the Atlanta Falcons will be enormous as the experts in the football world consider them a paper tiger. I do not necessarily agree but I will admit this is an awful matchup for them. The Seahawks will effectively run the ball against the Falcons and that will control the clock which will limit their possessions. Russell Wilson’s mobility will frustrate their defense as well especially with 3rd down conversions either running it or throwing on the run. Still, Atlanta has a high octane offense that features a variety of weapons including Julio Jones, Roddy White and Tony Gonzalez. And Matt Ryan does a great job of spreading the wealth around making it tough to defend them. But here’s the problem. Seattle will keep this game close and the longer they do, the longer the Falcons will begin to see visions of past playoff failures dancing in their heads. This game will not only be close but will need extra time to decide it. Prediction: Seahawks 31 Falcons 28 in Overtime

Houston At New England - Who bets against Tom Brady at home in the playoffs? If the truth be told, more people that you might think. I know they won twice at home last year but remember they were coming off back to back home playoff losses to the Jets and Ravens in 2011 and 2010. And quite honestly they may have deserved to lose the AFC Title game to the Ravens last year had Baltimore executed better in the game’s final minute. This Texan team got manhandled a few weeks ago in Foxboro which is reminiscent of the way the Jets got spanked 2 years ago. They are a much better squad than they showed that night and Arian Foster was not used properly in that game which won’t happen again. To me, the only way to beat the Pats is milk the clock by running the ball which the Texans can do and provide an inside pass rush against Tom Brady which they also can do. I just have a feeling both of those things will happen in Foxboro on Sunday and the Patriots will once again be shocked in the divisional round at home. Prediction: Texans 28 Patriots 24