NFL Divisional Playoffs preview

With the Wild Card round in the books, it’s time for the Divisonal round to kick off this weekend with some intriguing matchups, beginning with the Ravens visiting the Patriots, who Baltimore beat in the AFC Championship two years ago, and ending with Peyton Manning‘s current team, the defending AFC champion Broncos, hosting Manning’s former team, the AFC South champion Colts. On the NFC side, the defending Super Bowl champion Seahawks host the Panthers and the Cowboys head to Lambeau Field to battle Aaron Rodgers and the Packers.

Saturday

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After defeating the Steelers on the road last week, the 6-seed Ravens travel to Gillette Stadium to take on the Tom Brady and the Patriots, the top seed in the AFC. New England has the best team, on both offense and defense, it has had in the past several years, led by a healthy Rob Gronkowski. The Patriots have a questionable running game, though RB LeGarrette Blount has done well since joining the team in November, but Ravens RB Justin Forsett‘s production has been dropping off in recent weeks. The Patriots have the advantage at most of the key positions and, despite the Ravens’ recent playoff success against them, I think the Patriots will win the game.

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The Panthers beat a bad Cardinals team last week, but now they have to play the Seahawks in Seattle. I don’t think they’re up to the task. I think the Seahawks are going to win, and I don’t expect it to be close.

Sunday

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This is likely the most anticipated game of the weekend, with two of the most popular teams in the league playing each other. Aaron Rodgers may not be 100%, with a calf injury that has limited his practice since their last game in week 17. Obviously, I think a hobbled Rodgers is the Cowboys’ best chance of winning the game. If Rodgers i healthy, I expect Dallas to rely on RB DeMarco Murray and the running game to control the time of possession and keep the Packers’ offense off the field. But I don’t think it would be enough. If Rodgers is healthy, I don’t see the Cowboys winning the game. Packers win at home.p

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In the final game of the weekend, Peyton Manning plays his former team. People have been questioning Manning’s performance late in the season and if he’s not at his best against the Colts, Indianapolis may have an advantage with QB Andrew Luck, but the Broncos have clear advantages at running back and wide receiver. Both defenses ranked middle of the pack in points allowed in the regular season so neither team has much an advantage there. Overall, I think the Broncos have the better team and will win the game.

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