If you were bored by the somewhat lack of competiveness of Wild Card Weekend, the Divisional Round should certainly make up for it.
There are no light touches left – these are the best eight teams left standing, and you can nearly make a case for any of them to wind up holding the trophy in three weeks.
With that in mind, it’s time to PICK THEM PAL!
Here are my four last-minute scorelines for NFL Divisional Weekend.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
- Ravens-Broncos Date: Saturday, January 12, 2013
- Ravens-Broncos Kickoff Time: 4:30 PM Eastern
- Ravens-Broncos TV Network: CBS
- Ravens-Broncos Point Spread: Ravens +9.5
Are you people in the Midwest and out east wondering where winter went? As I write this Saturday morning, the mercury stands at an even zero on Front Range. With snow. That’s zero degrees Fahrenheit for our friends in Canada.
The up-and-down roller coaster of Colorado weather is definitely down this weekend. And I think that just might fall into the Baltimore Ravens hands today.
From the second Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos were linked last spring, this question came up. How would PM fare in a playoff scenario outside in the cold?
Would it be like the old days in the climate controlled environs of the RCA Dome? Or would it be like those days in the snow in Foxborough?
I also do not like that early Saturday slot, where NFL playoff upsets tend to occur. It’s the Greg Gumbel/Dan Dierdorf game, because most expect the Broncos to just quietly take care of business and move on to hosting the AFC Championship Game.
And the opposition is no longer the Chargers, Chiefs, or Raiders, although it is a Baltimore team Denver throttled just as bad late in the season.
Still, I have that feeling from 16 years ago creeping in, when Mike Shanahan’s squad lost to the upstart Jacksonville Jaguars in a game Denver was supposed to have no chance at losing.
That – and I have to continue to cling to my Baltimore over Atlanta pre-season Super Bowl pick.
For a few more hours, I can dream on, until Joe Flacco reminds me that he is the weakest link of an extraordinary eight-some of starting QBs this weekend.
PICK: Baltimore 27, Denver 23
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
- Packers-49ers Date: Saturday, January 12, 2013
- Packers-49ers Kickoff Time: 8 PM Eastern
- Packers-49ers TV Network: FOX
- Packers-49ers Point Spread: Packers +3
It wouldn’t shock me to see any of the four NFC participants left playing in New Orleans in three weeks. And the three-point spread indicates that this game would be a pick at a neutral site, or the Pack would be -3 if this game were in Lambeau.
Problem is, San Francisco is the better team and proved that back in September with a 30-22 win that wasn’t as close as the final score indicated.
Granted, this was four long months ago. What hasn’t changed since then is that the Packers still have very little ground game to speak of, and will go absolutely nowhere on the Niners front seven.
Which will leave everything winging on the right arm of reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers.
AR can definitely be up to the task, but the flu bug made its way around the Packers locker room this week, and Rodgers reportedly was among those bit.
If the Niners were to stumble and bow out this week, it may prove as a day of reckoning on Jim Harbaugh selecting Colin Kaepernick v. Alex Smith. By the way, Colin raised some eyebrows this week for having the audacity to wear a black retro Milwaukee Brewers lid (I actually own the same hat. Still has manufacturers sticker – it’s somewhere!).
If Kaepernick were to struggle or get dinged and the Niners were to fall behind, I would fully suspect Jim Harbaugh to make the call to the bullpen – Harbaugh isn’t worried about egos or potential media controversy.
If Green Bay were to win, don’t root too hard for Atlanta to lose the next afternoon to get home field for the NFC Championship, especially considering Rodgers was sacked about a million times by the Seattle D back in September.
PICK: San Francisco 31, Green Bay 21
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
- Seahawks-Falcons Date: Sunday, January 13, 2013
- Seahawks-Falcons Kickoff Time: 1 PM Eastern
- Seahawks-Falcons TV Network: FOX
- Seahawks-Falcons Point Spread: Seahawks +2.5
- Seahawks-Falcons Over-Under Odds: 46
The line with Atlanta being favored at all surprises me. I was expecting this game to open as a pick or even the Seahawks to be a slight road favorite for the second straight week.
The Seahawks, after all, are the “trendy” pick, while the Falcons are supposedly a regular season wonder and “ripe for the picking” even as the No. 1 NFC seed.
No – Pete Carroll did not give Mike Vanderjagt a buzz after Steven Hauschka became another casualty of what passed as a playing surface at Fedex Field.
The Seahawks can definitely win, but suffered a significant loss when DE Chris Clemons also suffered a season ending injury v. Washington. RB Marshawn Lynch is also dealing with the back issues he’s had for most of the season.
I consider the A-T-L to be slightly more healthy, and also look for them to feed off the dreaded “getting no respect” label. The Seahawks are also flying cross-country for the second straight week. Will they find the Falcons ready to prey on them??
Look for this game to come down to the final minutes. I would not be surprised to see the Hawks move on to the NFC Championship, I also would not be surprised to see Matt Ryan exorcise some of the ghosts of playoffs past.
PICK: Atlanta 30, Seattle 24
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
- Texans-Patriots Date: Sunday, January 13, 2013
- Texans-Patriots Kickoff Time: 4:30 PM Eastern
- Texans-Patriots TV Network: CBS
- Texans-Patriots Point Spread: Patriots +9.5
- Texans-Patriots Over-Under Odds: 47.5
Or is it the Houston Fighting Irish at the New England Crimson Tide??
I change the handles because that Monday Night game in Foxborough a month ago was over about as quick as the BCS Championship Game ESPN aired the other night, and there isn’t a whole lot that has changed with either side since.
There are scenarios where I see the Texans being competitive in this game. One would involve J.J. Watt making life an absolute bitch for Tom Brady.
I mentioned how significant upsets tend to occur in the early Saturday slot. They also tend to occur less in that late-Sunday slot (Giants v. Packers last year notwithstanding).
Gumbel and Dierdorf won’t be calling this game. Nantz and Sims get to call the game involving the elitist franchise…“HELLO FRIENDS…”
PICK: New England 42, Houston 24