Saturday NFL Divisional Round Preview

Winners play for a Conference Championship next weekend

Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots

A modern day playoff rivalry adds another chapter to it’s story as the Balitmore Ravens roll in to Foxboro to take on the New England Patriots. During the Brady/Belichick era, New England is 11-1 in home playoff games against the rest of the AFC, but against the Ravens, the Patriots are 1-2.

Today they meet for the fourth time in six seasons, and with “Playoff Joe Flacco” in tow, the Ravens head into the game with a lot of confidence, and with Steve Smith Sr. playing some of the best ball of his career, the Baltimore offense is ready for the challenge.

New England rolled thru the regular season, but may battle a bit of rust today. Coming off a bye, the Patriots starters did not play much of the second half of the Week 17 loss to Buffalo, and struggled to post 17 points against the NY Jets the week prior.

Maybe the rest will do them well, but facing a playoff tested team could spell a disaster for New England

Prediction – With Brady, Belichick, and Gronk you always have a chance. If Darrelle Revis and Brandon Browner in the secondary can collapse down on Steve and Torry Smith, and give Brady more chances with the football, they will have a much better chance to win. But the Ravens have their number, and that defense knows every trick in the Patriots playbook. Shut down Gronk and force Brady to go to the lesser receivers.  Ravens 25 Patriots 20

Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks

Very few people outside of Charlotte think the Panthers have a chance to go into Seattle and come away with an upset, and while it is a massive uphill battle, there still is a sliver of a chance thanks in large part to the Carolina defense.

The last time these two teams met the weekend before Halloween, Seattle struggled to solve the Carolina defense mustering only one touchdown in the final minute of a 13-9 win. That was in the middle of the Panthers brutal 1-8-1 stretch where they scored more than 22 points only three times.

The magic number for this Panthers defense is 20 points. If Seattle gets north of that, it is going to be tough for them to pull the upset. Shortening the game, staying committed to the run, and limiting their mistakes are going to keep them in it, and then all the pressure would be on the Seahawks.

Since the Seahawks dealt Percy Harvin and had a players only meeting, the Legion of Boom regained their 2013 form, and played lights out the rest of the regular season. Except for one road loss at Kansas City, Seattle smashed thru the softer part of their schedule and now are playing the best defense they have faced since last playing Carolina.

Prediciton – The atmosphere and noise at CentryLink Field is going to be cranked up to 12, and this will not be a game for the faint of heart. Hard hitting, defensive football will rule the roost, and points will be at a premium.

Carolina 16 Seattle 24

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