Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Divisional Round Predictions and Rankings

A clean sweep in the wild card round means I'm perfect in the post-season so far. The divisional round throws up some tougher decisions though, so I'm not confident I can keep my record blemish free...

Wildcard Round:

4-0

Regular Season

165-92 (65%)



PREDICTIONS

Ravens @ Broncos - Saturday 9.30pm

This is one that Denver should handle fairly comfortably. Manning should prove too much for the Ravens defence, but I can see the visitors putting enough on the board to keep it fairly competitive. The Ravens should aim to limit #18's time on the field by channelling a running game (plus the screens and dump offs) that worked so well versus Indy. The Bronoco's defence is far superior to the one they just faced, so we should see Flacco falter here.

DBL Coverage Prediction: Broncos by 9

Packers @ 49ers - Sunday 1am

I've been swinging back and forth on this game since it was decided, and am still not sure I've made the right call. After seeing how one-sided SF's demolition of the Pack was in Lambeau earlier this year (not to mention they have the home field advantage) I'll side with the Niners, but Green Bay did look scary-good last week versus Minnesota. It could well be a nail-biter, and I think it comes down to whether Kaepernick can protect the football and move the ball enough to allow their vaulted defence to play at its best.

DBL Coverage Prediction: 49ers by 3

Seahawks @ Falcons - Sunday 6pm

Another tough one to call, as whilst I love the Hawks I think Atlanta are being unjustly disrespected due to their past play-off record (which is all but meaningless here, save to add fuel to their fire). Seattle just played a tough game versus the Skins to seal a win, but had RG3 been healthy it could have been a very different story as they were down 14-0 before he aggravated his knee. The Falcons aerial attack plays into Seattle's secondary loaded hands, but Atlanta's defence is nothing to be trifled with either. Again this game could swing either way, but at home, fresh off the bye and playing the 'nobody believes in us' card for all it's worth, I feel the Falcons could finally exorcise their post-season daemons - surprising a lot of people in the process. 

DBL Coverage Prediction: Falcons by 7

Texans @ Patriots - Sunday 9.30pm

Like the Ravens/Broncos match-up this is one that looks to be fairly one-sided, especially when you consider the nature of their late-season game. The Texans looked to be as dominant as ever (at least defensively) versus the Bengals, but shutting down Brady is a whole different factor, and question marks continue to be raised as to whether Schaub is limiting their offence, especially when his main impact Sunday was an ugly pick-6. As such I expect the Pats to win this one solidly, but the more intimate knowledge these two have of each other (plus some more hard running from the ever impressive Arian Foster) should keep it fairly close.

DBL Coverage Prediction: Patriots by 7

RANKINGS

1. Denver Broncos (-)
The Broncos are currently the most likely team to win the Super Bowl, but with so many strong teams competing they are by no means a shoe-in. With Manning playing at such a high level, a running game coming into its own (Moreno is finally proving his worth) and a powerful defence, they really are the complete package. Their biggest road block will be a potential AFC Championship rematch with Brady and the Pats. No change for Denver on their bye - next they host the Ravens.

2. New England Patriots (-)
Speaking of which... they may have struggled at times this year, producing some atypical poor performances in key situations, but no team here has more winning play-off experience than the Pats. Yes their secondary is still suspect, but in the top heavy AFC the Pats will be disappointed not to reach the Championship game. They’ve already proved they can beat both the Broncos and the Texans comfortably, so despite their clear weaknesses they will still be a very real contender. No change for New England on their bye - next they host the Texans.

3. San Francisco 49ers (-)
It may be harsh to rank the 49ers lowing than New England who they saw off in the closing stages of the season, but in the far tougher NFC even starting with a bye their trip will be far rockier. Their QB situation may prove a double edged sword, as unless Kaepernick performs exceptionally there will continue to be calls to return to Smith. Despite all this they are still the consummate complete team, and with their New York nemesis not there to stop them they will feel confident they match up well with anyone. No change for San Francisco on their bye - next they host the Packers.

4. Green Bay Packers (U1)
A confident win over the Ponder-less Vikings sees Green Bay leap frog the Falcons in my estimations. DuJuan Harris is looking like a real threat in the running game (something the Packers have needed for far too long), and Rodgers was at his best slinging it against the Minnesota defence. A much tougher test awaits them this week however with a trip to Candlestick.

5. Atlanta Falcons (D1)
Sure, the Falcons haven’t had great play-off success in the Matt Ryan era - but that isn’t down to some mysterious fundamental weakness in Atlanta’s squad or coaching style. 2 of their 3 post-season losses were to the eventual Super Bowl winners in those years, and it is worth considering that if you played Brady’s career in reverse everyone would be labelling him a play-off choker (with 2 losses to the Giants before he finally gets his first ring). The Falcons have to feel confident that with the season they’ve had, not to mention the squad at their disposal, they can finally put their post-season daemons to rest. A tough match-up hosting Seattle looms.

6. Seattle Seahawks (-)
Seattle probably don’t deserve to be this low – but they could have really done with the Niners losing to either NE or the Cards so they could grab the divison. A tough away trip to Washington is probably the last thing this team wanted, but with Wilson playing at such a high level I don’t feel comfortable counting them out. At home they should be favourites to beat anyone in the league, so it’s unfortunate they look like being forced into repeat away games if they want to make a push for glory.  A hard fought win over the crippled Redskins sends them to Atlanta.


7. Baltimore Ravens (U1)
Baltimore aren’t in the rough position they were a month ago - their confident victory over the Giants has given them a huge boost (Sunday’s loss to Cincy doesn't count due to starters being benched). Add to that Lewis letting the team know this will be ‘his last ride’ and you have a potent combination that could cause some upsets. A dominant win over the Colts sees them move above Houston, but they have a tough match up against the Broncos this week.

8. Houston Texans (D1)
Two upset losses in as many weeks to close the season is not the way Houston planned on entering the playoffs. Despite that their form throughout the season means they can’t be discounted, and with the talent at their disposal they shouldn’t be overlooked. The Texans find themselves last due to their lack of offensive fire power exhibited in their game with Cincy. They'll need to raise their game to stand a chance versus the Pats.

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