NFL Weekly Predictions: Divisional
January 9, 2014 by Jeffrey Boswell • Print Story •
Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.
New Orleans @ Seattle (-8)
The Saints' 26-24 wild card win in Philadelphia set up a rematch with the top-seeded Seahawks, who whipped New Orleans 34-7 in week 11. Shayne Graham's 32-yard field goal as time expired gave the Saints the first road playoff win in franchise history.
"Ironically," Sean Payton said, "we sent the Eagles 'packing.' And speaking of 'baggage,' I hear DeSean Jackson wants a new contract. Chip Kelly agrees. In fact, he contacted me about putting a 'contract' on Jackson's head. I think a trade to the 49ers is an option; it's the perfect destination for a gold digger.
"We'll have to win two more times on the road to reach the Super Bowl, then win outdoors in the cold to become world champs. It seems like an unlikely scenario, but if you can put yourself in Roger Goodell's shoes, and suspend disbelief, it can be envisioned.
"I can promise we'll be more prepared to play in Seattle this time. Defensively, Rob Ryan has drawn up the perfect game plan. He's going to dial up some creative schemes. He's also going to dial up offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael and tell him to score more points. The Seahawks 'toyed' with us the first time; this time, we're hoping we're able to play with them."
Seattle and New Orleans have met once before in the playoffs, back in 2010 when the Seahawks knocked off the favored Saints 41-36 in Seattle. Pete Carroll remembers that day well.
"That was my first playoff win as Seahawks' head coach," Pete Carroll said, "and it was the first time a team with a losing record won a playoff game. That's going to be a hot topic this week. That's why backup quarterback Tarvaris Jackson and punter Jon Ryan should be ready, because all the talk will be about '7' and '9.'
"Turnovers will be a big factor in this game. We led the NFL in interceptions with 28. Not only are we the 'Legion of Boom,' we're the 'Legion of Boom-erang,' because if a ball is thrown, it's often returned. Richard Sherman led all players with 8 picks, and he's not afraid to tell you. He talks so much, he's known as 'Richard Sermon.' One thing is for sure: it's much easier to silence Marshawn Lynch than Sherman."
There's rain in the forecast for Saturday in Seattle, which may make the running game even more of a factor in the game. Lynch destroyed the Saints back in 2010, and he'll be equally as devastating on Saturday, gaining the tough yards, converting third downs, and serving as an outlet for Russell Wilson. Lynch likes his Skittles, but in soggy Seattle, he'll be saying, "Taste the rain, bro.'"
Lynch rushes for 121 yards and scores twice in a performance that once again leaves not only the Saints speechless, but Lynch, as well, after he ignores reporters after the game. The Saints keep it close with balanced attack, but red zone failures cost them dearly.
Seattle wins, 27-22.
Indianapolis @ New England (-7)
The Colts overcame a 38-10 second half deficit to shock the visiting Chiefs 45-44 in a miraculous comeback at Lucas Oil Stadium. Andrew Luck threw three interceptions, but tossed four scoring passes and added a fumble recovery for a touchdown to lead the Indy charge.
"The city of Indianapolis has never seen a playoff collapse quite like that," Luck said. "At least not by the visiting team. Both defenses were atrocious. I've seen better tackling from Ben Roethlisberger in Lucas Oil Stadium. The Chiefs really let one slip away. Indeed, it was one of the greatest comebacks in playoff history. They're calling it the 'Rebuke in the Luc.'' It was also one of the greatest collapses in playoff history. In K.C., they're calling it the 'Emasculate Recession.'
"We certainly believe we can beat the Patriots. But we'll need help. That's why we signed former Patriot wide receiver Deion Branch, who was the Most Valuable Player of Super Bowl XXXIX. Deion's biggest contribution may come not on the field, but in his knowledge of the New England play book. Christmas has passed, but Deion still knows that sometimes it's better to give than to receive.
"I'll have to be at my best in Foxboro. I'm sure the Pats will show me some things I haven't seen before, like the Lombardi Trophy, or talent in Trent Richardson, or a sensible explanation of the Tuck Rule, or an unlucky bounce, or a rubber inspirational bracelet that doesn't make me cry. But I'll show them something, and that's a quarterback who's fearless. Just ask the Chiefs. They know I'm 'not afraid' to make mistakes."
A win by the Patriots over the Colts would put Tom Brady is his seventh AFC Championship Game. He is 3-3 in conference title games.
"I plan to be 'over 500' after Saturday's game," Brady said. "By that, I mean we're expecting to gain at least 500 yards of offense against the Colts.
"It's hard to imagine blowing a 38-10 lead. 28-point leads don't come and go that easily, except in the Pro Bowl. But rest assured, we won't make the same mistake the Chiefs did. If the Colts dig themselves a hole, we'll bury them in it.
"There's a lot of history in the Colts/Patriots rivalry. With that comes a lot of pressure. Just ask Peyton Manning. He knows that to get over the 'hump,' you've got to get over the 'lump.' In your throat, that is. We'll see if Luck is ready for this kind of pressure."
There's no doubt that Bill Belichick is one of the NFL's greatest coaches, but is a music career on the horizon? Why, you ask? Well, because there's been a lot of "hit records" in Belichick's past, which are almost always followed by "hit plays," which often start the secretly-recorded video of an opponent's practice.
Whatever his means, Belichick will have the lowdown on Luck and the Colts. Expect the Pats to disguise defenses and try to confuse Luck. And expect the Colts to do the same with Brady. But there's a problem — there is no disguising the Indy defense. They're not that good. As the saying goes, "Even if you put lipstick on a pig, it's still a pig." And Brady likes toast with his bacon.
Brady picks apart the Colts' defense through the air, opening the door for a big day on the ground for New England's deep running back corps.
New England advances with a 40-27 win.
San Francisco @ Carolina (+1)
The 49ers ousted the Packers 23-20 on Phil Dawson's 33-yard field goal as time expired. The triumph sends San Francisco to Charlotte for a divisional round contest with the Panthers, who knocked off the 49ers in Candlestick Park 10-9 in Week 10.
"It would be an injustice if we didn't thank Ric Flair for his inspiring pre-game speech," Jim Harbaugh said. "They used to call Ric the '60 Minute Man.' Now, they call him the '60-Year-Old Man.' But he sure knows how to fire up a team. Maybe if he would have been in Cincinnati, the Bengals would have won after hearing the Nature Boy's 'Woo dey?' speech. As it was, he was here, and we walked it like he talked it.
"This team lives and dies by our linebackers. That was exactly the case with the Ravens. Not last year, but in 2001, when someone actually did 'live or die' by Ray Lewis. Only one of our linebackers, Ahmad Brooks, has been accused of murder. But only by an NFL official. However, I can assure you, Ahmad didn't murder Drew Brees; he only sacked him."
The Panthers host a playoff game for the first time since the 2008-2009 season. That game ended with a 33-14 loss to the Cardinals as Jake Delhomme committed 6 turnovers.
"That was pretty much the end for the 'Rajin' Cajun,'" Cam Newton said. "After that, the Panthers told Delhomme 'Bye you.' But that was then, this is now. I'm not Jake Delhomme. I'm Cam Newton. I react to pressure with an 'S' on my chest, not in my pants.
"For only the fourth time in franchise history, we're breaking out our all-black uniforms. They're in stark contrast to my girlfriends, who are all white. Wesley Snipes once said, 'Always bet on black.' I think bettors should take his advice and put their money on the Panthers. In Wesley's honor, they should pay the taxes should they win."
What will decide this game? Defense and quarterback play, of course. CBS' Shannon Sharpe will likely tell you the same thing in many more words, but I just allowed you to cut out the middleman. The translator, that is.
The Panthers get on the board first on a touchdown scramble from Newton, who then performs his patented "Superman" celebration. But let's be real. If there's a quarterback who can "fly," it's Colin Kaepernick. Plus, he really does have an "S" on his chest. In fact, he's got several. Kaepernick could never play receiver, because he's "covered." But he can play quarterback, and running back.
Kaepernick accounts for 298 total yards, and throws for a score in a turnover-free game. The 49ers defense returns a Newton interception for a score, and San Fran survives a frantic Carolina rally attempt.
San Francisco wins, 23-16.
San Diego @ Denver (-10)
The Chargers took down the favored Bengals 27-10 in Cincinnati last week, and will now face the Broncos for the third time this season. The two teams split in the regular season, with the visiting team winning each time.
"It appeared that Andy Dalton had a severe case of 'Jungle Fever,'" Philip Rivers said. "I'm not sure he had a temperature, but he was 'coughing up' everything.
"We rushed 40 times and passed only 16 times. It's our version of 'Martyball.' Where Marty Schottenheimer is concerned, we'll pay homage, but not salary. But don't be fooled; we plan to open up the offense against the Broncos. Their defense is prone to giving up the big play, and our offense specializes in the big play. To be clear, by 'big play,' I mean an 8-yard gain. They may call it 'Mile High Stadium,' but it becomes 'Mile Wide' when you put the Broncos' defense on it.
"All the credit should go to our coaches. Mike McCoy and his staff have implemented an innovative game plan. Trust me, they've got more 'creative' juices than former Charger Antonio Cromartie."
The top-seeded Broncos are the AFC's top seed for the second consecutive year. Last year, the Ravens stunned Denver in overtime.
"We put last year's divisional loss to the Ravens out of our heads," Peyton Manning said. "It wasn't a problem, because when it comes to the playoffs, mental blocks come easy for me.
"This may be my last chance to win another Super Bowl. You know, my first title came in 2007. So, it's been a lot like Jay Cutler's new contract extension — seven years too long. That second Super Bowl win is very important to me. I'm only comfortable with my brother Eli having one thing more than me, and that's stupidity.
"We have a lot of weapons on offense, and I plan to use them all. Wes Welker will be back after missing our last three games with a concussion. Wes has played in nine playoff games, so we're counting on his postseason experience. We just hope he remembers where he's been."
Denver wins, 34-27.