Thursday, January 8, 2015

NFL Weekly Predictions: Divisional

By Jeffrey Boswell

Note: the quotes in this article are fictional.

Baltimore @ New England (-7½)

The Ravens whipped the Steelers in Pittsburgh, 30-17, and advanced to face the hated Patriots in the divisional round. Joe Flacco passed for 259 yards and 2 touchdowns and the Ravens defense forced 3 turnovers.

"That's right," Terrell Suggs said. "We do hate the Patriots. I hate the Patriots, particularly Tom Brady. We come from different sides of the train tracks. Where I come from, it's easy to get railroaded, particularly by officials.

"It's never easy on the road in the playoffs. But we've beaten New England two of the three times we met in the playoffs at Gillette Stadium. The Patriots want to forget that, because, apparently, they all graduated from 'Recall So Hard University.'

"On that note, for a minimal donation of $50, you can sponsor a future Raven to attend 'Ball So Hard University' in B.S.H.U.'s '50 Dollar Make Me Scholar' program.

"Tom Brady's son was born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Brady was born with a yellow flag at his feet. It's the same old story when we play the Patriots: if Brady hits the ground, a flag will soon join him. We're seven point underdogs. See, we're already the victims of 'favoritism.' If there's one 'Tuck Rule' the officials need to follow on Saturday, it should be to keep those flags in their pants."

The Patriots are well-rested after a bye week, and are confident they can send the Ravens packing. With a win, New England will host the winner of the Indianapolis/Denver game.

"We're well-prepared," Brady said. "We know what the Ravens bring to the table, and the last thing we want to be are victims. We've watched a lot of film, some of it obtained from strategically-placed security cameras, and some just good old game film. What we've learned has given us the key to owning the Ravens on Saturday. So Ravens, know that 'big brother' is watching, and so is your daddy.

"John Harbaugh called Flacco the 'best' quarterback in the NFL. That's a wild exaggeration and should not be taken literally. If I was Hispanic, I would say 'hyperb-Olé. If Flacco is the NFL's best QB, then Ray Rice must be the best husband in the NFL.

No one expects anything less than a war on Saturday. It will be a fight. There will be blood. There will be casualties. Police may be involved. Uniforms will be disposed of. Comparisons will be made to Atlanta's Cobalt Lounge.

The Ravens pressured Ben Roethlisberger without much blitzing. They'll have to do the same to disrupt Brady and the Pats offense. That falls on Suggs and Elvis Dumervil. Do you think Belichick and the Pats will be prepared for that? And the Ravens secondary has been a weakness all year. There's no Darrelle Revis back there for the Ravens.

Brady throws for 2 touchdowns, one to Rob Gronkowski, and the Patriots advance, 30-20.

Carolina @ Seattle (-10½)

The Panthers earned a road trip to Seattle with a dominating 27-16 win over the visiting Cardinals. Carolina held Arizona to 78 total yards, the fewest ever allowed in a postseason game.

"With such a dominating defensive performance," Ron Rivera said, "a lot of people are asking me, 'How did the Panthers win only seven regular season games?' or 'How did the Cardinals still score 16 points?' or 'Without Luke Kuechly, would the Carolina defense be called the 'Black Panthers?' or 'Is Jerry Richardson's head really that big?' or 'Do I smell smoke?'

"The Cardinals managed only 12 yards in the second half, but enough about their punter. If anyone asks who's responsible for the Cardinals' troubles, just say, 'the Butler did it.' When Arizona kicks Drew Butler to the curb, I'm sure they're expecting him to land much further away than ten yards.

"As for the Seahawks, it's not easy playing at Seattle. It may be the noisiest place in the league. It gets so loud sometimes, you can't even hear Richard Sherman talking. I don't know about the seismographs in the area, but we're not quaking."

The No. 1-seeded Seahawks beat the Panthers 13-9 at Bank of America Stadium in Week 8. With the defenses of both teams peaking right now, another low-scoring affair is expected.

"We're a much better team now than we were then," Pete Carroll said. "And so are the Panthers. I think it's safe to say both teams are playing like a house of fire.

"We have to keep Newton in the pocket and make him throw the ball. Accuracy is not his strong suit, whether in passing, or reporting his knowledge of his father's finances. Newton's made '1' a popular number in the NFL. In college, his most popular number was his account number. But what do I know? To my knowledge, I've never had contact with a parent or parents of a soon-to-be collegiate star. My memory is not what is used to be. I think it conveniently ran a fade pattern.

"Marshawn Lynch is the key to our playoff success. Marshawn speaks softly and carries himself like a big dick. Fortunately for us, he does his talking on the field. Just ask Marshawn, he'll tell you can't see 'The Interview" anywhere. Anyway, our running game is strong. It ran Jim Harbaugh out of town, and it will run the Panthers out of the playoffs."

Prior to kickoff, former Seattle Super Sonic legend Shawn Kemp raises the Seahawks' "12th Man" flag, accompanied by his 11 children. Kemp then joins the game announcers in the FOX booth and makes his game prediction.

"I predict a Seattle win," Kemp says. "And it will be a slam dunk. And they'll defend their Super Bowl title in Arizona on February 5th. They'll continue their 'reign, man.'"

Seahawks win, 19-8.

Dallas @ Green Bay (-6½)

The Packers are favored by 6½ points at Lambeau Field, where temperatures are expected to be in the teens for Sunday's divisional contest against the No. 4 seeded Cowboys.

"'Expected in the teens,' you say," Mike McCarthy said. "Sounds like Jerry Jones' wants and desires on his favorite dating site,

"Aaron Rodgers' calf muscle is healing nicely. But it's still causing him some discomfort. Thanks to what we learned from Ndamukong Suh, the weather in Green Bay should numb it completely.

"We plan to keep the pressure off of Rodgers with our running game. So, the Cowboys can expect a steady diet of Eddie Lacy. Now, in most cases, when you say 'steady diet of Eddie Lacy,' you think 'a double cheeseburger for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.' Not in this instance. I mean 20-25 carries for Eddie. And I expect him to flourish. If there's one thing we know about Eddie, it's that he can carry the load, because he is the load."

The Cowboys won their first playoff game in five years, holding off the Lions 24-20. Tony Romo threw 2 TD passes to Terrence Williams, while the Dallas defense forced three Matthew Stafford turnovers.

"It was a great day for America's Team," Romo said. "It made fans of the 'Boys, and certain officials, want to 'pick up the flag.' But we can't let controversial calls put a downer on our celebration, can we? There's been enough 'interference' for one day.

"Our last playoff game in Green Bay was the Ice Bowl in 1967. I guess this one will be called 'Ice Bowl II," or better yet, "Ice Ice," baby. That's when the term 'Frozen Tundra' originated to describe the Lambeau turf. But we won't let the chill deter us. Much like ice, our resolve is solid. Normally, when you say 'freeze' to a Cowboy, he puts his hands up. But we'll bundle up in Green Bay. That means extra thermals, socks, gloves, etc. Heck, Dez Bryant might even wear a hat.

"I'm guessing New Jersey governor Chris Christie will be in Jerry Jones' luxury box at Lambeau. The chubby New Jersey governor is a Cowboys' fan, but his favorite player of all time is the 'Refrigerator.'"

If the Cowboys are wise, they'll mercilessly blitz Rodgers and force him to run and use that gimpy left leg. Will Rodgers and the Packers be ready for it, with quick throws to neutralize the rush and limit situations in which Rodgers has to run? Of course they will.

The Cowboys keep it close, but a late defensive pass interference call goes against the Cowboys, and the Packers hold on to win Packers win, 25-22.

Indianapolis @ Denver (-7)

The Colts handled the visiting Bengals 26-10 last week to set up a rematch of their Week 1 31-24 loss to the Broncos in Denver. Against Cincinnati, Andrew Luck passed for 376 yards and a touchdown, while Adam Vinatieri kicked 4 field goals.

"Everyone needs to just lay off Andy Dalton," Luck said. "Look, it took Bengals legend Norman Julius Esiason five seasons to reach the Super Bowl. Maybe Andy is just a 'late Boomer.'

"Vinatieri was randomly drug tested after the game. Of course, he passed. Adam's urine is just as calm and collected as he is. They call it 'Mellow Yellow.' I'm not sure if Adam is taking anything, but if he is, you can best believe it's got a little kick to it."

"Jim Irsay said he feels we are closer to a Super Bowl title. Jim's got a dream. In it, he wakes up in his car and finds the Lombardi Trophy in his briefcase."

With a win over the Colts, the Broncos would reach their second consecutive AFC Championship. Denver has relied on its running game lately, leading many to question the vitality of Peyton Manning's arm.

"First of all," Manning said, "my arm is fine. Second of all, I don't have any plans to do a DirectTV commercial with "Scrawny Arms" Rob Lowe. The 'Meathead' character? I've already done a commercial with Eli.

"The Bengals sacked Luck only once. Von Miller has promised that Luck won't be so lucky against us. To Miller, an opposing quarterback is not a person, he's a substance, and Von plans to abuse it. Von's as healthy as he's been all year. He's even got a clean bill of health from his personal physician, 'Dr. A. Sample.'"

The Colts' plan is to dare Manning to pass, and that's certainly not the first time the Indianapolis organization has doubted Manning's arm strength. But Manning has something to prove, and prove it he will by reading the Colts' defense like a cheap novel, or the Jacksonville playbook, or Terry Bradshaw's autobiography.

Manning has too many weapons, not including his arm, and the Broncos win, 30-21.

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