The 2015 NFL Playoffs have reached the Divisional Round, as we have no whittled the field down to football’s version of the Elite Eight. The schedule is set, and the point spreads feature some fairly heavy favorites. The top four seeds will return to the field after earning a bye over Wild Card weekend and will play host to the four teams which managed to survive the first round of the postseason. With two more games on Saturday and another two more on Sunday, the dates, times and television listings for all four games can be found below, along with the point spreads and my predictions for each to follow.
Saturday, January 10, 2015 (Home Team in CAPS)
NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (- 7) Baltimore Ravens @ 4:35 pm – Ask anyone on the Patriots whether they wanted to face the Ravens or Pittsburgh Steelers, and they’ll all tell you that it didn’t matter. They’re all lying. The Patriots didn’t want the Ravens in this matchup. Sure, New England has home field advantage, but is there any team better at winning on the road in the playoffs than the Ravens? Just ask the Pats. New England looked very good over the final couple of months of the season, defeating some of the elite teams in the league. They also struggled at times against opponents that they should have easily handled. The strategy is simple: get to Flacco. The Steelers could not, and it cost them. If the Pats can pressure Flacco, they will win this game. If not, it will be a lot more difficult than the seven point spread would indicate. Ultimately, I will still take the Patriots at home, and begrudgingly give the points as well.
Pick: PATRIOTS (- 7)
SEATTLE SEAHAWKS (- 10.5) Carolina Panthers @ 8:15 pm – Remember when both teams actually looked like reaching the postseason may only be a pipe dream? Well, that seems like forever ago, as the Panthers and Seahawks are both playing as well as any team in the league right now. Two very good defenses. Two very mobile quarterbacks capable of making big plays when it seems as if nothing is available. Whichever defense can slow down the opposing quarterback – at least in terms of making plays with his legs – should ultimately come out on top. In the end, I simply cannot bet against the Seahawks at home. Not even against the surging Panthers. This one is tougher than the early game, but I’ll once again go with the heavy home favorite and give the points.
Pick: SEAHAWKS (- 10.5)
Sunday, January 11, 2015
GREEN BAY PACKERS (- 7) Dallas Cowboys @ 1:05 pm – Two explosive offenses. Two elite quarterbacks. Two underrated defenses that come up with big plays. Wait, which referee crew is working this game? That could impact my decision if it the same one that helped the Cowboys defeat the Detroit Lions on Sunday. All joking aside, I will bet on Aaron Rodgers over Tony Romo every time an important game is played. Sure, Romo played well against the Lions. Can he do it again? On the road? I may have eaten myself stupid over the Holidays, but not quite that stupid. I could see this one staying close for a while, but the Pack finds a way to pull away and cover the spread.
Pick: PACKERS (- 7)
DENVER BRONCOS (- 7) Indianapolis Colts @ 4:40 pm – Tell me that everyone outside of the Cincinnati area wasn’t rooting for this one, right? Peyton Manning gets to face his former team. Andrew Luck gets to go up against the man he replaced. This is a story of teams that have looked quite different at times throughout the season, posing a plethora of question. Is Denver a passing or running team? Can the Colts perform against a team better than them on paper? Is Manning healthy enough to throw the ball downfield? Can Luck beat the Broncos’ top secondary? Truthfully, I don’t have the answers to any of these questions. But in keeping with the theme of the weekend, I will once again go with the home favorite and complete the grand slam of giving the points and selecting the host squads.
Pick: BRONCOS (- 7)