Predictification - NFL Divisional Round

CHirs Humphreys-USA TODAY Sports

Predicting the NFL action before it happens isn't easy... unless you're a Predictificationist like me. Sit back, relax and know that you've come to the right place.

THIS REGULAR SEASON: 164-91*-1 (.643)

PLAYOFFS: 3-1

COLTS PREDICTIONS: 13-4

The Colts magical season is officially over. Kinda sad isn't it? I think that it's fair to say when we look back at this season and what this team accomplished we will realize that this was one of the best seasons in Colts history, even without a long playoff run - plus it'll make the build up to next season's matchup with Peyton Manning and the Denver Broncos much more thrilling.

Most of the questions I fielded on Twitter (and you should follow me, too) immediately following the loss to the Ravens were about what to expect next season - can this team be even better?

Yes.

Probably.

The NFL is a strange league - things can change on a dime (heck, we realized that THIS year). Make no mistake, 11-5 in the NFL is no cake walk - and I don't know that this team can improve on their record next season. Going 12-4 or better doesn't happen all that often (remember even Peyton Manning went 10-6 and won the division) and I think it is setting some high expectations to ask them to have a better record.

So, if that's what you mean by better - than, no.

If you wonder if they can be a more complete team next season, that answer is a resounding YES.

There is no denying that this Colts team had a lot of holes, mainly on the offensive line. The Colts have a ton of money in free agency and a fair amount of draft picks and should be able to add talent to the offensive line, secondary, pass rush and maybe another wide receiver. None of this guarantees a BETTER team next season, however.

Remember - teams are built as much on chemistry as talent. It'll be tough to assemble another TEAM like the Colts had in 2012.

Can this team gel again? That will be the deciding factor on whether this team takes a step forward (a playoff win) next season. They will have to deal with some losses (that could include Tom Telesco, Bruce Arians, Dwight Freeney, Donnie Avery, Donald Brown, Austin Collie, Jerraud Powers, Winston Justice, Pat McAfee and Adam Vinatieri, among others) and another year with that kind of turnover will be a challenge. The changes will be for the better - but the fact is there will be a lot of new faces again next year and no one knows how those pieces will fit together.

Enjoy the magic of this season and look forward to the next - just keep your expectations in check.

Here's why I'm a genius:

1) Bengals @ Texans

What I said: Everyone thinks the Texans are done - they're not. Cincinnati has been mostly unimpressive in their 10 wins and I don't see anything that would make me pick the upset. I'd say quarterbacks and receivers on each team would play to a draw and defense and rushing attack go to the Texans - there isn't anything the Bengals have that would make me give them the edge.

    I think Arian Foster puts the team on his back this week and carries the Texans to the divisional round. I'd estimate he gets about 125-150 yards and a couple of touchdowns. Matt Schaub won't be spectacular but won't kill Houston this week. J.J. Watt will get a couple of sacks and the Texans defense should get a couple of turnovers.

    Andy Dalton will have a day to forget after getting hit all day long. The Bengals won't be able to run the ball, adding to the pressure on Dalton. This one may be close at halftime but the Texans will blow them out in the second half.

    TEXANS WIN 34-20

    What happened: As I predicted, this game was close at halftime with the Texans leading 9-7. Arian Foster ran for 140 yards and a touchdown and Matt Schaub was good enough throwing for 262 yards and a 83.4 quarterback rating. J.J. Watt got one sack and two QB hits and batted at least one pass that I remember. Anyone who watched the game saw what I predicted - this game wasn't as close as the score seemed, the Texans completely outplayed Cincinnati.

2) Vikings @ Packers

What I said: I don't think the Cinderella story for the Minnesota Vikings will have a happy ending. Going into Lambeau Field during the playoffs is one of the hardest thing for a quarterback to do - and Christian Ponder IS NOT up to the task. The Packers defense will come up with some type of game plan to stop slow down Adrian Peterson and force the ball into Ponder's hands.

    Aaron Rodgers has been one of the best playoff quarterbacks in recent years and should be able to handle the Vikings defense without much trouble.

    It'll be cold and that will keep scoring down, making the game seem closer on the scoreboard than it is on the field. Have no doubt, the Packers will win this one convincingly.

    It's the lock of the week.

    PACKERS WIN 27-17

    What happened: My lock of the week came through exactly as predicted. The Packers defense did find a way to slow down AP (99 yards) and Christian Ponder didn't even play. Green Bay ended up forcing the ball into Joe Webb's hands and he couldn't do the job - not even close (11/30, 180 yards). Rodgers was dominant and this one didn't even seem as close as the 14 point final margin.

3) Seahawks @ Redskins

What I said: The battle of rookie quarterbacks should be a fun way to end Wildcard Weekend. The Redskins have won 7 straight and Seattle has won 7 of their last 8 - so these are the two hottest teams in football.

    RGIII hasn't looked the same since his knee injury - still very good but more tentative to run. I think the Redskins would need RGIII at full strength to have a chance at this one. Alfred Morris will get his yards, too - but it is going to take big plays in the passing game to get past Seattle (and the Seahawks defense is built to contain the pass).

    Russell Wilson is playing with an incredible amount of confidence right now and seems to be a little more capable than Griffin at this point in their young careers. That's enough for me to give the edge to Seattle - and by more than a touchdown.

    SEAHAWKS WIN 28-17

    What happened: RGIII obviously wasn't at full strength and has been the subject of much debate this week. Even when the Redskins got an early 14-0 lead I wasn't too worried about this pick. As I said, it would take big plays to get past Seattle and Griffin didn't have it in him last week, throwing for only 84 yards.

Here's why I'm dumb:

1) Colts @ Ravens

What I said: The Colts are 2-0 against the Ravens in playoff games and Joe Flacco and Ray Rice haven't exactly been stellar in past performances against Indianapolis. In four games Flacco has completed nearly 68% of his passes but for only 2 touchdowns and 7 interceptions and has been sacked 7 times. In those same four games Rice has rushed for an average of 66 yards per game, a 4.1 average and just one touchdown (but he has caught a TON of balls).

    I honestly believe the Colts will win this game. They seem to know exactly who they are and what their strenghts are - same thing can't be said for the Ravens. The Ravens defense has not played like the Baltimore defenses we remember and are prone to the run.

    The only way the Colts stumble in this one is if Andrew Luck turns the ball over more than once... he will turn it over once (it is his first playoff game) but, as long as he limits it to the one, the Colts should be OK. The team needs to limit Ray Rice (keep him under 100 rushing) and put some pressure on Flacco (2-3 sacks and some hits should do it). The star of the game will be T.Y. Hilton - I expect another long TD catch. Late touchdown will seal it for Indy - take the Colts!

    COLTS WIN 24-17

What happened: This game came down to touchdowns and field goals - the Colts got the field goals, and that doesn't win in the playoffs. Luck turned the ball over twice (which I said was too much to win) and the Colts struggled to take advantage of two Ray Rice fumbles. Mark this one down as a learning experience for a young team - they will be back.

    Before we get to the games, here are some other fearless predictions, news and notes for the Divisional Round:

  • Peyton Manning as won 9 straight against the Baltimore Ravens - but he is 0-3 with just 1 touchdown and 7 interceptions in playoff games under 40 degrees. Something's got to give this weekend.
  • My gut tells me that Bruce Arians will take the head coaching job in San Diego. My head tells me he should take the job in Chicago.
  • Reggie Wayne called out fellow Hurricane Ray Lewis for his dancing as time wound down in the Colts/Ravens playoff game, saying it was disrespectful - so is stabbing two people and obstructing justice, but I don't hear too many complaints about that any more.
  • I know it sounds crazy but I would really like the Colts to take a long, hard look at Reggie Bush this offseason. Vick Ballard is a fine runner but can't catch very well out of the backfield. The Colts could use Bush like the Saints use Darren Sproles - and I LOVE Darren Sproles.


    On to the picks!



      Baltimore Ravens (11-6) at Denver Broncos (13-3)

      Line - Broncos by 9.5

      One thing that always seemed odd to me this season - everyone said how important home field advantage would be to the Broncos but ignored how ineffective Peyton Manning has been in cold weather (especially in the playoffs). Well, the Broncos have home field advantage and we will get to see Manning play in the cold again - I hope it goes well.

      I think the Broncos will be too much for the Ravens to handle as the playoffs seem destined to give us Manning vs. Brady again - and I'm not complaining. Look for Manning and the Broncos to start slow (again) and needing a solid second half to pull out the win.

      Manning moves another step closer to being the greatest of all time.

      BRONCOS WIN 24-13

      Green Bay Packers (12-5) at San Francisco 49ers (11-4-1)

      Line - 49ers by 3

      If you are looking for the 'upset' this weekend, this may be it. The Packers are playing at a high level right now and I'm not completely sold on second year quarterback Colin Kaepernick. The 49ers defense should tell the story on this one. If the Packers turn the ball over a couple of times the 49ers will cruise - if not, the Packers will be poised for the upset.

      I think this is a lower scoring game than most will anticipate. I like the 49ers defense a lot and for Kaepernick to get hot. The 49ers will get a lead and then hold off the Packers until time runs out. This one will be close.

      49ERS WIN 24-20

      Seattle Seahawks (12-5) at Atlanta Falcons (13-3)

      Line - Falcons by 2.5

      People are so hard on the Falcons - and I don't understand why. Yes, I know that they've folded often in the playoffs - but people forget that the last three years they've lost the eventual Super Bowl team from the NFC. Give them a break! This is the year the Falcons get the elusive playoff win (no matter how hot the Seahawks are).

      A lot of Predictifactionists will tell you to pick the Seahawks and call it the 'upset pick of the week' but don't buy in - the Falcons are deep, talented and playing at home. More than that - they are motivated to prove everyone wrong.

      Take the Falcons.

      It's the lock of the week.

      FALCONS WIN 27-24

      Houston Texans (13-4) at New England Patriots (12-4)

      Line - Patriots by 9.5

      The poor fans in Houston - their window looked WIDE open early in the year and now (thanks to the Colts improvement and the Texans stumbling) their chances look bleak.

      I don't expect this game to be close and the Patriots should roll. Look for the Patriots to get a big early lead and coast the rest of the game. I'll predict this - Brady will be pulled late because the game won't be close.

      Take the Pats.

      PATRIOTS WIN 38-17

        ***

        Questions, comments and complaints can be sent to my email, Predictification@gmail.com.

        Agree? Disagree? As always, comments are welcome! I will track my picks during the season and brag when I'm right (and pretend I was right when I'm wrong). Pick against me if you dare - remember, I'm a Predictificationist.

        Follow me on Twitter at @ColtsInsiders

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