The NFL playoffs continue this weekend, with a full slate of Divisional Round games. Starting today and then continuing tomorrow, the NFL's elite eight will be narrowed down to the final four, as the eight teams this weekend are fighting for spots in the conference championship games.
On Saturday afternoon (4:35 p.m. ET, NBC), the Baltimore Ravens take on the AFC East champion New England Patriots. On Saturday night (8:15 p.m. ET, FOX), the Carolina Panthers will take on the NFC West champion Seattle Seahawks. Then on Sunday afternoon (1:05 p.m. ET, FOX), the Dallas Cowboys will take on the NFC North champion Green Bay Packers. Finally, later on Sunday afternoon (4:40 p.m. ET, CBS), the Indianapolis Colts will take on the AFC West champion Denver Broncos.
In each round of the playoffs, members of Stampede Blue's writing and editorial staff will give their picks for that weekend's games, so let's take a look at the predictions for the Divisional Round games:
|Josh Wilson||Matt Grecco||Stephen Reed||Andrew Aziz||Ben Lamers|
|Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots||Patriots||Patriots||Ravens||Ravens||Patriots|
|Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks||Seahawks||Seahawks||Seahawks||Seahawks||Seahawks|
|Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers||Cowboys||Packers||Packers||Packers||Cowboys|
|Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos||Broncos||Broncos||Colts||Broncos||Colts|
Some of our writers were also kind enough to write up a summary of each of their predictions and give their projected scores, which you can find below:
Josh Wilson's Predictions:
Patriots 31, Ravens 24
Seahawks 17, Panthers 10
Cowboys 30, Packers 27
Broncos 34, Colts 30
Josh previewed the matchup between the Colts and the Broncos, which you can read here.
Matt Grecco's Predictions:
Patriots 24, Ravens 23 - Tom Brady drives them 40 yards, and his kicker wins the game for him, just like we've seen time and again with the Patriots. Ravens don't get the long Pass Interference calls I think they need to win.
Seahawks 21, Panthers 17 - Panthers hang around with good defense, but the Seahawks do just enough to win in Primetime. Panthers can win if they keep Russell Wilson in the pocket and Cam Newton plays out of his mind.
Packers 29, Cowboys 26 - Lots of long drives ending in scores. Think Packers Offense will be too good for the Cowboys Defense, and a stop late for the Packers will be the difference. Think Dez Bryant has a huge day.
Broncos 24, Colts 22 - Matt previewed the Colts vs. Broncos game in-depth, and you can read the full preview here.
Stephen Reed's Prections:
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots
Baltimore was about the only team New England may have been afraid of seeing advance. The Team from Baltimore has the talent to get after Brady without needing to bring any extra guys on the blitz, which eliminates Brady's hot reads. However, Brady still has the most talented player on his side in Rob Gronkowski. If the Team from Baltimore can limit the damage Gronk causes they'll stand a legitimate chance of pulling the upset. This one truly could go either way and it wouldn't be surprise me so why not go with the upset?
Pick: The Team from Baltimore
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks
The initial line on this game was -11. I don't think it will even be that close. With top DT Star Lotulelei out, Luke Kuechly won't have his big bodied protector to keep him clean so he can run all over the field and make plays, which used to be generally unobstructed. It's also unlikely that Cam Newton and Carolina's offense will do anything against the Seattle defense, which is giving up under 7 points per game over the last few weeks.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers
Dallas has a lot going for it heading into this week's Icebowl rematch. They can run the ball and Romo hasn't killed them. They are also undefeated on the road this season, which isn't all that impressive when you see that their road schedule was Tennessee, St. Louis, Seattle, Jacksonville, Giants, Bears, Eagles and Redskins. Only the Seattle and Eagles games were even remotely impressive. Green Bay has been lights out as of late with Aaron Rodgers playing at an MVP level on one leg. Even with Governor Christie oddly on their side, I don't think the Jerrah's 'Boys can overcome the frozen conditions in Green Bay.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos
Isn't this the dream match-up the NFL has been waiting for. Peyton Manning vs. Andrew Luck. Wait? You mean Luck got it right when he said they don't even play against each other. Hmm. Well that's not how they portrayed it on every sportscast leading up to this week. I digress.
The Colts are in a much better position to face Denver than they were in Week 1. The defense has had a chance to gel and is on a bit of a roll. The Denver offense is obviously explosive and can put up Monstar like numbers, yes that's a Space Jam reference, if given the chance. However, if Pagano and Manusky can dial up some blitzes to pressure Manning, the Colts could cause some real trepidation in the Denver fan base.
The Colts offense has also developed many more consistent play makers. Donte Moncrief has the speed and has gained the experience to get reps opposite T.Y. Hilton, which will not allow Denver to roll coverage completely over the top on T.Y.'s side. The Denver defense has some great DBs who could limit the Colts's WRs ability to get open so Andrew Luck will need to be on top of his game. The player I'm most excited to see though is Trent Richardson on special teams! I kid. The running of Daniel "Boom" Herron has been a breath of fresh air for the offense at the RB position but he must learn to protect the football. Herron at least allows the play action pass to be somewhat believable.
Quite honestly, if the Colts are able to force some turnovers and not give the ball away, they could realistically win this game. So my prediction is whoever wins the turnover battle wins this game. Oh, you want an actual team, eh? Sometimes your head and your heart don't always agree but the heart wants what the heart wants.
Andrew Aziz's Predictions:
Baltimore Ravens at New England Patriots -- Winner: Baltimore Ravens 27-23
The Ravens always play well in New England and this team is stronger than the one during their Super Bowl run. Brady will put up a fight early on, but with such uncertainty at running back and questions along their offensive line, I can't imagine New England putting up a lot of points. The Ravens defensive front is very strong and should attack Brady early on. Flacco and Forsett are a great duo, and I expect Steve Smith to have a big game. Forsett should establish the balance that they need to win the game. Good redzone defense from the Ravens will be the difference in this game.
Carolina Panthers at Seattle Seahawks -- Winner: Seattle Seahawks 30-17
The Panthers will put up a fight early on, but as the Seahawks always do, they finish and they finish strong. Lynch should have a good game but expect Russell Wilson to take over this game. Their defense will be the difference as they shouldn't have a tough time with Cam Newton, and I have a feeling that Cam Newton leaves this game with an injury. Jonathan Stewart will have a tough time against this Seahawks front 7 and their running game should be limited.
Dallas Cowboys at Green Bay Packers -- Winner: Green Bay Packers 34-30
The Packers are on a hot streak and this team at home is dominant. The Cowboys are a great road team, but as mentioned, the Packers are just too good at home. Rodgers is the best quarterback in football and it will be tough to stop him. The Cowboys secondary will have a tough time against these Packers receivers. Eddie Lacy also adds a big element in the game as the Cowboys had their troubles against the Lions running game. The Lions couldn't finish last week and the Packers always finish strong, so I don't expect a Cowboys comeback. Packers should win this close matchup.
Indianapolis Colts at Denver Broncos -- Winner: Denver Broncos 31-26
This was my toughest decision and it pains me to say this. The Colts had a great defensive performance against the Bengals, but the Broncos are a different beast. Manning and their offense operate at a whole different level and have so many weapons that even if one is taken away, they can rely on others. The Colts will be down again, but not as big as the Week 1 matchup. This Broncos defense has grown stronger and tougher as the season has gone on and it will be a tough matchup for Indy. Demarcus Ware and Von Miller will give this line a lot of trouble (especially if it's Reitz versus Miller). The Colts will need a near perfect performance in order to win and I'm not sure they can put it together. Again, I hate saying Indy will lose and I'm hoping they will win, but in Denver against a great overall team is a tough challenge.
Ben Lamers' Predictions:
Baltimore at New England
I'm sure most (if not all) of you have read at least one stat about how Tom Brady and the Patriots struggle against the Ravens in the playoffs. And it's true, for whatever reason the Ravens give the Patriots fits in these games. I just don't see Brady, Bill Belichick, and the Patriots losing three of four playoff games within five years to the Ravens. Not gonna happen.
New England 27 - Baltimore 10
Carolina at Seattle
I know in the NFL, especially the playoffs, there is no such thing as a lock. This game, though, is about as close as you could get. The Panthers are (in my opinion) better than their record indicates. However, we saw them struggle to put away the dismal Arizona Cardinals last weekend. I don't see any way the Panthers walk out of Seattle with a win. It should be a blowout win for the defending champions.
Seattle 20 - Carolina 3
Dallas at Green Bay
This should be a fun one. Dallas is 8-0 on the road and Green Bay is 8-0 at home. The big news surrounding this game is the health of Aaron Rodgers' calf. Personally, I think he is fine, as he really didn't show any ill affects against the Lions late in the game. The last time the Cowboys went to Green Bay or a playoff game was the famous Ice Bowl. That was also the last time Green Bay has beaten Dallas in the playoffs. Keep in mind, Rodgers only has one home playoff win in his career. It came against the Vikings, led by quarterback Joe Webb.
Dallas 24 - Green Bay 21
Indianapolis at Denver
Ever since Week 1, I've been hoping this game would happen. I was convinced then, and remain convinced now, that the Colts could win a rematch with the Broncos. The list of what the Colts need to do to win this game is huge. The list for Denver is simply play the way they should. And, as much as it is overstated, this game will come down to how Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck play. Still, I think this Colts team is capable of beating anyone in the league.
Indianapolis 31 - Denver 24
Editor's Note: FanDuel is hosting a $1,000 fantasy football league for SBNation for the Wildcard round. It's $5 to join and first place wins $100. League starts Saturday 4:30 PM ET. Here's the link.