2014 Divisional Round Predictions: Baltimore Tops New England
Saturday, Jan. 10
Baltimore Ravens (10-6) @ New England Patriots (12-4), 4:35 p.m.
The Ravens' offense played very well against the Steelers, despite the lack of production through the ground. This week, the Ravens will look to use a more balanced attack, with the Patriots having one of the league's most dangerous pass defenses. Justin Forsett, who has not had much success in recent weeks, must step up, as the Joe Flacco will not be able to keep up with Tom Brady alone.
Coming off of a bye week, the Patriots will go up against a defense that was able to minimalize Ben Roethlisberger's endzone trips. The Ravens did not have to deal with Le'Veon Bell, but the Patriots themselves do not have a running back near Bell's caliber. Jonas Gray, LeGarrette Blount, and Shane Vereen are all productive in their own aspects, though, which may be able to open way for Brady and his score-hungry pass catchers.
Baltimore Ravens Win, 31-27
Carolina Panthers (7-8-1) @ Seattle Seahawks (12-4), 8:15 p.m.
While Jonathan Stewart was able to run free against the Cardinals' defense, he will struggle up in Seattle. The Seahawks held opposing rushers to just 3.4 yards per carry in the regular season and forced ten fumbles. Cam Newton, who is unproven against tough defenses, will have to lead this offense. The Seahawks' first-ranked pass defense should keep his receivers at bay, which will force him to make plays on his own.
The Seahawks' offense has sufficed despite the lack of a go-to receiver, but they may be in for a long one against the Panthers. The last time these two teams faced off the Seahawks just edged out a victory, winning 13-9. The Panthers have the talent up front to contain Marshawn Lynch as well as Russell Wilson, so expect this to be another close, low-scoring game.
Seattle Seahawks Win, 17-10
Sunday, Jan. 11
Dallas Cowboys (12-4) @ Green Bay Packers (12-4), 1:05 p.m.
The Cowboys should be able to run the ball early and often this week, as the Packers have allowed an average of 4.3 yards per carry. The Packers, however, have done a nice job limiting big plays through the ground, having allowed just six rushes of 20 yards or more. The Packers have been more suspect to big plays through the air, but their secondary has done a nice job of getting their fair share of big plays. DeMarco Murray should be able to get consistent yardage against the Packers, but when the game gets tight, Tony Romo will have to make a play.
After struggling a bit against Buffalo and Tampa Bay, the Packers' offense got back on track in Week 17. Through the past six games, Eddie Lacy has recorded 592 yards and four touchdowns, and he should be able to have a great game against a Dallas defense that allowed 18 rushing touchdowns during the regular season and another one in their game against the Lions. The Cowboys did a decent job in pass defense this year, but containing Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb is one of the hardest tasks you can ask a secondary. The Cowboys' defense simply looks overmatched this week.
Green Bay Packers Win, 42-31
Indianapolis Colts (11-5) @ Denver Broncos (12-4), 4:40 p.m.
While the Colts' offense seemingly rebounded against the Bengals after a rough patch at the end of the regular season, they were held to field goals far too often. The Colts are facing a much more potent offense this week so they will have to score touchdowns in order to keep up. That will be difficult, though, with Denver holding opposing backs to just 3.7 yards per carry and opposing passers to just 6.0 yards per pass attempt.
Like the Colts', the Broncos' offense seemed to slow down towards the end of the season. With the exception of the Bengals game, they were simply more balanced and did not have to put up 30 or 40 points because of their stout defensive play. While their defense matches up favorably against the Colts' offense, the Broncos will certainly have to play up to early-season standards, as it is often dangerous to bet against Andrew Luck and his playmaking receiver, T.Y. Hilton.
Denver Broncos Win, 34-30