Mark Kim: NFL division round predictions
Mark Kim, Sports Editor
January 15, 2012
Filed under Sports
Before we get to the Divisional Round predictions, I want to touch base with all of my wild card predictions.
(4) Giants over (5) Falcons: This game stunned me. A lot. The Falcons were hot going into the playoffs after beating the Buccaneers during Week 17 and they got absolutely shut down.
Game ball goes to: Giants quarterback Eli Manning. The “lesser-known” Manning threw for 277 yards and three touchdowns.
Play of the game: Hakeem Nicks and his 72 yard touchdown pass. Style points for the dance as well.
(3) Saints over (6) Lions: I am disappointed that I got this pick correct because I am a Lions fan. Saints quarterback Drew Brees looked like a surgeon on the field dissecting the Lions secondary.
Game ball goes to: Saints running backs Darren Sproles and Pierre Thomas. They gave Brees the threat of a run to go to and he utilized it to throw for 466 yards.
Play of the game: Drew Brees and his fourth down dive. Gave the ball back to the Saints and showed off some athleticism.
(4) Broncos over (5) Steelers: My pick of the week really paid off. The Steelers defense was very disappointing, not even forcing Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (who many don’t consider a real quarterback) to throw a single interception.
Game ball goes to: Tebow. Tebow’s 316 passing yards have made headlines due to his faith and a bible verse he wore on his eye black, John 3:16. He also ran for a touchdown and threw for two.
Play of the game: Tebow’s touchdown pass in overtime. Bad defense by the Steelers there.
(3) Texans over (6) Bengals: The Texans top ranked defense forced Bengals rookie quarterback Andy Dalton to throw three interceptions. The reason why? The Bengals only ran the ball 19 times for 76 yards.
Game ball goes to: Texans running back Arian Foster. He smashed the Bengals defense for 153 yards and two touchdowns.
Play of the game: JJ Watt’s interception return for a touchdown. That man can jump.
And now on to the Divisional Round predictions:
Green Bay Packers vs. (4) New York Giants
The Packers come out of a bye week to face a Giants team with a resurgent defense. The problem with both teams is that they both have the worst pass defense in the league while both also have the best pass offense in the league. The aerial assault will star Giants quarterback Eli Manning and Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who will rely on their star receivers to make big plays.
Player to watch for: Packers running back Ryan Grant. The Packers has one of the worst rushing offenses in the league and the Packers need him to run well to keep the Giants guessing pass or run. The Giants have very good defensive linemen in Justin Tuck, Jason Pierre-Paul and Osi Umenyiora and they can get to the quarterback. Grant needs to take the pressure off Rodgers.
Result: Giants by 3
San Francisco 49ers vs. (3) New Orleans Saints
The 49ers, ranked number one in the league in run defense, faces a Saints run game which uses three different running backs and pass first rather than run. And why not? Drew Brees has been arguably the best quarterback in the league. The 49ers are led by their bruising running back Frank Gore and their hard hitting linebacker Patrick Willis.
Player to watch for: 49ers quarterback Alex Smith. Smith, the first pick in the 2005 draft, was declared a bust by many critics and he needs to prove that he can perform in the playoffs. With the Saints defensive line focused on shutting down Gore, Smith needs to capitalize and throw the ball to his receivers. Especially when facing a weak passing defense.
Result: Saints win by 10
New England Patriots vs. (4) Denver Broncos
Last time the Patriots played the Broncos, the Patriots won 41-23. The issue is more the Broncos defense against a veteran quarterback in Tom Brady. The Broncos need to focus on stopping Brady’s targets such as wide receiver Wes Welker and tight ends Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez. The Broncos running game will have to step up to make the pass game more effective, especially when facing the Patriots weak pass defense.
Player to watch for: Broncos quarterback Tim Tebow (who else?). He needs to take advantage of the Patriots’ bad pass offense and put the ball through the air. He did a good job of doing that against a top ranked Steelers defense and he needs to do it against the Patriots.
Result: Patriots win by 7. Jesus won’t be able to pull through for Tebow. It will be too difficult for him.
Baltimore Ravens vs. (3) Houston Texans
These teams are very similar. Both teams are defensive minded teams with very talented running backs. The game depends on the quarterbacks. For the Texans, T.J Yates will start and the Ravens will start Joe Flacco. The offensive lines better buckle down for a hard hitting game. This game will be low scoring.
Player to watch for: Texans offensive lineman Antoine Caldwell. The back-up right guard will start due to an injury to starter Mike Brisel. He will be lined up in front of Haloti Ngata, a Pro Bowl defensive end who can get to Yates and put pressure on him. If Caldwell can quiet Ngata, it will be very beneficial to Yates. It will also help Foster, who averages 4.7 yards per carry from the right side.
Result: Ravens by 7.