by Justin Rasile
We are almost there! We are right around the corner from crowning a Super Bowl Championship.
How will the playoffs play out? This is my best guess (as I went away from picking chalk) so don’t castrate me if I’m wrong.
Possible upset- Dallas Cowboys over Green Bay Packers- Don’t get me wrong here, I’m a firm believer that the Packers are the second best team in the league (currently behind the Seattle Seahawks). Although with the report coming out that Aaron Rodgers has a slight tear in his calf (to go along with his calf strain), I find this game to be a very tough hill to climb for the Pack. Rodgers will have a difficult time rolling outside the pocket, extending plays with his legs and chucking the deep ball to Jordy Nelson. If he gets sacked, who knows if he will be able to get up and continue playing. I wouldn’t put it behind Rodgers and Mike McCarthy to devise an ingenious game plan to best suit what Rodgers can do but the freezing conditions that are expected at Lambeau will prove to be another hurdle that will hinder him. The Cowboys on the other hand are fairly healthy and have the innate ability to run the ball on a Green Bay defense that has allowed more than a 100-yard rusher in 12 of the 16 games this season. Dallas has been on a roll as of late and they present quite the matchup for Green Bay.
Biggest Upset- Baltimore Ravens over New England Patriots- The Patriots are playing at a very high level and are currently the best team in the AFC, but anything can happen in the NFL. The Baltimore Ravens looked dominate in their win over Pittsburgh last weekend and have the formula to beat the Patriots in Foxborough. They are running the ball extremely well, the defense is clicking as a unit, and Joe Flacco is playing at a surprisingly elite level. Flacco has the most playoff victories since entering the league back in 2008. Of his 10 playoff wins, 7 of them have come on the road (most in NFL history!!). Perhaps the telling stat for Flacco and this weekend is that of his current 5 game playoff winning streak, Joe Cool has 13 touchdowns and no interceptions. Pretty impressive and surprising stuff. In the three matchups between Flacco and Tom Brady, the golden boy has completed only 56% of his passes with 3 touchdowns and 7 interceptions. This alludes more to the Ravens running the ball and their vaunted defense being better than the Patriots D but still shocking nonetheless. Brady has thrown more interceptions than touchdowns against the Purple and Black and I expect it to happen once again.
The “Confidence” Game- Denver Broncos over Indianapolis Colts- Looking at this game on paper all signs point to the Broncos beating the Colts. BUT. Peyton Manning. I have a hard time trusting him in crunch time when he is usually the go to guy but this postseason will be different for Manning. He is being undervalued, and that can be a scary factor in the playoffs. Plus, his running back has been phenomenal since taking over the starting job back in early November. CJ Anderson has 1,057 total yards in the 8 games he has started. As long as Peyton takes care of the ball and the defense doesn’t allow the big play from Andrew Luck to TY Hilton, Anderson should run this team to victory and possibly another run to the Super Bowl. Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the league, if only he had a running game, more receivers than TY, an offensive line, and a defense, then I just may have taken the Colts in this game. Until Luck starts getting more talent on his teams, he will be very limited as to how far he can take his team into January. Although crazier things have happened and I have seen how Andrew Luck can will his team to victory. I just don’t think it will be enough this year.
The Blowout Game- Seattle Seahawks vs. Carolina Panthers- The Seahawks are on a mission to be the first back to back Super Bowl Champs in over ten years and they are in a position do it. The offense is back to the ground and pound style of football that got to them to the big game last year and Marshawn Lynch has shown no signs of slowing down. Russell Wilson plays his best games in the spotlight, as does the rest of the team with their record of 12-1 in primetime games under Carroll. Wilson is averaging an ungodly 7.2 yards per rushing attempt and has helped lead Seattle to an average of 172 yards a game on the ground. The “Seafence” is on a roll and is healthy at the right time of the season. Cam Newton is still not healthy and that Seattle front hits hard and often. If the Panthers have any shot of winning this game, Luke Kuechly and Jonathan Stewart have to be unstoppable. Kuechly has to turn the ball over, which he has had an issue doing this year and Stewart needs to keep up what he has been doing since early December.
Dallas over Green Bay (31- 24)
Baltimore over New England (27-24)- last minute field goal by Justin Tucker
Denver over Indianapolis (34-20)
Seattle over Carolina (31-17)
Conference Championship Games
Seattle over Dallas (34-30)
Baltimore over Denver (27-24)
Seattle over Baltimore (30-20)