I’m 5-3 so far in my predictions for the NFL Playoffs after correctly picking three of last week’s winners.
Green Bay took care of the Cowboys at Lambeau Field, winning 26-21 even with a not fully healthy Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, while Andrew Luck and the Colts pulled the upset over the Denver Broncos – the only game I got wrong.
Last week’s results sets up great battles in both conferences as the Packers travel to Seattle and Indianapolis goes to Foxborough to take on the Patriots. Both games are rematches from early in the regular season.
Green Bay (12-4, 1-0) vs. Seattle (12-4, 1-0)
These two teams met Week One of the regular season in Seattle. The result was a 20-point Seahawk win.
Green Bay tied the game at 10 apiece in the second quarter with a field goal but then couldn’t produce anything, offensively, going 28 minutes without scoring as Seattle put up 19 unanswered points.
Seattle won 36-16.
Obviously a lot has changed since then.
The biggest change being that Percy Harvin is no longer on the Seahawks after being traded to the Jets midway through the season. Harvin led Seattle in catches and receiving yards Week One.
Since that meeting, the Packers went on to become the highest-scoring team in the league, averaging just over 30 points per game. The 16 points Green Bay scored in Week One was only 1 of 3 times in which the Packers scored less than 20 points in a game this season.
Like it has been since the 2008 season, a large majority of the Packers’ offense came behind their All-Pro quarterback, and MVP candidate, Aaron Rodgers.
Rodgers only threw for 189 yards, a touchdown and an interception in the first game of the season. Since then, the quarterback threw for 37 touchdowns, just four interceptions and almost 4,300 yards.
Don’t let the fact that Rodgers is nursing a calf injury fool you; he’ll be ready to play on Sunday. Last week he threw for 316 yards and three scores against the Cowboys.
And he’s had all week to rest up and get healthier.
To me the determining factor in this game will be the defense.
Both teams have very dangerous offenses; Green Bay’s is obviously explosive, and the dual-threat of Russell Wilson and Marshawn Lynch is just as dangerous. But the team that is able to contain and minimize all the weapons that each team has is going to come out on top.
I don’t think he will be able to do that enough times.
Combine the swarming Seahawk defense with the sound of the 12th man, I don’t see the Packers being able to score enough points.
Prediction: Seattle wins 27-21.
Indianapolis (11-5, 2-0) vs. New England (12-4, 1-0)
The Colts pulled off the upset last week over Peyton Manning and the Broncos.
Luck improved to 3-2 in the postseason in his first three years in the NFL, while Manning fell to 4-7 since winning the Super Bowl at the end of the 2006 season.
Luck is now trying to become just the third quarterback ever to beat both Manning and Tom Brady in the same year in the playoffs.
Indianapolis and New England did meet once already this season. During the midst of the Patriots seven-game win streak, these two teams collided in another edition of Colts vs. Patriots football during the Brady era.
The Patriots had their way, extending the lead to double digits four different times, cruising to a 42-20 win.
Jonas Gray set the New England franchise-record four rushing touchdowns, and Brady threw for a pair of scores.
Do I think Jonas Gray, or any Patriots running back for that matter, is going to score four rushing touchdowns? No.
But I do think the end result will be the same.
Yes the Colts do have the best passing attack in the NFL, statistically, averaging over 300 passing yards per game, but now that New England has already seen Luck once this season, I don’t think he’s going to have the same amount of impact as he normally does.
And to make matters worse for the Colts, their leading running back Trent Richardson is inactive due to personal reasons.
Brady thrives at home in the postseason; I think that trend will continue Sunday. I think the combination of him to Rob Gronkowski will be too much for the Colts average pass-defense to handle.
Prediction: Patriots win 35-20.