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2013 NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Preview

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Previewing the Divisional Games

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Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

One down, two to go before the Super Bowl.

The Wild Card round of the 2013 NFL Playoffs has come to an end, with just eight teams left in their quest for football superiority. These wild card games saw a ton of great action, but more than anything, there was a plethora of emotion involved.

Between the retirement announcement from surefire hall of fame linebacker Ray Lewis to the always touching story of Indianapolis Colts head coach Chuck Pagano, Sunday was chock-full of emotion. While the Colts ultimately ended up losing in the playoffs, they were winners in everyone’s books. Rookie quarterback Andrew Luck led his team to an 11-5 record and playoff berth just one year removed from a 2-14 record.

And of course, we saw fellow rookie Robert Griffin III finally run out of gas, as the Washington Redskins didn’t escape the first round, compliments of Russell Wilson. One thing is for sure, the NFL will have a bright future with these three young guns leading the way.

However, the show must go on. It is never too early to begin previewing the huge matchups slated for next weekend. Three out of the four games will feature rematches from the regular season, which should create interesting story lines. So, who will come out on top during next week’s divisional round? Join me as I take a look into my crystal football and predict the games.

Adam Pfeifer is a featured fantasy football columnist for Rant Sports.

You can follow him on Twitter @aPfeiferRS.

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Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

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Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos embarrassed the Ravens in Baltimore back in Week 15 by a score of 34-17. However, the Ravens were missing a guy you may have heard of.

Ray Lewis.

Lewis is back as the heart and soul of that defense, immediately providing an emotional spark for all around him. During Sunday’s playoff matchup against the Colts, Baltimore’s defense looked like that of old, only allowing nine points on the day.

So, with the Ravens traveling to Mile High on Saturday to face the Broncos, revenge is on many players minds. However, I’m not too sure that they will get it. First of all, Joe Flacco, whether he thinks he is or not, isn’t even close to elite. He is sporadic at best and is especially bad on the road. Well, this week’s matchup is in Denver, not an easy place to play against a top five defense. Back in Week 15 when these teams faced each other, Flacco threw for 254 yards and two scores. Good game right?

Wrong.

Flacco also threw an incredibly dumb pass inside Denver’s ten yard line that was returned for a 98-yard touchdown right before the half. He completed just 50 percent of his passes and both of his touchdowns were in garbage time. Look for him to struggle on Saturday.

Another overlooked factor heading into the postseason is momentum. Sure, Baltimore is fired up after getting Lewis back and advancing further. But, the Broncos have been playing at an elite level all year, currently on a ridiculous 11-game winning streak. I personally believe Denver is the best team in football. They are as balanced as you can be, ranking in the top five in both offense and defense, and have a guy by the name of Peyton Manning under center. Give me the Broncos at home.

Final Prediction: Broncos 30, Ravens 23

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Atlanta Falcons vs Seattle Seahawks

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Next Sunday, the Falcons will welcome the Seahawks to the Georgia Dome. The Falcons are 0-3 in the playoffs with Matt Ryan at quarterback and Mike Smith on the sidelines. Will they finally win a postseason game?

They certainly can, but I like Seattle in this one. Here’s why:

The matchups favor the Seahawks. While Atlanta has a top notch receiving core, Seattle has the best, most physical secondary in football led by Pro Bowl safety Earl Thomas. I see the Falcons having to throw quite a bit, not because they’ll be behind, but because Michael Turner hasn’t exactly been good this year. He may have 10 touchdowns on the year but he’s averaging less than four yards per carry and only has 800 on the year. Unless Atlanta implements Jacquizz Rodgers, who is a better fit for that up-tempo offense, I expect a ton of throwing.

Also, the Falcons defensive weakness is the run, ranking 21st on the season. What does Seattle love to do? Run the football. And they have a terrific guy to do it with. Marshawn Lynch will wear out the Atlanta defense, setting up play action for rookie Russell Wilson.

While I love Matt Ryan, I love Seattle even more to win this contest and advance to the NFC Championship.

Final Prediction: Seattle 27, Atlanta 24

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Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

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Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

This NFC showdown will be a rematch from Week 1. The 49ers and Alex Smith (I forgot about him!) defeated Green Bay 30-22. Unfortunately for Packers fans, don’t expect any different of an outcome.

First off, these two teams are very different. Green Bay likes to air it out while San Fran prefers a ground and pound attack. One team thrives off playing physical, smash-mouth defense while the other has some holes to fill. Having said all of that, I like the 49ers here.

Green Bay’s inability to run the football will hurt them in this one. Between DuJuan Harris (feel free to Google him) and Ryan Grant, expecting them to produce against this 49ers defense would be foolish. They finished the year as the fourth-ranked rushing defense, allowing less than 100 yards per contest and only seven touchdowns all season. San Francisco will force Green Bay to hand the football off, and these backs, though talented, will not get the job done. This will cause the Packers to become very one dimensional, making it a bit easier on the defense.

However, the biggest reason the 49ers will win this game is the defensive pressure they will create on Aaron Rodgers and company. Rodgers was sacked a whopping 51 times in 2012, which was the second most in football. That’s not good when you are going up against the 49ers, who have Aldon Smith, Patrick Willis, Justin Smith and NaVarro Bowman coming after you. Although Green Bay has the best receiving corp in football, Rodgers will need time to deliver them the football.

In case you somehow missed it, I like the 49ers at Candlestick.

Final Prediction: 49ers 31, Packers 26

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New England Patriots vs Houston Texans

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Michael Ivins-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Texans played the Patriots in Foxboro, it wasn’t pretty.

On December 10th, Houston was obliterated by Tom Brady and company by a score of 42-14. I don’t think the final score will be anywhere close to the same, but the winning team will be.

Houston is coming off a wild card victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Saturday, but it wasn’t a convincing one. They really controlled the majority of the game but couldn’t capitalize on scoring opportunities again. Red zone efficiency has continued to be a problem, as Houston kicked four field goals on Saturday. If they only score 19 points against an offensive juggernaut like the Patriots, they simply won’t stand a chance.

I also feel that the gap between quarterbacks is far too much. Matt Schaub is more of a game manager, but will have to try and keep up with the likes of Brady. Not gonna happen. Especially when the Patriots will have tight end Rob Gronkowski this time around, who creates a bunch of matchup problems for opposing defenses.

Even though I’m a Buffalo Bills fan, I hate to say it but … I like the Patriots to advance to yet another AFC Championship game.

Final Prediction: New England 31, Houston 20