5 Bold Predictions for NFL Divisional Playoffs
5 Bold Predictions for NFL Divisional Playoffs
This weekend will be the NFL’s divisional playoffs. In the AFC on Saturday the Denver Broncos will host the Baltimore Ravens and on Sunday the New England Patriots will host the Houston Texans. It’s the first time ever that the four same teams have reached the AFC divisional round in two consecutive years. In the NFL on Saturday night the San Francisco 49ers will host the Green Bay Packers. Then on Sunday afternoon the surprising Seattle Seahawks will travel east to take on the Atlanta Falcons.
As with every year’s postseason, there will be surprises in this round whether by an underdog winning or by individual performance that leads to a team’s win. Predicting the postseason is difficult because some players who perform at the highest level during the regular season struggle when the season’s on the line while others thrive under that pressure. That’s why so much is put on a player or coach’s postseason success. He can perform at a high level when there’s not much on the line but what can he do when the season is on the line.
This slideshow will look at bold individual predictions for this year’s NFL divisional playoffs. Who will come through in surprising fashion and who will struggle when the lights are brightest? The following five slides are bold predictions for what will happen this weekend when the final eight teams left in the NFL face off for their chance to advance to the conference championship game, just one win away for a Super Bowl appearance.
ARIAN FOSTER WILL Gain 100 YARDS IN 4th STRAIGHT PLAYOFF GAME
In rushing for 140 yards against the Cincinnati Bengals last week in the wild card round, Houston Texans running back Arian Foster became the first player to rush for 100 yards in each of his first three playoff games. Usually predicting that Foster, who rushed for 1,424 yards this season, would rush for 100 yards in a game wouldn’t be bold but it is against the his opponent Sunday.
The New England Patriots ranked ninth this season in run defense giving up just 101.9 yards per game. These two teams last met in week 14 in which the Patriots held the Texans to just 14 points. In that game Foster struggled carrying the ball 15 times for 46 yards. It was one of the worst games of his season. But a bold prediction is that in Sunday’s AFC divisional playoff, Foster will gain more than 100 yards against the tough Patriots run defense.
JOE FLACCO WILL THROW FOR MORE YARDS THAN PEYTON MANNING
On Saturday afternoon the Baltimore Ravens will travel west to take on the top seeded Denver Broncos. That matchup will pit the controversial Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco against future hall of famer Peyton Manning. After a year in which Flacco was publicly blasted by teammates for his poor play, the fifth year quarterback had the most successful passing year of his career totaling 3,817 yards. Since being the first pick of the 1998 NFL Draft, Manning has set several NFL records.
While Manning was sixth in passing yards this season with 291 per game, Flacco was sixteenth in the league with 239 yards per game. The Broncos prolific passing offense is expected to far outgain the Ravens but the underdogs will be going into the game with nothing to lose. Manning threw 50 more passes than Flacco this season but the Ravens may let loose their passing game against the tough Broncos defense. It’s a bold prediction but Flacco will throw for more yards than Manning on Saturday.
49ERS WILL NOT SACK AARON RODGERS
One of the most intriguing matchups of the coming weekend will be the Green Bay Packers at the San Francisco 49ers. One of the expectations of that game is that the 49ers defensive line will have their way with Packers offensive line. That Packers offensive line has had trouble protecting their star quarterback Aaron Rodgers this season and it’s expected they’ll have that same problem on Saturday night.
This season Rodgers was the most sacked quarterback in the league going down 51 times. That’s a concern for the Packers as they’ll being going up against a 49ers defense that has defensive ends Aldon Smith and Justin Smith. Aldon Smith finished the season with 19.5 sacks on the season which placed him second in the league behind Houston’s J.J. Watt. While Aldon gets most of the sacks for the 49ers, it’s because of pressure Justin Smith causes and both a critical to the success of the defense. But Aldon Smith hasn’t had a sack since week 14 against the Miami Dolphins and Justin Smith is playing with a torn tendon which has kept him out since week 15. This leads to the bold prediction that, despite the fact that the Packers struggle to protect Rodgers and the 49ers exceed at sacking quarterbacks, the 49ers will not sack Rodgers this weekend.
RUSSELL WILSON WILL THROW FOR 300 YARDS
One of the most surprising teams in the NFL this season has been the Seattle Seahawks. After winning in Washington last weekend, they will take on the top seeded Atlanta Falcons. Despite the success of the Seahawks and their rookie quarterback Russell Wilson, passing hasn’t been a big part of their offense. Meanwhile for their opponents, the Falcons, passing defense has been an issue. That could lead to an unexpected result this weekend.
This year Wilson has averaged just 195 yards per game. He hasn’t thrown for 300 yards this year and has only broken 200 yards seven times. He did come close to 300 yards though twice throwing for 293 yards against the New England Patriots and Chicago Bears. The Falcons this season are 23rd in passing defense giving up 242.4 yards per game through the air. Helping Wilson is that the Falcons will focus on Marshawn Lynch who was third in the league in rushing this season with 1,590 yards. Considering that Wilson has not passed for 300 yards yet this season, it’s a bold prediction that he would this weekend but given the Falcons passing defensive struggles this season and that the Seahawks have nothing to lose, it could happen on Sunday.
BRANDON LLOYD WILL LEAD PATRIOTS IN RECEPTIONS
Over this past offseason the New England Patriots signed Brandon Lloyd to strengthen their wide receiver corps. Despite his success in Denver under now Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, he only led the team in receptions three times this season. Part of the reason for his lack of receptions could be because with either Wes Welker, Rob Gronkowski, or Aaron Hernandez injured or underused for most weeks this season, defenses were able to focus on Lloyd.
On Sunday the Patriots lethal offensive attack will have all four of their best receivers. Of the four, Lloyd is probably the lowest priority for the Texans defense. Welker has led the team in receptions ten times this year, Gronkowski four times, and Hernandez three times all more than Lloyd. That makes this week seem like the perfect opportunity for Lloyd to have a breakout performance. While he’s the least likely of the four under normal circumstances to record the most receptions, a bold prediction is that he will do just that on Sunday.