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NFL

NFL Picks: Divisional Weekend

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Divisional Weekend

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Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Now that Wild Card Weekend is over and the pretenders have been sent home, we move onto the best weekend of the NFL season. The divisional round of the playoffs features the best eight teams in football all going against one another, and has featured some great games.

Just last season; the New Orleans Saints and the San Francisco 49ers put on one of the greatest shows in recent history. It was back and forth all day, big plays on both sides and a fourth quarter that will be re-lived forever. The lead changed hands three times in the last four minutes, with the Niners winning it in the final seconds.

A day later, the New York Giants played the 15-1 Green Bay Packers on the road and beat them. The game itself wasn’t great but the performance by the Giants was. Everyone thought the Packers were going to roll to another Super Bowl, and the Giants dominated the game behind another clutch performance from Eli Manning. That win propelled the Giants to their second Super Bowl victory in four years.

The divisional round has also seen its share of historic upsets; in January of 1997 the Jacksonville Jaguars stunned the top seeded Denver Broncos. The second year expansion team did everything right and the Broncos could not stop quarterback, Mark Brunnell. John Elway has called that loss the worst of his career; even worse than the three Super Bowl losses.

A better memory for Elway and the Broncos is a come from behind win over the old Houston Oilers. Trailing for most of the day and really never stopping the Oilers; Elway got one more chance down by one with a little over two minutes to go. The Broncos converted two fourth downs on a 90 yard drive and that eventually led to a game-winning field goal with 20 seconds left.

The divisional weekend is here; what memories will be made this year?

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Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos

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Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Broncos dominated the Baltimore Ravens three weeks ago in Baltimore, and it’s hard to believe this week will be any different. The Ravens do get some key players back, including Ray Lewis, but those players do not makeup the 17 point difference from the December 16th contest. Keep in mind that the Ravens scored two late, meaningless touchdowns to get within 17. The score was 31-3 before the Broncos took their foot off of the gas. This time the Broncos are at home, they are rolling and the Ravens are not the Ravens of five years ago. It might be fairly close going into halftime but the Broncos roll into the AFC Championship Game. Broncos-35 Ravens-20.

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Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers

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Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

The Packers and 49ers opened the season in Green Bay back in September, and the Niners won a great game. A lot has changed since that last meeting but one thing has not; both of these teams are very good. The 49ers have been up and down over the last month of the season; while the Packers are hitting their stride. Having said that; this one has all the makings of a classic. The 49ers are built around their defense and a running game; the Packers are powered by Aaron Rodgers who has that look of a quarterback on a mission. In a back and forth, hard hitting game the Packers pull it out. Packers-23 49ers-20.

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Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons

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Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

Outside of the Broncos, no team is hotter than the Seattle Seahawks and they go on the road to take on the Atlanta Falcons. The Falcons are the top seed in the NFC but they are haunted be recent playoff failures. The Seahawks, on the other hand, have all ready won a playoff game and believe they can beat anyone. They are running the ball well, Russell Wilson is playing like a veteran quarterback and their defense is unreal. The Falcons won’t admit it but they are aware of their history in January and if they get behind early, then the Seahawks will jump all over them. The Falcons might be the number one seed but the Seahawks are the better team, and they get another road win. Seahawks-27 Falcons-21.

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Houston Texans at New England Patriots

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Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

The last time the Houston Texans played the New England Patriots in the Northeast, it was ugly. In what was billed as the game of the season, the Patriots jumped out to a 21-0 lead early and rolled to a 42-14 win. The only thing that has changed is the fact that the Texans aren’t playing nearly as well as they were going into that game. They are struggling to stop people and quarterback, Matt Schaub has lost all of his confidence. On the other sideline, this is the time of year that Tom Brady and the Patriots live for. They will put up 30+ points and the Texans cannot keep up with that, the Patriots roll and set up what we are all waiting for. Brady vs. Manning. Patriots-38 Texans-21.

It sure looks like the two NFC games will be better than the AFC games from a competitive standpoint but as we pointed out earlier, anything can happen on divisional weekend.

Last week’s record-3-1

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