There are just eight teams left in the race to be crowned Super Bowl champions in Arizona next month. Before looking at this weekend’s divisional round, here’s what happened in the opening four playoff games:
- The Cardinals will not become the first team to win the Super Bowl at home, as they managed just 78 yards of offense and were beaten 27-16 by the Panthers. The victory meant that Carolina joined Seattle – whom they face this Saturday – as the only teams to win a playoff contest after finishing the regular season with a losing record.
Baltimore shocked the Steelers in Pittsburgh, as Joe Flacco once again upped his game in the postseason and led the Ravens to a 30-17 victory.
- For the fourth consecutive year, the Bengals made the playoffs but lost their opening game, as they were defeated by the Colts, 26-10 in Indianapolis. Cincinnati were without their best wide receiver, AJ Green, as well as their tight-end, Jermaine Gresham, but Andy Dalton was simply outplayed by Andrew Luck, who threw for 376 yards and a touchdown.
- Dallas came from 20-7 back to beat the Lions 24-20 and advanced to the Divisional Round. Much was made of a picked up flag with eight minutes to go in the fourth quarter that reversed a pass interference call that would have kept a Detroit drive alive. However, the lack of discipline of the Lions’ defense was what cost them: in the game-winning touchdown drive for the Cowboys, they committed penalties on third down that kept the chains moving.
Divisional Round Predictions
Last week, 4-0; Playoffs, 4-0
Home teams in bold
Ravens +7 over Patriots
I fully recognize this could be a huge blowout for New England and the Ravens looked far from convincing over the last month of the season. However, they played a fantastic game against Pittsburgh last week and they have a history of performing well both in the playoffs and specifically against the Patriots. Also, it is nearly a month since New England played a good game: they were lucky to edge past the Jets in Week 16 when they were still playing for the number one seed; rested starters and lost to Buffalo in Week 17, then had a bye week. That is a long time to have gone since playing particularly well and it could result in Brady and company being somewhat rusty in the first half of this contest.
Seahawks -11 over Panthers
Not sure how high they would have to make this line for me to take Carolina in Seattle. Part of me, as a Packers fan, wants the Panthers to cause an upset, but I also want Aaron Rodgers to be able to prove himself against the best, which would mean going through the Seahawks. Regardless of my preference, the Panthers are only .500 for the season thanks to the win over the Cardinals and their third string quarterback in the Wild Card round – this will be a very one-sided contest.
Packers -5.5 over Cowboys
Yes, Dallas are 8-0 on the road. Yes, Aaron Rodgers might be hoping around on one leg. Yes, I’m terrified of seeing Matt Flynn warming up on the sidelines. No, I’m not taking the Cowboys under any circumstances. Go Pack Go!
Broncos -7 over Colts
Peyton Manning against his old team; Andrew Luck versus the man he took over from at quarterback for the Colts. The truth is, Manning did not look the same in the second half of the season, but he just got to rest for the first time since Denver had their bye in week 4. I really wanted to find a way to pick Indianapolis in this contest, but I do not think they will be good enough to beat the Broncos on their own turf.