NFL Divisional Round Playoff Picks

We’re back again this week to pick the Divisional games, with Jonathan Lack joining us this week, along with Jay Hashop, Danny Lei, and Chad Horner who gave their picks last week.

For the record, last week’s records were as follows:

  • Hashop: 4-0
  • Lei: 3-1
  • Velloso: 3-1
  • Horner: 2-2

                       

Baltimore Ravens @ Denver Broncos

Jay Hashop: Denver; Knowshon Moreno gashed the Ravens defense to the tune of 115 yards at a rate of 5.5 yards per carry when these two teams met in Week 15, and the Mile High Machine is still clicking on all cylinders. Meanwhile, the Flaccocoaster’s passer rating has alternated between being above 114 and below 77 over his last six games. You can probably guess which one’s due this Saturday.

Danny Lei: Denver; The Denver defense will be too much for Joe Flacco to handle, and Peyton Manning will continue his dominant play. In their only matchups against top-5 defenses this year, the Ravens lost by 30 and 17 points.

Jonathan Lack: Denver; These two teams met in Week 15 and the Broncos blew out the Ravens in Baltimore. While Baltimore has gotten some defensive starters back since then, I would hesitate to read too much into the Ravens’ win over the Colts. They put up some points against a poor defense, but moving the ball will be far more difficult against a Broncos defense rated top-5 in defensive efficiency. With a short week to travel to altitude against Peyton Manning and Co., I’m taking the home team on an 11-game win streak.

Chad Horner: Denver; To me, this game isn’t very difficult to pick.  Baltimore beat the Colts rather easily last week, but Indianapolis was the worst team in the playoffs.  I think Denver is going to win the Super Bowl, and I don’t see the Ravens, who the Broncos handled rather easily a few weeks ago – in Baltimore no less, stopping them.

                         

Green Bay Packers @ San Francisco 49ers

Jay Hashop: Green Bay; Vernon Davis has recorded 16 catches for 351 yards and four touchdowns in four career games against Green Bay, but with Colin Kaepernick at the helm, Davis has only recorded 61 receiving yards in his past six games. If Justin Smith returns, he won’t be fully healthy, and the 49ers may not have the same success against the run that aided in their Week 1 win at Lambeau.

Danny Lei: Green Bay; As I predicted back in Week 16, the Packers train keeps picking up steam and is looking unstoppable on offense. Expect this one to be a close, hard-fought battle, however. For two teams with such highly regarded coaches, it is surprising to see that both teams’ special teams units are below average per Football Outsiders’ DVOA rating. If one team can make a big play on special teams, that could be the difference.

Jonathan Lack: Green Bay; The 49ers at full strength are exactly the kind of team that gives the Packers problems – a physical team with a defense that can rush Aaron Rodgers. But without elite DE Justin Smith, the 49ers have not had the same success getting after the QB. Even if he returns for the game, he’s likely to be significantly diminished. For the Niners to win, QB Colin Kaepernick needs to keep his turnovers low and make some big plays. When in doubt, though, I’m taking Rodgers.

Chad Horner: Green Bay; This should be the closest game of the weekend.  San Francisco has less holes in their game, although for some reason I still see Green Bay coming out on top.  That reason is most likely Aaron Rodgers, who continues to perform at an incredibly high level.  The Packers will need to make this an offensive game – San Fran is 3-3-1 when they allow 21+ points.  

                      

Seattle Seahawks @ Atlanta Falcons

Jay Hashop: Atlanta; The Falcons have had two weeks to rest and prepare for a top running back (Peterson, Morris, or Lynch), and with Dunta Robinson’s return from a week 17 concussion, Atlanta’s defense can limit Russell Wilson’s effectiveness through the air even when the Falcons load seven or eight in the box. A Seattle front four missing Chris Clemons could struggle to pressure Matt Ryan.

Danny Lei: Seattle; I’m not sure if there’s anything left to say about Russell Wilson’s outrageous play this year. As discussed before, Matt Ryan is a mediocre passer when going deep, and the Seahawks’ huge, physical corners won’t be giving up much underneath.

Jonathan Lack: Seattle; With the best corner duo in the game in Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, the Seahawks are uniquely suited to cover Atlanta’s two main receiving threats. The loss of Chris Clemons hurts, but Marshawn Lynch should be able to run all over a Falcons defense that ranked 29th in opponent yards per carry. This is not about Matt Ryan being unable to win the “big one” – Seattle is simply a bad matchup and more complete team.

Chad Horner: Seattle; I’ve been down on Atlanta all season, and I’m always excited to pick against them.  I picked Seattle to lose on the road last week, and it didn’t pay off like I expected.  If Seattle can go on the road to beat Washington, they can certainly do it against Atlanta.  The Falcons’ only strength is passing the ball – they don’t do anything else well.  The Seahawks, on the other hand, don’t seem to have any weaknesses.  

                                

Houston Texans @ New England Patriots

Jay Hashop: New England; I talked about third downs last week, and I’m going to ride that pony ’til the pony don’t ride no more. The Texans blanked Cincinnati on third down, but the Bengals have a miserable third-down offense. On the other hand, the Patriots lead the league in third down conversion rate. I see Houston’s defense struggling to get off the field, and that’s bad news against Tom Brady.

Danny Lei: New England; Most people are giving the advantage in the ground game to Houston because of Arian Foster’s brilliance. However, the Patriots ran more than the Texans this year, gained the same yards/attempt, and scored more rushing touchdown than the Texans during the regular season. This one won’t be that close.

Jonathan Lack: New England; Arian Foster might prevent this from becoming a cakewalk, but in recent weeks Matt Schaub just hasn’t looked like the same player he was early in the year. Expect JJ Watt to see double-teams all day; the Patriots won’t let him beat them. The Texans won ugly against the Bengals last week – a more competent QB than Andy Dalton would have made them pay for it. Tom Brady is that QB.

Chad Horner: New England; Houston exceeded my expectations against the Bengals, but I’m not changing y tune on them yet.  They’re going to need a huge game out of Schaub to stay in this one, and he hasn’t been up to it lately – 1 TD, 80.16 passer rating over his last 5 games.  The Pats are 5-1 under Belichick after a first round bye, with their lone loss coming two years ago against the Jets.

One comment

  1. Pingback: NFL Conference Championship Playoff Picks « Princeton Sports Analytics

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