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NFL Playoffs: Divisional Round Predictions


Wild Card Round - Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts

Can Andrew Luck and Colts upset the AFC’s top seed on the road Saturday?

 

By: Elias McMillan

Wild Card: 2-2

Playoffs 2-2

Divisional Round

Indianapolis @ Kansas City – Last weekend’s win in Houston went kind of like I expect it would for Indy. The Colts looked impressive on both sides of the ball. The defense limited Houston to just 7 points. Andrew Luck looked like himself passing the ball around and the Colts even ran the ball well. The Colts have the momentum going into a showdown with the AFC’s #1 seed. Kansas City jumped to the top the AFC this season behind the production of MVP candidate, QB Patrick Mahomes. Even with the suspension of RB Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs offense hasn’t missed a beat all season. On Saturday, the Colts will have to account for the speed of WR Tyreek Hill and the physicality of TE Travis Kelce. I think Kansas City will find success offensively in this matchup. The question for the Chiefs all season has been about their defense. The Chiefs can score a lot but they can also give up a lot as well. The team with the ball last may end up winning this one. There’s a narrative out there about Andy Reid’s teams in the post-season always coming up short. I bet this Chiefs team wants to be the group that bunks that trend. I also think the home field advantage will play a part in this one. Prediction: Chiefs 38 – Colts 33

Dallas @ Los Angeles Rams – Dallas’ victory last week at home against Seattle wasn’t as impressive as they wanted it to be but they got the job done. Now, they will be looking to enter uncharted territory when they travel to LA to face the Rams. Dallas hasn’t advanced to the conference championship round in 20 plus years and they haven’t won a playoff game on the road in about the same time frame. But this is a Dallas team that believes they have it in them. In their case, I believe they have the best defense left in the NFC. The Cowboys did a great job limiting Seattle’s run game last week. I am a bit worried about the secondary, as Seattle really didn’t press the issue until the game was out of the reach. This probably won’t be the case on Saturday night. Even with Todd Gurley returning from injury, the Rams know that they big play offense has been depended on what Jared Goff can do in the passing game. The Rams offense lit up scoreboards for most of this season but they have cooled off significantly heading into the post-season. Maybe losing WR Cooper Kupp to injury has something to do with that. I don’t really believe the Rams have a game breaker at the WR position. Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks are nice players but they don’t demand the entire defense’s attention. If they can’t get Goff going, I think their best bet is to force feed Gurley who is bound to make a big play as a runner or receiver. The Rams have well known players on their defense but as a unit, they just haven’t been that good. DT Aaron Donald is beast and is capable of possibly winning this game himself. Despite having him up front, the Rams are pretty average against the run. Dallas will continue to run the offense through Ezekiel Elliott and he will eventually put the Cowboys in scoring positions. CB’s Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib have a history of making big plays but they are also risk takers. If QB Dak Prescott can stay away from Donald, he’ll be able to find his receivers downfield for some big plays off a double move or play action. The moment I feel that the Cowboys may do something worth talking about is the same moment when they usually disappoint me. Knowing this, I’m still going with my gut on this one. The Rams are not the offensive machine they were earlier this season and usually, a good defense can beat a good offense in January. This will be close but I’m taking the road team in the upset as the Cowboys fans will probably take over the stadium as well. Prediction: Cowboys 27 – Rams 24

Los Angeles Chargers @ New England – Despite Baltimore’s late push last week, the Chargers were fairly in control in that game. Now, they’ll make another long trip back to the east coast to face playoff staple, New England. This isn’t the same Patriots team that we are accustomed to seeing in January. The Patriots were able to win their division and gain a first round bye in the post season but this is probably their weakest playoff team during the Bill Belicheck era. Tom Brady is still a very good QB at his age but the Patriots have had receiver issues all season. Julian Edelman and Chris Hogan have both been banged up and they don’t have much waiting in the wings. The big play guy in the passing game has been TE Rob Gronkowski but even he doesn’t look like his normal self. The Patriots do have a plenty of options at RB but they are a team that just can’t depend on the run. The Chargers proved last week that they can handle a run first offense and it will also help that they have the pass rushers to get after Brady. New England has been known for years recently to have a less than impressive defense. I think this will allow QB Phillip Rivers to really push the issue in the passing game. Rivers has never beaten Brady in the post-season but I think this is his best shot. The Chargers are capable to out-physical New England on both sides of the ball. I like the Chargers in an upset that really shouldn’t be an upset. Prediction: Chargers 29 – Patriots 20

Philadelphia @ New Orleans – As much as I hate to admit, the Eagles actually matchup well with the Saints. I know this is the same team that was blown out by them on the road but a lot has changed since then. The Eagles don’t have a run game so they are forced to unleash the full capability of QB Nick Foles. The play of Foles during this last month are becoming the stuff of legend as he looks to help the Eagles make a return trip to the Super Bowl. I think the play of the Saints secondary plays in favor to the Eagles as that unit isn’t a strength for the home team. Philadelphia has also received great play out of their offensive line.  Knowing that they are a pass-first offense, they are going to need another great performance from that unit as New Orleans has an impressive front four on defense. But I think this game will have to turn on QB Drew Brees exposing the Eagles defense. This was something that the Bears failed to do last week. The Eagles will have to account for RB’s Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram but they should be okay with what they have in their front seven defensively. Philly’s weakness in the secondary and Brees must be able to exploit that. I think the Eagles will be able to do damage and score points in this one but I think Brees will be the one to set the tone causing Philly to play catch up for most of the game. Prediction: Saints 41 – Eagles 31

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NFL 2015: Week 5 Predictions!

APTOPIX-Vikings-Bronc_NH

Denver’s defense has been the key to their success so far in 2015.

By: Elias McMillan

Last Week: 9-6

Season: 39-24

Big Five Games of the Week

Seattle @ Cincinnati – The Bengals are playing well on both sides of the ball right now. Andy Dalton is leading this Bengals offense in the right direction through the air and the running game is closing out ballgames. Jeremy Hill and Giovanni Bernard are both playing well right now. The Bengals offense will face a tough test at home on Sunday in the Seattle Seahawks. Seattle is slumping right now but their defense is playing well right now with S Kam Chancellor back in the lineup. Cincinnati has a lot of offensive weapons but Seattle is equipped to stop the run and defend the pass well. It should be an interesting chess match between those two units. Seattle’s offense is sloppy right now without RB Marshawn Lynch. Lynch’s status for Sunday is unclear and they’ll probably also be without veteran backup Fred Jackson. Besides of the health problems, Seattle has bigger issues with their offensive line right now. With the running game struggling, QB Russell Wilson is going to have to do more than usual while running for his live. Wilson can make some amazing plays outside the pocket but when pressured enough, he will make some mistakes. Cincinnati has been tough defensively so far this season and I think they’ll do well at limiting Seattle’s production on Sunday. Cincy will do enough to put this team away at home. Prediction: Bengals 25 – Seahawks 17

Chicago @ Kansas City – I’ll give the Bears credit for coming back and beating Oakland last week. But I still don’t have much confidence in them going forward. Kansas City needs a win in a bad way and they are at home this weekend. The Chiefs matchup well against Chicago on both sides of the ball. The Bears still have issues with stopping the run and the Chiefs offense goes through RB Jamaal Charles. QB Jay Cutler struggles under pressure and the Chiefs have two the best pass rushers in the game in Tamba Hali and Justin Houston. Kansas City gives up a lot of yards through the air but Cutler is lacking the weapons to really expose the Chiefs secondary. Kansas City should be able to take care of business on Sunday as long as Alex Smith doesn’t give the game away. Prediction: Chiefs 27 – Bears 14

Cleveland @ Baltimore – I saw nothing great about this Ravens team last Thursday night. Joe Flacco is playing poor football right now and he wont get better with all the injuries at the WR position. Baltimore’s saving grace on offense right now is Justin Forsett and the running game. On defense, Baltimore can’t stop the pass or pressure the QB. Cleveland has lost two straight since committing to QB Josh McCown but the losses really haven’t been the offense’s fault. Cleveland needs a better effort from the defensive side of the ball and I think they’ll get it on Sunday on the road. With the state of the Ravens passing game, Cleveland will make a greater effort at stopping the run this week. Cleveland’s passing game has been surprisingly efficient recently and WR Travis Benjamin has proven to be a reliable target. I’m going out on a limb here but I like the Browns to score an upset victory inside of the division on the road. Prediction: Browns 21 – Ravens 20

Denver @ Oakland – This game would be a lot more interesting if Oakland was 3-1. But still, the 2-2 Raiders are looking a lot better than recent past Raider teams. This will be a huge test at home this week against Denver. Denver isnt lighting up the score board this season but they are boasting the league’s best defense right now. The offense isnt playing too bad either and they are doing enough to allow the defense to close out victories. Oakland will have a chance in this game by keeping Peyton Manning and the Broncos offense off the scoreboard. Oakland is getting great play in the secondary from veteran Charles Woodson and they have an impressive pass-rushing duo in Khalil Mack and Aldon Smith. I think Oakland’s defense will be able to keep this game close. I’m not sure how the Raiders offense will be able to score enough points though. Denver has been fairly decent at stopping the run and preventing big passing plays. Derek Carr and rookie Amari Cooper have been impressive so far this season but they’re going to have to play their best games on Sunday to get the victory. I’m taking the road team in this game but don’t be surprised if Oakland has a chance to steal a victory at the end. It’s a shame that most of the country will miss this game. Should be a good one. Prediction: Broncos 23 – Raiders 17

Pittsburgh @ San Diego – The Steelers have the weapons on offense to keep winning games while Ben Roethlisberger is out from his injury. Mike Vick is an obvious drop off at the QB position but he can still do some things to help this Steelers teams and he showed that last week. Vick and the offense kind of over complicated things at times last week and that really cost them the game. That and they had a kicker who couldn’t make a field goal. I think Pittsburgh will work this week to make sure that they wont have to kick field goals at all on Monday night in San Diego. Martavis Bryant returns from his suspension this week and he’ll give Vick another deep target to go to along with Antonio Brown and Heath Miller. I think the Steelers should really focus less on the passing game as long as Ben is out. Especially when you have a guy like Le’Veon Bell in your backfield. Bell needs to get Adrian Peterson like carries in this offense, especially in short yardages situations. Bell has the potential to have some monster games on the stat sheet. He just needs to demand the ball. San Diego doesn’t have a great run defense so I can see Bell getting a heavy workload on Monday night. San Diego does a great job attacking defenses through the air with QB Phillip Rivers and Rivers will be receiving one of his favorite targets back this week in TE Antonio Gates. I think this should be a high scoring game between the Chargers and the Steelers and that might favor the home team. But even without Ben, the Steelers have the greater offensive weapons and they’ll be ready to take a positive step this week after a disappointing ending last week. Prediction: Steelers 35 – Chargers 28

The Rest of the Week 5

Colts over Texans – Andrew Luck isn’t healthy. Matt Hasselbeck has been in a hospital all week. But those two options at QB are still better than what Houston has.

Falcons over Washington – Atlanta is not going to be derailed at home.

Packers over Rams – After a great victory in the division last week, the Rams will under perform on the road this week.

Bills over Titans – Buffalo’s performance last week was embarrassing. Tennessee’s defense will be a sight for Tyrod Taylor’s sore eyes.

Eagles over Saints – I’m not sure how long Drew Brees can go without throwing deep passes. Philly has a great front seven and they’ll have a favorable matchup against this short passing attack. Sam Bradford discovered his arm last week and he’ll be in attack mode against the New Orleans defense.

Buccaneers over Jaguars – Jacksonville’s defense is horrid but Jameis Winston really needs to make an effort at cutting down on the turnovers.

Cardinals over Lions – Detroit is desperate and winless but I can’t see this Arizona squad losing two straight.

Patriots over Cowboys – Most of the nation will see this game and it’s really a shame. Without Tony Romo and Dez Bryant, this game will be one sided offensively. Dallas will be receiving defensive help this week but I’m not betting on Tom Brady coming off a bye.

Giants over 49ers – After this game, the New York Giants future NFC East Champion hype train will be in full swing.

Fantasy Football Picks of the Week

QB: Eli Manning (Giants) – San Francisco doesn’t have the defense to slow down the Giants passing attack.

RB: Jamaal Charles (Chiefs) – Charles usually has his best games at home and that might especially be the case against Chicago’s run defense.

WR: Larry Fitzgerald (Cardinals) – Fitzgerald is having a surprising start to his season.

TE: Martellus Bennett (Bears) – Bennett is basically is the only healthy, reliable target left for Cutler and the Bears passing offense.

DEF: New York Giants – San Francisco has been seriously limited on offense this season. The Giants have the best run defense in football right now.