The NFL playoffs have been anything but boring this season. While more of the games have been close and could have gone either way, I’m happy to say that I’m 7-1 in picking the playoff games so far.
Baltimore @ New England
Yes, I had Baltimore upsetting Denver last week. Why you ask? Peyton Manning is now 0-4 in playoff games played in cold weather (40 degrees or below). He has also been knocked out in his first game eight times and has a 9-11 record overall. Plus, I had a feeling that Baltimore would bring it. Nobody else in my pool of 30 teams had Denver losing that game.
This week Baltimore has an even tougher task in beating New England in Foxboro (where New England has never lost with the Super Bowl on the line).
This is a rematch from last year’s divisional championship game where New England won 23-20. Lee Evans’ game-winning touchdown pass was knocked away in the closing seconds and Billy Cundiff missed a 32-yard field goal that would have sent the contest to overtime.
I’m sure Baltimore will be hungry to avenge last year’s loss and secure its second Super Bowl appearance and I really want them to beat New England…but it’s not gonna happen.
Baltimore did beat New England 31-30 on a Justin Tucker field goal as time expired in Week 3, rallying from an early 13-point deficit. Flacco threw for three TDs and 382 yards – his third-highest career total – while Brady finished with 335 yards and one TD. There’s one big difference between that game and this game…and it will be the deciding factor…the game is in Foxboro.
I expect this game to be very close again. Five of the last six meetings between these teams have been decided by six points or fewer.
New England 35, Baltimore 31
San Francisco @ Atlanta
I’ll be honest, I had some trouble picking the NFC championship game. It’s hard not to pick the home team during the playoffs, but I think this game is won or lost by the play of Colin Kaepernick.
Here’s why I think the 49ers will win.
Quarterbacks like Kaepernick have given Atlanta trouble all season. Carolina’s Cam Newton threw for 502 yards with four TDs and no picks while rushing for 202 and two scores in two games against the Falcons this season. In last Sunday’s 30-28 win over Seattle, Russell Wilson passed for 385 yards with two TDs and an INT while running for 60 and a score on seven carries against the Falcons.
Kaepernick has a 98.7 passer rating while going 6-2 as a starter since taking over. Last Saturday in the 45-31 divisional round victory over Green Bay he rushed for 181 yards with a pair of touchdowns and overcame an early interception returned for a TD by throwing for 263 with two scores.
Atlanta has also surrendered 5.90 yards per play this season – 29th in the league. I don’t think they’ll be able to stop San Francisco…at least not through all four quarters.
If Atlanta can run the ball more effectively early on, then they’ll be able to air it out and put up some quick scores. Roddy White and Julio Jones are the best receiving duo in the NFL hands down. Similar to last week I see the Falcons starting out strong, but fading in the second half.
Kaepernick doesn’t have a game like last week, but does enough to pull out the win.
Prediction: 49ers 24, Atlanta 17