Divisional Playoffs Roundtable: the numberFire Experts' NFL Predictions
Another week, another set of playoff predictions. This week, the guys are pretty high on Russell Wilson, and there might be no love for San Francisco, but there's plenty for a Brady/Manning rematch in Denver.
Baltimore Ravens at Denver Broncos
Keith Goldner, Chief Analyst: Denver and it won't be close. The Broncos are the best all-around team in the NFL and with my man-crush Peyton Manning at the helm, I'm riding them to the Super Bowl.
Nik Bonaddio, CEO: Broncos. I like the Ravens as a cover play - any number north of +9.5 is far too high - but I don't think that the Ravens have the firepower to compete with Peyton, especially not in Mile High. The Ravens D isn't what it used to be, so really the Broncos have the superior offense AND defense, which is a bad combination on the road. With that said, this has backdoor cover written all over it.
Michael Worthington, CTO: The Ravens did well at home against a rookie quarterback. What will happen when they go up against a Super Bowl champion QB on his turf? Will Ray Rice continue with his post-season rubber hands (as much as it hurts me to say it being a Rutgers alumnus)? Will Ray Lewis pull a muscle during his introduction dance? All answers lead to the Broncos cleaning up.
Sean Weinstock, COO: Broncos. Peyton and Von. Enough said - like that game the late great Bernie Mac cons Mr. Bank on in the conclusion to the epic Ocean's film saga. But seriously, Flacco sucks (fantasy team mistake). Denver run defense is good. And Peyton is the best to ever do it.
Zach Warren, Editor: I love Joe Flacco. I will always stick up for my Delaware boy... until he runs into this Broncos defense. As I wrote on Tuesday, their secondary would absolutely frighten me, and that's even against a QB like Brady. Denver tears them to shreds.
Green Bay Packers at San Francisco 49ers
Keith: Green Bay. I think this will be an awesome game and Colin Kaepernick may be the deciding factor, but Aaron Rodgers leads the best passing offense in the NFC and I wouldn't bet against him.
Nik: I actually like the Packers to win straight up, not even worrying about the points. I'll take Aaron Rodgers over a rookie QB eight days a week, even if the Packers have next to no chance of stopping the 49ers rushing attack.
Michael: If DuJuan Harris can shake things up just enough for Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers should be able to open up the pass game against a tough San Fran defense. I just don't see Kaepernick outshining Rodgers in this one. Green Bay with the win in a very close game, possibly overtime because that's just what the 49ers like.
Sean: As we've learned, for the Niners, Justin Smith is pivotal against any team with an offense better than Arizona's (read: every team). If he's not in decent shape or not playing, I think Green Bay runs over my Niners. If Justin is playing, Aldon gets 3 sacks, and the Niners offense runs over the lackluster GB defense, Predator wannabe and all.
Zach: San Francisco's run defense doesn't matter much if the Packers don't run the ball anyway. Aaron Rodgers surgically moves down the field early, and Kaepernick's not able to play catch-up in a big situation. Give me Green Bay.
Seattle Seahawks at Atlanta Falcons
Keith: Seattle is the hottest team in the NFC (hotter than everyone in the NFL but the Broncos) and I'm more and more impressed with Russell Wilson every week. The Seahawks have the best passing efficiency on a per play basis in the NFC and the second-best rushing attack left in the playoffs behind the Niners. They move on in beast mode.
Nik: This one is the toughest one of the bunch from my perspective. Everyone loves Seattle - including me - but it's getting a point where they're starting to feel a bit overrated. Everything there's going to be a moment where they have a dud game or they just don't perform where they sound...and what better time for that to happen than against the #1 seed, on the road, against a team that has the weapons that the Falcons do, on a field where they rarely lose? I'll take the Falcons by a field goal.
Michael: Matt Ryan had a great season, possibly his best. Too bad his defense and his running backs can't say the same. Beast Mode goes into overdrive and Wilson keeps the momentum going as Seattle locks up a second playoffs win, making Ryan 0-4 in the playoffs in his career.
Sean: Seattle. Ryan threw 5 picks against the Cardinals, a worse defense and worse offense than Seattle. Not saying that's totally indicative because it was in Arizona, but Seattle is impressive, fast, and effing tough.
Zach: I really want to pick Atlanta. I really do. I've been high on them all season, and I feel that nobody's giving them any love. But I just can't do it; the combination of Seattle's efficient passing attack and excellent secondary is too much. Seattle it is.
Houston Texans at New England Patriots
Keith: Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Give Bill Belichick an extra week and you'll forgot all about the Week 14 Monday Night Football beat down. The Texans made a huge mistake losing to the Colts and handing the Pats their first round bye.
Nik: Like the other AFC matchup, this one seems pretty chalk. The Pats have too much firepower right now, even up against the strong Texans D. Even if J.J. Watt can scramble together a few sacks and maybe a turnover, I don't think Schaub has the skills to score enough points to keep up with the Pats.
Michael: I barely expected the Texans to beat Cincy last week, and neither team I would have chosen to beat the Patriots on Sunday. Remember when New England beat Houston 42-14 during the regular season? Rinse and repeat.
Sean: New England. C'mon man. Hello! Total QBR.
Zach: Honestly, Houston shouldn't have won last week's game; that was a nice gift from the Bengals to the Houston fans. I don't see Belichick as the gift-giving type; he's really much more of a grinch. New England in a landslide.
Last Week's Records: Keith: 3-1, Nik: 4-0, Michael: 3-1, Sean: 3-1, Zach: 3-1