AFC Divisional Game One: Broncos @ Patriots
Saturday, 8:00 PM ET, CBS
The Broncos’ Side: The Denver Broncos again had a tight game last weekend against the Steelers. The Broncos have not gathered all this hype for a long, long time meanwhile the Patriots are very experienced come this time of year. Tim Tebow has been nothing short of miraculous this season, but to win this game they need a consistent attack with zero turnovers. Last meeting (Week 15) the Broncos had an early lead but collapsed as they fumbled the ball several times. This media-attacked QB threw for over 300 yards against the Steelers’ defense last week, and needs similar results tomorrow. The Broncos defense needs to keep pressuring the one-and-only Tom Brady if they want to win. If Brady has time, he will dissect the Broncos’ D and will completely destroy them via the vertical game. Also, once Brady gets hot he stays hot. If he’s on a roll, the Broncos have no chance in a shootout.
The Patriots’ Side: All the Patriots have to do to win is spread the Broncos defense out in nickel and dime packages, and throw the ball to different receivers. Just like in Week 15, New England has to utilize their Tight Ends. Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez are nightmares for any defense to cover. Linebackers are too slow, but DB’s are too small. On defense, the Patriots are awful. They even play Wide Receivers on that side of the ball, which makes it easy for any offense to attack and pinpoint their weaknesses. They need to confuse Tebow with intricate formations, packages, and blitzes. Tebow doesn’t have great pocket awareness, so blitzing from all angles is their way to win on D. The Pats also need to find a way to stop Tebow and RB Willis McGahee’s read and speed option plays, because those are very effective. The Broncos Offensive Line has improved tremendously since the beginning of the season, and Offensive Guards are frequently used for lead-blocking.
The Bottom Line: The factor in this game is Bill Belichick. If Belichick’s game plan stops Tebow in the vertical game, than it is game over for the Broncos.
Prediction: Patriots, 25, Broncos, 24
AFC Divisional Game Two: Texans @ Ravens
Sunday, 1:00 PM ET, CBS
The Texans’ Side: Taking advantage of the Colts’ season collapse minus Peyton Manning, the Texans won double-digit games and advanced to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history. Last weekend, the Texans beat the Bengals at home and now are facing one of the best teams in the NFL. The Texans have to keep running the ball with RB Arian Foster to win, because rookie/third-string QB TJ Yates is at the helm because of numerous injuries to the Quarterback position. Yates has been decent so far, but the Texans can’t put all of the pressure on him. Foster can carry the load against the mighty Ravens. On the other side of the ball, the Texans have to slow down Ravens RB Ray Rice down, because he grounds and pounds all day every day. They need to put an extra man in the box to stop him.
The Ravens’ Side: On offense, their method of success is simply running with Ray Rice. His style of running is a mix between RB Maurice Jones-Drew and former RB Larry Johnson. Quarterback Joe Flacco has gotten the job done on offense, but needs to crank his game into high gear. Once Flacco gets on a roll, the Ravens will be a machine in the playoffs. On defense, the Ravens have continued to play at an extremely high level. LB Ray Lewis is a commander and FS Ed Reed is an all-out ballhawk. The two are tough for offenses to prepare against because they roam the field so well. Lewis’s leadership also sparks the Ravens’ team in general up every game, and the Ravens are going to need that on Sunday.
The Bottom Line: The Ravens’ defense is the factor in this game, and whenever that is the case, they will win.
Prediction: Ravens, 34, Texans, 17