For this week’s predictions, I am jumping right in . . .
Ravens at Broncos
What happens when the fervor of the almighty Ray Lewis meets with the calm countenance of Peyton Manning?
As the game’s top students plan for their twelfth battle, history shows that the offensive guru has outwitted the demigod of Baltimore in their last 7 confrontations. When Lewis and Co. pose for the camera and disguise their schemes, cameraman Manning will capture mental shots throughout the game to remember the looks they’re providing him. He will proceed to point out potential blitzers , shout audibles to his well-seasoned receivers (Decker and Thomas) all the while the play-clock winds down, pop his mouthpiece back in, drop back and treat the Ravens bedrock defense as equally as he treated a crummy Browns defense. He’s an equal-opportunity employer, this captain Manning; and this is as impartial as I’ll get but I just don’t see how Baltimore will besiege the Broncos, who’ve rested for an extra week AND probably watched how they tortured Andrew Luck. Luck, a rookie, was overwhelmed by Baltimore’s aggressive defensive line and couldn’t find time to set his feet, plant, and deliver throws he usually makes. The presence of Lewis has unscathed Manning’s mental strength in their last seven encounters, but what team has done that – besides maybe Coach Belichick and his Patriots during their dynasty years?
My pick: Broncos 23, Ravens 19
Packers at 49ers
If a team’s only confusion stems from the indecision about who will be labeled as their primary receiver, the feeling must be surreal. More than Aaron Rodgers initiating favoritism, he doesn’t really have a player that he goes-to more than the other. If it’s not Randall Cobb (954 yards) dragging defenders for the tough yards-after-catch, James Jones (784) is slipping behind the linebackers in the red-zone and hauling in touchdowns (14). If Jones’ 12.3 YPC isn’t enough for OC Tom Clements, then Jordy Nelson is stretching the field for his insane average of 15.2 yards. I haven’t mentioned Greg Jennings yet, and he’s healthy again (10.2 avg/4 recTDs). And what happens when everyone on defense is fixated on Green Bay’s wide receivers? The largest target for Rodgers bolts off the offensive line – TE Jermichael Finley gets open for 61 receptions (667 yards, close to 11 yards per catch). Five of Rodger’s ‘primary’ receivers, when thrown to, are enough to dash for a first down.
The Packers boast a depth chart loaded with pure athletes on both sides – how they’ve meshed together throughout the latter half of the season is what should have the 49ers trembling a little more than they did in Week 1. It’ll be more than cute rainbows and butterflies on a sunny day in San Francisco as the tiff between these two historically-driven squads will be won by team with the word “Bay” in it.
My pick: Packers 30, 49ers 17
Seahawks at Falcons
I see both teams heading down a narrow road, to a complete impasse in this weekend’s grittiest battle.
I thought that after the eruption of cheers at FedEx Field last week would affect the Seahawks; they’d lose their composures down 14-0 and fly back to Seattle with their heads down. Instead Richard Sherman was filmed getting slapped by Trent Williams and smiling ear to ear as the opposite occurred: the Seahawks clawed their ways out of the stomach of the nation’s capital and scored 24 unanswerable points. It’s irrelevant to speculate the possibility of a different result if RG3 didn’t get hurt. Matt Ryan, on the other hand isn’t injured and simply put, has found a niche of not losing at the Georgia Dome. But as the world knows, he has yet to overcome a playoff defeat (0-3). Will he finally snag a win out of the grab bag? He’s ready, but are the Falcons around him? I’ll add one last thing – “Defense wins championships, offense sells tickets.”
This here is the divisional championship round.
My pick: Seattle 28, Falcons 24
Texans at Patriots
My take: For as long as the legendary tandem are on the same page in Foxboro, B2 (Brady and Belichick) won’t take missteps, if any at all, on their climb up to the pearly gates. Watching these two perform in the postseason and during their illustrious careers has been a privilege for football lovers. I love Andre Johnson and Matt Schaub, but I’m not confident enough in picking Houston to pull off this upset after their lackluster performance in the wild-card round. Would you buy a friend a motorcycle if he or she doesn’t know how to ride a bicycle yet? Maybe some of those who gamble might.
My pick: Patriots 37, Texans 21