The Dr of the NFL’s Fearless Forecast
AFC Championship Game-New England @ Denver
Is there some sort of immutable law that states that if, in the pre-season, you pick a team to go to the Super Bowl, that you are not allowed to pick against them in the championship game? If so, I’m in a difficult spot. Before the year began, my prognostication was a Patriots-Seahawks Super Bowl, more on Seattle shortly, but I’m leaning against Brady and company today. Here’s why. Too much is being made about last week when New England ran over Indianapolis. As we pointed out, Indy couldn’t stop the run all year, so let’s make LeGarrett Blount out to be Jim Brown just yet. The Broncos run defense has been stout all year [ranked 7th in NFL] and they will provide much more resistance than the Colts did. Look for Brady to come out throwing in this game vs. a porous Broncos secondary that just lost its’ best corner in Chris Harris and is without their best pass rusher in Von Miller. I fully expect the Pats to consistently move the ball and Brady to amass at least 350 yards passing.
Bill Bellichick has a conundrum in this match up vs. Peyton, if he stacks his chips to stop Denver’s running game, Manning will devour his secondary, and if he stays in a cover 2 to prevent the big play, Peyton will audible into a run and Knowshon Moreno and company will run up and down the field on a terrible Patriot run defense [ranked 30th in NFL]. People forget that because the Colts couldn’t take advantage of it because they were a poor running team, Denver will.
In what promises to be a high scoring shootout, TD’s over FG’s will be the difference. Which team will convert in the Red Zone? Peyton completed 72% of his Red Zone passes and threw 37 red zone TD’s with zero INT’s during the regular season, look for that trend to continue. In addition, New England will be playing a road playoff game for the first time in 7 years. The Patriots are 1-5 vs. the spread in their last 6 road contests, and are 0-5 vs the number in their last 5 games played on glass. Broncos advance to the Super Bowl.
Denver 37 New England 30.
NFC Championship Game-San Francisco @ Seattle
I’ve been going back and forth on this one all week. Seattle’s been the best team all year but the 49ers are red hot and playing better right now. Home field is huge in this one but the 49ers front 7 vs. Seattle’s erratic O-line can quiet things down. Russell Wilson concerns me, he’s not played well the last 4 or 5 games and he’ll be without Percy Harvin. But Colin Kaepernick has been awful in both games he’s played in this building.
As good as Seattle’s defense is, you can run it occasionally on them. The 49ers ran for 163 yards in week 14 win against Seattle, can Gore and company repeat this on the road? This is the key to the game, if Gore is producing, the 49ers can sneak out with a win, if not, Seattle will pressure Kaepernick, contain his rushing lanes, and force him into mistakes. Much has been made of the 49ers resurgence on offense since the return of Michael Crabtree, but Richard Sherman will effectively eliminate him and Vernon Davis will have his hands full with Kam Chancellor and Earl Thomas who are the best Safety tandem in the league.
I think San Francisco must get off to a healthy start to take the crowd out of it, otherwise things could snowball. Kaepernick completes just 54% of his passes when he’s trailing. Their offense is built for long drives, not short ones. This is why Gore is the key to the game, by establishing the run and sending a physical message, it could set the 49ers up for the upset. We all know that Seattle is near invincible at home but San Francisco is better equipped than any other team to pull this off.
So who wins? In a game that promises to be a tight, low scoring affair, I think it’s Seattle’s year. I trust Russell Wilson more in this spot not to make a critical error than I do Kaepernick. If both teams struggle to run it, which I expect, it gets to which QB will avoid the big mistake. No defense is better than Seattle’s at stopping the opposing QB, with the combination of pass rush and coverage ability. Look for Seattle’s secondary to get the best of Kaepernick and with the homefield to back them, Seattle returns to the Super Bowl.
Seattle 19 San Francisco 13
The Dr of the NFL’s divisional playoff predictions
Saints at Seahawks.
In order for the Saints to pull off the upset, they must be able to run the football like last week vs. the Eagles. If Drew Brees doesn’t have some balance and throws it 50 times, expect a couple of interceptions and a thumping similar to the first time these two teams met. Meantime, Seattle’s offense has struggled toward the end of the season. I think the return of Percy Harvin will open up the field for Golden Tate, Zach Miller, and Doug Baldwin, plus New Orleans defense has been decimated by injuries to all 3 linebackers and 3 starting defensive backs. I picked Seattle in the pre-season to go to the Super Bowl and I see no reason to change now. Seattle 23 New Orleans 20.
49ers at Panthers.
The 49ers might be peaking at the right time, they’ve won 7 in a row and they play well on the road [7-2]. This match-up features 2 championship caliber defenses, and the game should be a slug-fest. Both defenses should be able to contain each other’s running game and both must be mindful of QB scrambles. They must keep Kaepernick and Newton home in the pocket and not lose contain because both QB’s can kill a defense with their legs. The difference to me is that San Francisco has more weapons outside at their disposal, especially with the return of Michael Crabtree. The Panthers will be limited due to Steve Smith’s injury, therefore, Brandon Lafell and Ted Ginn must make plays to help Cam out. Despite the fact that Cam has 4 fourth quarter comebacks this year, I think San Francisco will learn from the loss earlier in the year against Carolina and Harbaugh will make some adjustments. The 49ers will enact revenge setting up and NFC title game with Seattle. Would be fitting since both have been the best teams in the conference all year. San Francisco 24 Carolina 13.
Colts at Patriots.
The mere presence of both teams in this playoff game is really a testament to the excellence of both QB’s. They lead teams with modestly talented defenses and banged up receiving options. I believe the winner of the game will be decided by the team that is able to run the ball most effectively. I think LaGarrette Blount and Steven Ridley will be the difference in a tight game. The Colts’ defense has really struggled to stop the run [26th in NFL]. Look for the Colts to have success running it as well. The Pats’ interior defense has really been compromised by injuries, losing WIlfork, Tommy Kelly, and Brandon Spikes. This game will come down to the 4th quarter and many think this could be the passing of the torch at QB. I think it’s coming, but not just yet. Patriots 30 Colts 27.
Chargers at Broncos.
Those that believe that San Diego doesn’t have a chance in this game haven’t been paying attention. These are divisional opponents that are very familiar with each other. These teams have split 2 games, and in those 2 games, The Chargers were able to dominate time of possession and keep Peyton off the field. Look for more of the same. Denver’s defense is suspect to begin with and without Von Miller, they’ll get no pass rush vs. Philip Rivers who, in his last 7 games is on fire [14 TDS. 2 INTS]. While I expect this to be up for grabs in the 4th Quarter, I still think Denver prevails because Manning will score TDS while Rivers will kick field goals in a tightly contested game. Denver 37 Chargers 31
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