Friday, January 13, 2012

NFL Playoffs - Divisional Round Breakdown

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-Digger's Daily-

Denver's first overtime play from scrimmage shocked a football nation and sent Pittsburgh packing. The Giants swatted Atlanta 24-2. Texans survived the battle of rookie quarterbacks and New Orleans out gunned Detroit. Home teams prevailed in all Wild Card games and now take on new foes in Divisional action.

Denver Broncos (9-8) @ New England Patriots (13-3)
(Saturday, January 14 - 8:00 pm, CBS)
Keys for Denver: Tebow proved he's an NFL QB. Even non-believers must give this guy his due after last weekend's performance. He took on a tough Steelers defense and prevailed. Denver's newest test will be facing the NFL's most prepared game day coach (Belichick). Broncos defense holds all the cards. New England's offense can be explosive on the flick of a switch. However, they've stuttered when strong defensive fronts consistency pressure Brady. Don't over pursue on blitzes or Brady will strike open receivers for big gains. On offense, Denver must control the line of scrimmage or this will be a very long day. Zero turnovers means Denver will stay in the contest for as long as their defense holds up.
Keys for Patriots: Brady and company - were you really expecting a different answer? Brady needs to stay calm and cool. If given time he can pick apart any defense in the league. Pats defense is highly underrated. They'll have lapses at times - not many in playoff football. Most often these guys play with huge leads so don't read too far into stats. They'll be ready to play.
Prediction: Patriots 31 Broncos 14

Houston Texans (11-6) @ Baltimore Ravens (12-4)
(Sunday, January 15 - 1:00 pm, CBS)
Keys for Texans: Offensive line is the key, plain and simple. Creating gaps for Adrian Foster to excel is the entire plan. Texans cannot win if Ravens blitz successfully or force 3rd and long all afternoon. Rookie QB Yates has been efficient in ball control safe schemes. Misdirection plays, not dropping passes, ball security and keeping yellow flags in refs pockets determines if Houston has a chance in this game. Good news, Baltimore's offense can be held in check. Defense, it's up to you!
Keys for Ravens: Execution on offense. Baltimore's a team built for winning reminiscent of 80's Giants football. Except the Giants always found a way to score more than opponents. Ravens offense should be scoring 30+ every week - especially when defense sets them up with great field position all game long. If Ravens win turnover battle then they should be victorious.
Prediction: Ravens 24 Texans 10

New Orleans Saints (14-3) @ San Francisco 49ers (13-3)
(Saturday, January 14 - 4:30 pm, FOX)
Keys for Saints: This might be the perfect example of why it's important to strive for home field advantage. New Orleans was 5-3 in road games during 2011 and their wins were struggles. They've never won a playoff road contest in their history (0-4). 49ers defense is stingy at home allowing only 10.9 points per game. Not a good recipe unless you happen to be a Giants player not wanting to play the Saints again (if NY advances). First things first. Brees hasn't faced this new and improved 49ers tenacious defense. Offensive line must play big. Sproles & special team performance could be the key players deciding this game. The scat-back is hard to cover. Defense needs to play in top form to disrupt 49ers plans.
Keys for 49ers: Everything. NFL low 229 points against. It's imperative defense finds a way to keep Saints off the field. Defensive line has to disrupt Brees timing. Linebackers take down runners and find a way to effective remove TE Graham from Saints pass offense. Defensive backs must play physical. Not too much to ask for, huh? Offensive line must dominate time of possession and wear down Saints defenders. Back's Gore and Hunter need to find running lanes and protect the pigskin at all costs. Crabtree (WR) & Davis (TE) combined for 139 pass receptions. However (RED ALERT), no other player recorded more than 20 catches. Someone other than these two needs to find open lanes as you can bet your bottom dollar Saints defense is focused on shutting down these two. A few takeaways will certainly go a long way to helping Frisco advance. A solid team effort is all these guys can hope to produce. Can they do it?
Prediction: 49ers 24 Saints 23

New York Giants (10-7) @ Green Bay Packers (12-4)
(Sunday, January 15 - 4:30 PM, FOX)
Keys for Giants: The Giants will be further pumped up if San Francisco knocks off New Orleans on Saturday. Giants can't match the Saints in New Orleans and would welcome a shot at playing the 49ers. New York has really found their rhythm for the first time all season reeling off 3 consecutive convincing victories including dominating Atlanta 24-2 in Wild Card action. Smart decisions by Manning and WR's key here. They all need to be on the same page. This could quickly become a shootout on the frozen tundra. Wind may or may not play a factor (currently snowing in Green Bay - cold clear skies predicted for Sunday). Can the Giants finally find their running game? Packers give up a whopping 4.7 yards per carry. If Giants offensive line dominates then it can translate into keeping Aaron Rodgers and Packers high powered offense on the sidelines. Giants pass rush another key to success. They've been creating havoc for opposing QB's and need more of the same Sunday.
Keys for Packers: First and foremost is surviving devastating news so bad it might have shaken the entire team. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin's son - 21-year-old Michael T. Philbin - tragically drowned in thinly frozen Fox Lake Sunday night. No one knows for certain how this will effect the Green Bay Packers on the field until the game is played. This sad news has shaken a strongly bonded team. Priorities are with the Philbin's during their time of grieving. Packers success will come from team solidarity. We all know the talent is there. It's been a tough week. Have they been able to fully prepare? There's no way to formula an honest preview here.
Prediction: Giants 35 Packers 31

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